Disconnected: It summarizes how I feel these days. I've never been so actively involved in a community and so isolated at the same time.
I live in a village of approximately 200 people. Part of the charm was that it was so tiny, we would have no trouble knowing all our neighbors in a very short time. It turns out that the neighbor who assisted us in buying a home here was acting on a business decision, and not the friendship I'd had my heart set on. The remainder of the neighbors are friendly, but content to wave as they walk by; nobody stops for coffee on the freshly-constructed patio.
I work full-time. As former receptionist in our office, I know most of the staff by name, with the exception of a few newer faces. Still, given the climate I work under at the moment, I feel guilty leaving my seat unless it's work-related; this limits my social interaction to 30 minutes in the lunchroom each day. I look forward to that time more than you know! I schedule my time in the lunchroom when I know there will be a table full of guys who love to forget cell phones exist. They actually have a conversation and spend a lot of time laughing; those few brief moments together make the work day so much more bearable!
I serve on the board of a local Youth Center, after moving on from the local daycare board. Speaking of daycare, this is the part of my social life that's so much fun! It was warmer outdoors this week, so windows were opened for fresh air. The moment my husband and I reached the gate of the daycare property, we could hear kids squealing; we instantly knew what was happening inside. We opened the door to find the director of the daycare with hands on hips and a crooked grin. "[Your son] is not here," she said, adding "They all disappeared. You must have heard them from outside." Oh we heard them! And we know that they run and hide because they love being chased down and kissed and tickled and boogied to exhaustion. Or maybe that's just the second highlight of my day ... who knows?!
I attend church regularly, which translates to once a week in this corner of the world. I miss my Sunday evening service, my weekly involvement with the Youth Group, choir practice and ladies' meetings. I had asked God to "set the lonely in a family" (Ps. 68:6), but it's hard to build a relationship that feels anything like family on mere minutes per week. I remember how relieved I was when I realized my first crew of kids was old enough that I was not required to spend half of every service in the church nursery; alas, I am back at Square One. Although not in the nursery, I am required to keep tabs on a very busy little person, which hampers quality conversation. Thus I find myself greeting people for seconds at a time, ineffectively trying to communicate my love for them in rushed "Hello, how was your week? I'm good thanks - see you later! Praying for you," mouthfuls of good intentions.
I know that part of the problem is living in such a rural area. Everything is a drive; people are busy rushing to the city each weekend for groceries and diapers and clothing. Connection to humans outside of your home requires intentional planning and some degree of juggling to get everything done. Text messages are quick and easy, and social media fools many into thinking they are connected to hundreds of people simultaneously. The kind of friendship I'm looking for goes deeper.
I want a friend who will make me a better person. Challenge me to higher ideals. Encourage me in my marriage. Cry with me on hard parenting days. Ask me if I've talked to Jesus about it yet. Cheer for my career goals. Tell me I made a crappy cup of tea/coffee. Look me in the eye and tell me that menopause is no big deal, and that empty nesting isn't as hard as I'm making it out to be. Then call me to apologize when you figure out I was actually right about both of those last two topics. :-)
No man is an island, they say. I'd be content to be an island if a stray survivor would swim up to short now and then. And yes, I'm going to have another little talk with Jesus about this. Something tells me that getting my connection with Him right will be key. Perhaps this disconnected feeling is really just because we were never meant to call this world home. <3