I spent the teen years of junior high and high school working hard to fit in, perform well in sports, snag decent grades, and curl my feathered hair into Heather Locklear waves (Hello 80's). Friends ruled ALL for me. Teachers, parents, and coaches were in the mix somewhere, but heaven forbid if I didn't have a posse. I needed girlfriends for sauntering around the hallways during lunch, entering the basketball game to find a bleacher seat, circling the mall looking for cute guys and hoping we were cute too, and taking multiple trips to the bathroom. I'm fortunate, I guess. I actually can say that I look back at those years and have a surprisingly large number of good memories despite the snake pit of hormonal teenagers corralled together in what we like to call high school.
But underneath that, sometimes I cringe when I remember the people I ignored in my quest to be with those in my "target" comfort zone. I have one clear memory of feeling elation at being invited to sit with a large table of girls who--at least in my estimation--were "it" girls. The tables scattered around our cafeteria were filled with laughing, teasing teens. Then I turned slightly to see three girls who were not considered "it" girls, sitting at a nearly-empty, silent table. Their eyes were down, faces sober. My gaze lingered for a moment, and I can still remember the question popping into my head, "What would happen if I walked over there and joined their table?" I quickly pushed this thought aside and turned away from them, uncomfortable observing their isolation and yet unwilling to jeopardize my status. Though I was not always this blatant, I continued looking for people in my comfort zone throughout college and even into my 20's, though I would have liked to think myself more evolved. I might have reached out externally to people--yes. But often there was an internal judgment occurring, of which I am not proud.
Then a curve ball came my way. I got married around 30--a pretty typical age for Chicago singles who enjoy their freedom, higher education, and careers. And then...I couldn't get pregnant. Slowly, everyone around me had one, then two. Still no baby. People became awkward and changed the topic of mothering when I came around. There's much more to that story, but the point here is this--many women in my target comfort zone became uncomfortable with ME. Oh. Huh. Ouch.
Curve ball again. Years later, I somehow managed to become pregnant with my first child. Fantastic! We were and continue to be thrilled with our little guy. And just as those I had known who had been having children for the last several years were returning to work and starting the soccer/baseball/music lessons/dance recital marathon of parenting school-age children, I decided to resign and stay home full-time.
Just for a little more challenge, my husband and I decided to pile on the additional layer of practically-annual moves from one community
to another. We were gypsies without a place to call our own--in our late thirties when everyone else was being responsible and paying mortgages like proper adults should be--and we were living like recent college graduates.
Every time these life shifts happened on a different time table than everyone else, I was presented with a choice...be isolated or get out of my comfort zone. This was not easy for me, at all. Just saying. I can't tell you how many moms groups, church nights, community playgroups, and general local gatherings I entered into with butterflies in my stomach while I scanned the room for a place to connect. I have now lost track of how many times I have initiated, "Do you want to get together?" I made new friends and expanded my comfort zone. Good stuff. I also found out what it was like when people were not interested in taking "new friend" applications, or at least not mine. Life had set me into a different place. I felt (and sometimes still do) like the three quiet girls back in that old cafeteria, looking and hoping for a place to belong. I've also learned the power of initiating, taking awkward first steps, and inviting others into your home and life. Also good stuff, although not quite as fun as those who immediately want to enjoy life with you and share a good laugh while doing so.
I can say that over the years this was just one of the lessons God taught me through fertility issues about how to reach out to anyone, everyone, in all walks of life. About how to "cross the room" and engage people from different cultures and different lifestyles. I'm proud to say I count my good friends as being many years younger and many years older. We live in tiny apartments, huge houses, and those homes all sizes in-between. I have friends who cannot stand exercise and crafting, although I love both. I enjoy friends who share my faith and those who do not. We focus on the things we love and respect the differences between us. I am keenly aware of how much I learn from these relationships, even the ones that aren't always easy. So thankful to get out of the comfort zone and trek into the unknown.
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