Two years ago I joined a Bible study. (This is not going to be a religious post, so don’t get your panties in a wad. I’ve got a point to bringing this up and it doesn’t involve trying to convince anyone that my religion is the best). Anyway, I joined this group of women from my neighborhood and we meet once per week during the school year to study the word and for fellowship. I agreed to join the group when my friend called because I’d just switched my kids to a Christian school where they would be studying the Bible and I thought it would be handy for me to know a little about what they were learning.
I won’t bore you with the details of my religious upbringing, but suffice it to say I had some studying to do. I didn’t know what to expect from this group or how I would fit in. Our neighborhood is very large and pretty diverse—from cultures to backgrounds to personalities—and this group was no exception. To my great surprise, at the first meeting we all introduced ourselves and discussed our experiences and I wasn’t the only one who’d be asking a lot of elementary level questions. I felt instantly relieved and welcomed.
These meetings were long. Three plus hours long. I sit at a computer for most of the day, but never for three hours at a stretch. My ADD and nervous energy won’t let me stay put for that long so those meetings took some getting used to. What surprised me the most about the long meetings (where I left with homework!) was that I looked forward to them every week. I enjoyed unlocking the secrets of the Bible, but more than anything I enjoyed the bonding and fellowship with my neighbors.
I’m a pretty solitary person. I’m a happy hermit with just me and the dogs and my family for long stretches of time. It wasn’t until I joined this group that I realized how much I’d missed being a part of something and sharing in other people’s joys and sorrows. The older I get, the harder it has become for me to reach out and really connect with people—especially women.
Maybe it’s just my age or stage of life, but I seem to bear a lot more burdens now, not just mine, but those of the people I know and care about. I know I’m not alone. Now, instead of feeling sorry for myself when something goes wrong in life, I take my troubles to this group of women and feel as if I’m doing something constructive. Sharing things, even intimate and personal things with a group of women I trust, has become very important. I almost forgot how much when I finally managed to make one of our rare summer meetings.
I guess my point in this post is to encourage you to reach out to others. It doesn’t have to be a Bible study. Go out for cocktails, join a book club, take an exercise class. Don’t get so set in your ways that you forget how important it is to share both the good and the bad with others. I wouldn’t have reached out if my friend hadn’t called and asked me to join her. Thank God she did. If you get a chance today, let me know if you have a special group that lifts you up. For your sake, I sure hope you do.
This past weekend, some friends invited us to a Moroccan restaurant way outside our bubble, otherwise known as our neighborhood. I’m an adventurous eater, although a lot of food doesn’t like me as much as it used it (darned old age). We ate soup from bowls without utensils, dipped appetizers in bread, ate meats and desserts I hadn’t had before and ended the meal with spicy tea. Oh, yeah, and we also sat on the floor. Both of my kids got jiggy with the belly dancer (including my almost teenaged son) and we all had a great time.
This experience got me to thinking about life. So often we live inside our bubble, going to the same places with the same people over and over and over again. We get comfortable living in a neighborhood where everybody is pretty much the same as us. Like usually seeks out like. But sometimes, when we step out of our comfort zone, the most amazing things can happen.
I’ll give you one perfect example. Years ago, I started writing a novel because I’d read a really bad book and thought I could do better. When I figured out that I loved writing novels, I knew I had to learn more and become involved in the writing community. This was WAY outside my comfort zone. WAY, WAY OUT! But I took a deep breath, put my big girl pants on, and marched myself to the local romance writers meeting month after month.
Was I uncomfortable? You better believe I was. Did I walk into those meetings and feel like I’d found exactly what I was looking for? No, not necessarily. But I kept going and I can’t tell you how glad I am that I did. It was at those meetings where I met my support group—a group of women who I’m now fortunate enough to call friends—very, very good friends. I adore these women and even if one or all of us stopped writing, we would still be friends. I’m a better writer because of these women, I’m a stronger person thanks to their encouragement, and I feel a part of something special when we are together.
I never would have made these friendships if I’d stayed inside my very comfortable bubble, there is no doubt in my mind. So the next time you feel like playing it safe, not making waves, or putting your dreams on hold, do something crazy and just try something new. Come on, folks, I dare you!
Now, I’d love to hear a story of how you all stepped out of your comfort zone and what happened when you did. I’d also like to wish one of my friends and support group members and very Happy Birthday…Tracy Solheim! Yeah, I know. I’m SO lucky!