Friday, April 26, 2013

A Circle of Alone

I wrote this last week at Panera. My amazing husband sent me off - God bless him - to get some me time. And there, alone, my mind swirled. The past week or two I've read post after post about friendship and friendship circles.

I've hesitated publishing this. I know there is a difference between the God's honest truth and how we perceive things with our fragile, broken hearts. And my heart is particularly fragile. . . and broken.


Look, it's been something that I've known, but haven't wanted to admit aloud. But little by little it has been moving closer and closer to the forefront. So here it is.

I don't think I'm a very good friend.

Fun thing to admit, eh?

I've done my best, but my best hasn't been very good. We moved here four years ago, 8 1/2 months pregnant. Had a baby, he started grad school, had another baby, and finally finished school. Every bit of my energy has been spent keeping my tired head above water.

But here in the wake of it all, I realize it wasn't enough. And her I sit, alone. Now we have time but no one to share it with.

No, that's a lie. It's a lie I am telling myself. I do have friends. I do. 

But not only have I not had the time to invest in them, in our relationship, I haven't had the emotional strength to invest. I've guarded this battered, betrayed, hurt heart. I've covered it up. Boarded it up. Guarded it. Hidden it. the hurt it endured was so painful that I shut down. And when another relationship hit a rough spot, I boarded up shop not able to fix it.

So here, in this new place, I've kept my distance. So exhausted. So scared.

And in all this talk of circles, levels of trust, I realize I don't have many to fill most of those spots. The spots where you become vulnerable and open.

There are people I care about and I know they care about me (thank you for being those amazing people who love me despite me). But we aren't sharing life together in the way in the way we could be because I haven't been around, both physically and emotionally. It's on me. I know. But it still aches.

I posted to some online friends this question:

Do you ever wish you could disappear and return as a new and better version of yourself? 
I feel like I am just looking in from the outside. 

And they all said yes. That we go through life thinking Junior High will end. But it keeps coming back.

Then a friend said we should call or Skype.


I don't even know how to talk on the phone anymore.

I'm back in Junior High. Feeling so alone. Unpopular. Scared. Awkward. 

I'm at some horrid dance and I can see others having a good time. I know who they are. They say hi, but they came with other friends so I sit there. Frozen. Wishing I were somewhere else.

And can I tell you? I know I'm not alone on this one. I wrote this out a week ago and since then I've heard another half a dozen people I care about compare the blogosphere to Junior High, so I think I'm on to something here.

So there. I've laid it all out. I'm a tired, scared, and crappy friend who wants friendships - the kind where you share the deep, scary, uncertain parts. The kind where you encourage each other. Pray for each other. Kick each other in the butt.

The kind where you stop by for coffee and don't care that the house is messy. The kind where you swap out kids. The kind where you can sit on the couch together and just talk and talk, and don't notice the laundry in the corner, the little girl crawling around, and the loud voices of a gaggle of girls because you are lost in conversation and coffee.

Online friendships where those "ahead" of you take you alongside. Encourage you when you are on to something good. Tell you the truth when something just falls flat. And most importantly, makes you feel like you a part of it all, that you won't be looking in from the outside forever.

But I don't know what to do. I'm just an awkward teen stumbling around. Lost.

Have you found your friendships have changed over the years? Any tips? How do you navigate online friendships in a world where it can feel like one giant clique?

Post Script:
I wrote this on Saturday from a very vulnerable place. Sunday I signed up to go to a women's conference at my church and found some friends to "sit with." Then on Monday I met a friend from the blogging world for a playdate. Over the past few days I have talked to friends who share much of this, even if coming from slightly different angles. It feels good to share this and let it out. I feel like I'm growing. Just a bit.


  1. ohhh man. I am such a loner online. I try to reach out. I have a small group of friends where I live and i am ok with that. But how I have those moments where coffee and convo feel timeless. I plan them. My closest friend we talk daily...messanger, texting several times a day, meeting often. One friend I have we try to meet weekly for an hour or two. If not we push it to the next week but it is with the intention of doing and we make it happen. Some of my other friends we meet once a month or at least make a call once a month. Sorry it sounds so simple but it is ...just do it! :0)

  2. "Online friendships where those "ahead" of you take you alongside. Encourage you when you are on to something good. Tell you the truth when something just falls flat. And most importantly, makes you feel like you a part of it all, that you won't be looking in from the outside forever." - Love and yes please to all of this. Thanks for your raw truth here, friend. We love and accept you. We want to walk with you in this. <3

  3. i really get this, Brenna. it totally does feel like cliques sometimes and i am sad that you have felt that way, too. i thought of that when we all came back from Jumping Tandem and it was so amazing and we wanted to share it all.

    except i kept thinking about you. (and others, of course, whom i love, but were unable to go.)

    maybe those old wounds from jr. high do throb a bit from time to time, but i often find solace in loving anyway. in giving out anyway. "it is more blessed to give than to receive" and "love is its own reward" - and all that. and i believe it and it helps. (only *please* don't hear this as me trying to fix you. just sharing what works FOR ME, ok?)

    and i don't know if it means anything, but when i imagine driving that 3 hours to Chicago? you're the first name on my list to visit. true story.

    love to you, dear heart.

  4. First, I so appreciate you posting from
    such a place of vulnerability. Second, did you see that the 5 minute Friday
    prompt today was "friend"? Timing couldn't have been more perfect.
    Third, I really do want to Skype with you sometime- maybe from an intentionally
    non-picked up real-life room of the house :)

    I think we never stop asking the question, "Where do I fit?" And the
    process of asking and answering that is often painful. I never felt like I had
    a "group" of friends. Always just individual friends from different
    areas- and I often have felt a sense of loss about that. Not sure if I should,
    but I do.

