I am not a social animal normally. Megan would have to drag me out of the house, kicking and screaming, to get me to “go out” with anyone other than her and Shelby. I would casually suggest that the three of us just go do something on our own, or spend a relaxing evening at home watching movies or reading.
It never really worked...I would begrudgingly get in the car, and drive to wherever it was we were meeting some friends, the anxiety building as we neared our destination. I don’t know why, but I would prefer to just have my “nucleus” and leave it at that. Why did I need to bring in outsiders? I fiercely protected our dynamic with some kind of virtual wall I had apparently erected, and I didn’t want anyone invited inside without my express authorization. Funny thing is, once we arrived, I was happy and sociable, having a great time with everyone.
It takes years for me to build a friendship, and, with Megan occasionally kidnapping me and forcing me to be social, I was content that it was enough. I had a coworker that I became close to, some friends that I made through hiking and backpacking, and a sprinkling of a few more that were first my friends, that Megan commandeered and became closer with. She kept those friendships going for me, as well as added her own into the mix. Ultimately, she is what kept what little sociability I had alive.
As many of us have experienced, when she died, there was a burst of people offering and asking to go out, or to help with things, or to just talk, followed by a sharp decline in those offers not long after. Now that the person that kept those friendships going was gone, I was in isolation. I surely wasn’t going to solicit their help or presence, and now, I didn’t even have anyone to do it for me.
Fast forward a few years, and not much had changed. Sure, Sarah is now part of our lives, but to be fair, she just moved across the country, and doesn’t know many people here. For my part, I had lost touch with nearly everyone, save for a few passing Facebook chats or texts. I am right where I thought I wanted to be...inside the walls.
A few weeks ago though, I got a message from one of my old hiking buddies, asking if I’d like to join he and one other at a park nearby for an overnight camping trip. Without hesitation, I actually agreed. I hadn’t seen him for over three years, and I’d been wanting to take Shelby and Sarah camping for awhile. The timing was right, and the setting was ideal, so I made a decision to peek out from behind the walls and plan the trip.
I was not disappointed. Not only did the weather work out for us, but I reconnected with two close friends around the campfire. Sarah and Shelby get along great with them (Shelby had met them both, but she was only 5 years old at the time), and we were able to sit and chat as if it was just the past week that we last talked. Not a beat had been skipped. This was something that I didn’t know I needed. Upon returning from that weekend, I was ready to plan another trip with them.
Then, Monday morning, I got a text. It was my buddy from my last job, asking if we’d like to go out for drinks after work on Friday. Again, I agreed, immediately, and again, the night was filled with laughs and fun as if nothing had ever paused. We caught up on each other’s lives over the past few years, and called it a night two hours after we had planned to.
It’s hard for me to pin down why both of these reconnections are so significant. Perhaps it was the fact that I agreed to being sociable without any other input. Perhaps it’s that these friends solicited MY company, and not Shelby’s, Megan’s, or Sarah’s (although they wanted them to come too). Perhaps I just needed time to become more sociable, and they just happened to be at the right place at the right time. I don’t know. What I do know, is that in my early 20’s, I wanted to go out. I wanted to meet people and be away from the house. I enjoyed making new friends, and hanging out with old ones. That all changed over the years, as Megan and I married, had Shelby, and through the ups and downs of her illness.
It’s been almost two years now since her death, and I needed the spark. I needed Sarah to encourage me to rekindle old friendships. I needed people to come to ME, rather than just asking around and seeing who wanted to do something. I needed to be pulled outside of my walls by others, and encouraged, not pushed outside from within. I needed to know that the people I would be spending time with weren’t just offering it because of pity or because I was just recently widowed.
I needed friends, and they knew it.