Little did we know a year ago, how much community would change in our own lives, in our cities and communities, and ultimately in our world. I think a year ago, I would have said how grateful I am for certain communities that I live in; for instance, every Thursday morning, I meet with a group of three other women. Three of us are in our 30’s and then we have a mama bear of the group. When we first started meeting four years ago, I was in desperate need for mentorship and belonging outside of the places where I had to be “on” for others. I was longing for deep connection: for a small group to know me inside and out and still want to be in my life.
Over the last four years, these ladies have seen me at my worst, ugly cries, snotty nose and swollen eyes, kind of worst. They walked with me through the constant battle for my mom’s life from the clutches of cancer, they spoke encouraging words when my professional life seemed like it was too hard, and so much more. But they also taught me joy in the midst of struggle. They taught me how to have the hard conversations out of love and not out of judgement. They were there through it all, no matter what.
But a year ago, I probably would have taken that history for granted when we weren’t able to meet on a weekly basis. But we, like many others, got creative. We met outside, we wore masks, we Zoomed our meetings, and ultimately we safely found a way to meet face-to-face because like so many others around us, we needed the connection.
Earlier this year, the Mama Bear of our group wanted to put on a women’s conference for like-minded women that were in desperate need of community like I had been four years ago. I’ll be honest that my first thought was, “I love you but the thought of a women’s conference makes me want to tear my hair out.” Here’s why: if you’ve ever been to a women’s conference it often feels fluffy and I don’t need more fluff in my life. I need the hard truth. Women’s conferences often feel like they throw me into a downward spiral of working on being perfect, and I need a place that honors my mess. That was the type of women’s conference we decided we needed.
The pandemic made life hard for most of us. Because of the isolation due to the pandemic, mental health became a real issue in our country. At the heart of a lot of those issues was the lack of community and the increase in isolation. Humans are created and wired for two things: love and connection. Without those things, life can get really hard, really fast.
During late June, 40% of adults reported struggling with mental health or substance abuse. Those pieces included anxiety and depression, substance abuse, trauma disorder symptoms, and potential suicide.Center for Disease Control and Prevention, https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6932a1.htm
Tonight we hosted the first night of our women’s conference. All the stress, conversations, planning, and more came together and it was beautiful because for the first time in a long time, we each took a moment to appreciate and cherish what connecting with others does for our mental health and our soul.
Women chatted, laughed, cried, hugged, and cheered one another on as we talked about the messiness of life and gave action steps to fight against the lies that we believe that tell us we don’t need connection. We each battled our own battle to get there tonight, but I’m relishing in the fact that we showed up.
This week, I want to encourage you to find a way to show up for the community space in your life. Show up even when it doesn’t quite fit in your schedule, your day has been a mess, or you’re just tired. And take a moment to reflect on the excuse you are looking for to not show up. What is it? What does it mean in your heart? And really, what’s the truth that can wipe that lie out that stops you from cherishing connection?