    Also, it has been so interesting to move twice in as many years and watch how those
    moves intersect with friendships. I have grown distant from some I was certain
    I would stay close with, and grown closer to some even as the miles have pulled
    us further apart. Friendships seem to be wildly unpredictable creatures that
    have lives of their own.

    And in terms of the blogging world? That has surprised me too. Because at the
    same time that I see cliques that frustrate me, I also see friendships, real
    friendships, that nourish me. I never could have imagined feeling like I could
    honestly call someone I have never met a friend.

    Thank you for writing this, friend J

  5. I don't know you & have come here via someone's RT (& I'm not weird, you can ask Tanya Marlow!) Bits of this are just like looking at myself in a mirror. I think I lost my way with making friends when the kids were young & never seemed to pick it back up again for various reasons (moving often, introversion, Pastor's wife.)
    I agree with the online cliquey-thing and it always seems worse when we feel vulnerable, which then stops us being honest & it gets into a bit of a vicious cycle. In persisting though I have learned so much from others blogs.
    And I'm sure if more of us admitted that we asked the question 'where do I fit' there would be an almighty rebound of a holler coming back.

    Thanks for writing this!

  6. I would never imagine you to be weird! No worries there!!! Once you get in the cycle it is so hard to get out of. Thank you for the encouragement. And thank you for stopping by!

  7. Thank you, Bethany, for reading and taking the time to comment. I'm just going to keep plodding along, and one of these days.......:)

  8. Scheduling time for friends is really scheduling time for myself! So glad you stopped by and for the kick in the pants that I needed! :)

  9. Your words mean so much. Thank you. Love you too.

  10. boy i completely understand where you are! but how wonderful that you are beginning to reach out and connect with friends in the real world as opposed to just from the blogosphere. Blogging or online friends can be wonderful, but there is nothing like a friend you can look straight in the eye, laugh & even cry with.

  11. Thank you for your friendship! You have been a blessing to me and to others. And yes, skype soon!!

  12. Brenna,
    Stephanie and I speak about how much we miss you and Adam and your kids. That there are kids in both households who have never met some people who are apart of the Miller Dambrosio story. I miss the days when we sat in the SCC staff meetings and made fun across the table of different things. No matter what happens or the walls that may come up, We are your and Adam's friends and I am a bulldozer sometimes that wants to crash it down. You have come to a place with God and I can see the healing that is taking place. I am very excited to see what the future holds for you guys.
    In Christ
    Rusty and Stephanie

  13. i know this road well. we've lived in this small town for eight years, and it's only in these last few months that i'm finally(!) beginning to feel connected. it is SO hard to cultivate friendships as adults, especially with small kids running about and zapping your energy. i joined and headed up groups, hosted parties and playdates and dinners and NOTHING. i always want to fast forward through all the acquaintance stuff to the Real, but when you're not living or working together, it seems to take a million years to create intimacy.

    i serve on a board of a youth ministry, and we were talking about how much social media and smart phones disconnect students. they don't commit, they don't show up, they're lonely and adrift being "social" in their bedrooms. and i think adults are the same way in a lot of ways.

    i'm so glad we'll get to spend a weekend together soon. so much love to you. i'm praying for you.

  14. Oh, Brenna. Thank you for your courage in sharing so vulnerably. I have All The Thoughts about this but I'm still wading through my own friendship messes. I'm still figuring it out and forming my thoughts. Let's add this to the list of all the things we'll discuss once we finally hang out. I look forward to the day.

  15. I find that, even with all the social connections, it is challenging to meet people in real life. I appreciate your thoughts and reflections. Thanks for the kind word on my poem - that "small gleaning of glory line" is an all too rare feeling.

  16. Ah. My heart.

    "I'm a bad friend. / I'm a terrible friend. / I don't deserve friends."

    I've been carrying different variations of these thoughts for the better half of a decade.

    I'm the friend who scribbles a birthday card in the car (one a good day) before running in for a party.

    I *do* have friends that love me for reasons beyond my understanding. Maybe because when I *do* show up I show them my full heart which gives them permission to show me their full heart. And that is valuable. So they love me. Even if it is once in two years we get to chat.

    So much to think about here. Thank you for saying it.


  17. Oh girl. You're speaking to me. I have not admitted what you have to anyone but myself, but I feel much the same - that I am a "bad" friend. That for a long season I have been too emotionally and physically weary and checked out to really be present in many friendships, and before I felt this way, I had those same feelings of being on the outside looking in, from the time I was in elementary school. I am glad you posted this, even knowing that fine line between the truth and our fragile perceptions. I am glad, too, that you have been so brave to take those little steps to reach out, and that you find yourself already growing. I know if I were anywhere near Chicago, I would love to stop by your place and talk and talk over coffee, no matter the state of your place ;-)

  18. Brenna, thank you for sharing this so honestly. I think we have all felt this way in one way or another. I have definitely felt the "clique" thing too. (on the outs. screwed. unimportant, etc.) The difference between real life & online life is that often our perceptions of online life can be very wrong & are primarily based on assumptions. (I"m preaching to myself here). In real life, I have a better sense of my footing & pursuing those real life connections are so so so so so super important for me. I'm so glad you reached out, IRL & I hope you'll keep doing the same. I hope I can be a normal, good & hopeful, yet messy online friend. =)