When you read something good, you just have to share it, no? Yesterday I read my friend Amy Gutman’s essay called “In praise of erring.” Amy has a terrific new blog called “Plan B Nation” which bravely examines her life of relative unemployment despite her stellar education and impressive resume. I realized that I had not added “Plan B Nation” to my blogroll, an oversight that has now been remedied because it hit me that what is more Plan B than a life after divorce?
Her post, that I literally cannot stop thinking about, addresses the issue of how we make decisions, and if we are to err in some way, doesn’t it make sense to err on the side of human connection? She tells the story of approaching two women in a local café who seemed really interesting. Although she was feeling a bit hesitant about whether to go talk to them, she summoned up the courage to do so and discovered that they were lovely people. Her conclusion was that erring on the side of human connection will more often than not bring a richness to your life.
After I read her article, I started thinking about my closest friends and how I met them. I met one woman in a chiropractor’s office where we casually discussed our kids and traveling to Puerto Rico. We saw each other a few times at the Northampton Parents Center, then went several years without contact, only to run into each other one day in Whole Foods. We struck up a conversation, I asked her for her email, and she is now one of my closest friends. In fact, our connection was rekindled and deepened right before my ex and I split up, and she was instrumental in supporting me through that difficult time.
Years later, I started a conversation with a woman that I had seen a few times in yoga when I saw her with her kids at a pool in Northampton. It turned out that she was going through a divorce, and I basically asked her out. I can’t remember how, but I think I got her email and said let’s have drinks after yoga some night. Again, she is now one of my dearest friends and, as a fellow divorcee, she and I have helped each other time and time again navigate the sometimes rocky terrain of co-parenting, dating, and having a friendship with your ex.
As many of you know, I recently moved to the Boston area after spending eight years in the friendliest town on Earth, where it is not so uncommon for people to reach out to each other. It’s a little trickier in a big, busy urban area. However, just this week, I had social engagements with three different people that I made an effort to get to know.
One was a mom from my kids’ school who had reached out to me on Curriculum Night. I saw her again at parent dinner party, that I was attending solo and feeling somewhat uncomfortable about being in a roomful of couples. I made a beeline for her (as she was the only familiar face in the room), and it turned out that not only did we have many interests in common, but we also both attended Yale at the same time (she was in med school and I was in grad school).
Another was a friend of Jon’s that I wanted to get to know better, yet I wasn’t sure how she would react after Jon and I broke up. I brought that up to her, and she was fine with it. But I could have easily assumed that she was just Jon’s friend, even though our breakup was amicable. We have become fast friends and this week she brought me chicken soup when I was sick.
My third social date this week came about through circumstances that pushed me even farther out of my comfort zone. At the New Year, I had set myself the intention of making more friends in Boston because I felt that I had gotten a little lazy about that while dating Jon. So I contacted a guy that I had met only once and then become Facebook friends with. He seemed funny and witty, so I told him about my intention and asked if he’d help me accomplish it. He said yes, eventually we hung out together, and within minutes, we were laughing like a couple of schoolgirls.
My point with all these examples is to jump on Amy’s bandwagon and let people know that the simple act of taking a risk and starting a conversation with someone can lead to a connection that enriches your life immeasurably. The connections that I have made with the aforementioned people have been instrumental in navigating my life as a divorced mom.
As a divorcee, you often lose the cocoon of having a built-in social life. One of the things that I liked best about being married was that I always had a companion to play with on the weekends. Now I have to seek out those companions. And now that I am in a new city, I have to build a whole new support network (although Northampton is, thankfully, only 90 minutes away).
So, if any of you divorcees (or singletons or marrieds) are feeling a little lonely, just remember that a deep and meaningful connection may only be a conversation away. Many of us put in time and effort online seeking dates. If we would only take the risk to say hi to someone in public, to comment on the book they are reading on the bus, or remark upon their adorable child or pet, we might find that we can make connections in person. So I encourage you to put down your iPhones and take out your ear buds and see if there is anyone around you who looks or sounds interesting. It just might be the best move you ever make.
Thanks, Amy, for this reminder. You’ve made me realize how the casual conversation at the pool, doctor’s office or jury duty has left an indelible impression on my life.