Longing for Community

I have been searching for community my whole life. I remember longing for it growing up. And even though there have been times in my life when I have felt kinship with those around me, I haven’t felt a part of a community outside of the nuclear family my husband and I created for quite some time.

When I was growing up we moved a lot, so I felt connected when I had a best friend. I had a best friend when we lived outside of Chicago for 3rd and 4th grade; a best friend in middle school in Rochester, NY, and a camp best friend from my four years in the Adirondacks. And then came three different highschools in three different years. The lack of stability made it hard to make and keep friends—at least the best friend kind.

This longing accompanied me to college and for a short time I landed in a community in which I felt at home. It didn’t take long for hormonal angst brake up that feeling, and I fled to live in New York city where I finished college, while starting and running a business with my father. And thus began a period of time in my life in which I had my toes in a variety of different communities, still longing for one that I felt completely at home in.

In my 20’s I dipped in and out of circles of friends who had either gone to school together through dating different people. Then there was a group of people who were tied to a meditation school that I met through a boyfriend, and while I enjoyed their company, they were a cult-like group in which membership was for those who committed much more than I was ever prepared to do. My yearning or community never crossed the line of blindly following some mesmerizing character.

After marriage, in my late 20;s, we bounced around a bunch living in Washington, DC; Vienna, Austria; back to DC and then off to Northern California where I found a community of like-minded women, having babies and raising kids. Most of the women I met through my volunteer work with La Leche League.  They were either other Leaders or the mothers who were attracted to attachment style parenting. We hung out in parks, took day trips to the beach, all the while watching the kids run around and always talking about our lives, our families, our dreams and sometimes our nightmares. These women nursed me through a difficult and scary second pregnancy and then stepped in again when my husband was diagnosed and successfully treated for cancer. They made dinners, did grocery shopping, took kids, held my hand, and listened to my fears.

In my 40’s we moved to the Midwest and started all over again. But this time is was harder. For a variety of reasons I never felt at home there, never found a community of like-minded people. The kids had excellent schools and my husband a work environment that he enjoyed, I never felt at home.

And then after nine years away, my husband accepted a teaching position back in the bay area. But nine years a long time to be away and I learned that you can’t go home again. And so even though we moved back, we had to start all over again.

And now we are empty nesters. One near-by and one on the east coast (so far) and we are once again faced with options. We love living in northern California and the question becomes: what kind of community do we want? How do we create the circle of friends with whom we can nourish and enrich each other’s lives?

Sometimes I think of Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz after learning from her adventure over the rainbow that there is no place like home. But when one has moved around so much, where is home? If I clicked my ruby slippers where would they take me?

Do you feel at home in your community? Do you have a circle of friends who have seen you through thick and thin?

As a blogger, I enjoy sharing my ideas and thoughts with people, and I get a special thrill when someone leaves a comment. When you share my posts on social media sites, I jump up and down doing a happy dance. So thank you!

9 thoughts on “Longing for Community

  1. frank spigel

    I remember one time in the 1970’s, I wanted to back go home to Philadelphia, that was when I worked for W&J Sloane the furniture store, then I thought about working for W&J Sloane in San Francisco and that move didn’t work out either, it’s a long story and I will tell you about in Person some time. In 1975, I went to
    work for The Library of Congress, here I met a lot of nice people, and even though I have retired, I still stay in touch with my friends at the Library. Also in 1978 I joined a Conservative Synagogue within walking distance of my home. In 2000 I joined a reform temple which I really love. I am very active in my temple.
    I am part of a group called the Empty Nesters there. Many of the people in that group are grandparents.
    Also because of that group I am active in the Race for Hope which deals with brain tumors.
    I really enjoy your colum on the Magic of Mothering.

    1. Heidi BK Sloss Post author

      Thanks Frank, always great to read your comments! It is important for us to create community with people who share our values and interests. In my next blog post I write about a community of women that I found in California when we lived here in the 1990’s that were that for us. Are you still a part of both synagogues or have you picked just one of them?

  2. Lorrie Goldin

    Anyone looking at me from the outside would think I am very ensconced in community, and to some extent it’s true. But I often feel on the periphery of many different communities that don’t necessarily intersect that well. Partly I think my temperament is responsible for keeping me on the periphery and not engaging more deeply with a core “thick and thin” group. But mostly I think society itself is more atomized now into discrete units of activity and time–we have our hiking friends, our book group friends, our yoga friends, our parents-of-our-kids’-friends friends, our work friends, etc. And, of course, our Facebook friends, which says a whole lot about the whole issue of community!

    1. Heidi BK Sloss Post author

      Lorrie, your comments are always thought provoking to me–just like your blog! I share a similar perspective: I have multiple communities that I am a part of, most that do not overlap and no one community that I feel fully in or fully fulfilled from. Maybe that is unrealistic, but I am still going to keep searching. And I wonder if the need to pull back, and stand more on the periphery is part of a function of aging. I notice that as I age, I need less action or maybe it is part of our changing nature of our social relationships. I’ld much rather had a few meaningful intense interactions than many that are just surface–although I have to admit that I have always been wired that way.

  3. Kim Acedo

    Heidi, what a lovely share of your journey thus far. I enjoyed reading more about you 🙂 I can see how moving so much makes it hard to find a community of like-minded women. I love that you are the continual search for that. Again, lovely share and it’s nice to get to know more about you 🙂

    1. Heidi BK Sloss Post author

      Thanks Kim. My editorial board is always pushing me to reveal more of myself in my posts and I like the response from readers like you. I will keep searching and in my next post I write about what it was like to have a community that felt supportive, especially in times of crisis. Stay tuned!

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