I ran into an old friend at the grocery store this morning. We hadn't seen each other in a few years, and it was nice to say hello.
By all accounts, she and I should have been good friends. Both unabashedly left in our politics, we were both highly concerned about the environment and conflicted about our roles as stay-at-home mothers. When our boys were young we belonged to the same mothers' group. We'd get together for breakfast or tea, walk to the bagel shop with our toddlers in tow, and even tried power walking a couple of times. She was faster than I was.
We weren't exactly two peas in a pod. I'd bake homemade cookies and stop by with them; she would assume they were slice-and-bake. She entertained more and had more interests outside of mothering.
Things didn't stay easy. Her son didn't like my boys, who besides being loud and boistrous, outnumbered him two-to-one. She watched my baby a few times while I took the two-year old to speech therapy, and her son decided that he was a definite threat.
Soon the social awkwardness went both ways. By the time my oldest was three years old he withdrew socially; other kids were moving past parallel play and expected him to talk, and well, he didn't. When he was four we stopped attending play groups.
For awhile I thought that she was too cool for me; she was cool in ways I only dreamed of. She was active politcally and attempting not to lose herself in motherhood. She had lived all over the country as well as abroad, and I had barely stirred from Southern California since birth.
For a few years I was haunted by the thought that some how I wasn't cool enough to remain friends with her after our children made things difficult. It wasn't just this relationship either; I felt unwanted as a friend each time I made the attempt with anyone new. Marrying young, my fragile self-esteem had never known the dance of connection and rejection. I assumed it was something fundamentally wrong with me that kept me from maintaining more than one close friendship. I assumed everyone else already had great friends and that I kept choosing people who just didn't need me as a friend.
I've come a long way since then. I've learned that people are interesting in different ways, and that my envy regarding someone else's "cool" factor only underlines a need within myself. One woman isn't more hip than I am because she writes; she's interesting because she writes and I seek the courage to see my words in print as well. Another woman isn't "better" than I am because she gets involved politcally; she simply models something that I want for my own life. It makes sense to connect with women who share some of my interests and values.
After I saw my friend I sent her an email expressing a desire to get together again sometime. I realized now that I can do this - send out feelers to various women I meet - without obsessing over the outcome or feeling less than worthy if I don't get the response I seek. I am merely picking dandelions heads and scattering the seeds. Some will take, some won't, and it is no reflection on my value as a human being. Vitality and wisdom are my human birthright; they are the core of all humanity.