I’ve had a teary couple of days. Triggered by some changes around me that were not totally unpredictable but still felt sudden and leave me feeling stranded and lonely. Also triggered by the strangest thing – spending an evening talking to a bunch of other homeschool moms after a meeting. I came home happy and optimistic until I took a moment to think about these people I had just been talking to. They are all slightly more than acquaintances. They are “fringe friends.” Friends on Facebook, people I would happily talk to in a grocery store when I run into them every six months, some who I have had long and meaningful conversations with that left me wanting more time, more opportunity to get to know them, to continue discovering the string of things we’ve just found we had in common.
Just writing that last run on sentence made me gasp and sob. I am so painfully lonely sometimes. But because I’m friendly and people seem to want to spend time around me at events, I probably don’t come off that way. All these fringe people have a best friend or a small clique of sorts. Someone I often see them with, who they carpool with to homeschool or church gatherings, who they potluck with as families. They like to talk to me – I won’t deny that – but they don’t have time for someone like me in their real lives. Someone who has many mouths to feed and many boys to try to keep under control.
We had friends who understood that and loved us and embraced the craziness. They had us over when we lived in our tiny house because they knew it made more sense to gather in a larger space. We still have these friends but they live across the country from us and have now for nearly two years. There is still a hole left behind.
There is also an assumption that I hear often, that we spend most of our free time with our family. That isn’t true, either. The bigger our family gets, the less we do together because we are just so overwhelming as a group. And when it is your heart conviction to leave your womb open, the future just holds less and less acceptance from those around us. Our families love our children but we don’t hang out all the time. I don’t invite people over often – family or otherwise – because the work involved in cleaning up and cooking and serving my own family plus extras is overwhelming to me. When I do have people over, I spend most of the time feeling like a terrible hostess.
I have become a fairly accomplished homebody. I can stay busy with things at home and not think about the loneliness. I get some amount of connection on Facebook – a place that I will acknowledge is not “real” but gets me by. I talk to moms in the nursery at church. Most are women just starting out with their first babies. In their eyes, I am “crazy”, “brave” or a “super mom” for having so many kids. I’m old, seasoned and established and I am darn good at keeping a smile on my face. I have no desire to be vulnerable with fringe people because I know it just looks like self-pity. And it probably is. I have no desire to be vulnerable with my family because they will call me out on it and skim over the very real pain I am in. Even writing this is only possible because I know there are only one or two people who read what I write (hi, Carol). If I thought those who I see on a weekly basis were reading it, I wouldn’t allow myself to be so transparent.
I’d love to chalk this up to hormones. I’ve just entered my second trimester, I’m still sick and tired but not quite as sick and tired as I was a month ago. I have gained too much weight and feel clunky and unattractive. I am constantly behind on everything around my house because I just don’t have the energy for it all. All of that is reason enough to shed a few tears and I know I’m not the only pregnant woman to do it. But this hurt just came bubbling up yesterday. A hole left much longer than I anticipated after the departure of my dearest friend and a realization of the distance I put between myself and other people in an attempt to hide all of this from them. I know the looks I’d get, the comments people would make if they knew. And I just don’t feel safe so I keep hiding it and burying it under being a “crazy” pregnant mother of six children.