Despite my best laid plans and intentions to the contrary, I must confess and accept that I am simply not a “joiner.”
Perhaps I once was. I remember a very busy childhood, throughout which, despite all of my socially-based anxieties, I managed quite a bit of sport and extracurricular involvement. I had a difficult time adjusting to middle school where I began to feel quite out-of-step with my peers (though, I have surmised this is not an uncommon phenomenon). I became involved in sports medicine and coaching in high school, believing, after two ankle fractures in softball (and reconstructive ankle surgery), I probably was more suited to these roles. This was a way of involvement that allowed me to maintain some sense of self and, yet, a sense of belonging. It also provided me opportunity to help people without feeling like I had to compete with my peers (my distaste for competition is a subject for another day).
My lupus diagnosis, which came toward the end of my sophomore year (after I had already missed four months of school), did nothing to increase my level of involvement. I remained a student trainer and coached when I was able. Still, I didn’t want to leave high school involved in only NHS and training, so I tried several new clubs my senior year. This busy-ness (and a bad medication) led to an eventual “crash” and hospitalization in the spring of that year (I will spare you the details). You see, pushing myself to be a “joiner,” something I unequivocally am not, was not kind to me then. It is not kind to me now, either.
Since becoming a military wife and moving to Europe, I have tried to overcome this “not-a-joiner” status to no avail. I am better in small groups or, better yet, one-on-one. It is not that I do not like people, I actually do quite a lot (why else would I aim to become a pastoral counselor?). It is just that social situations make me incredibly uncomfortable and cause a level of stress that is not healthy for me as I live with and battle lupus and fibromyalgia. This level of stress makes these activities unenjoyable, despite the wonderful people with whom I might congregate. While I’m pregnant, in seminary, and raising little Weston, I can handle one social activity per week. Any more than that, and I feel overwhelmed and risk a flare-up that I cannot afford to have right now.
I know that when Weston (and my yet unborn baby, Isaac) are grown a bit, they will be involved in many activities. I shall enthusiastically support them. I will be their biggest advocate and “cheerleader.” At this point for me, however, especially during times when my body doesn’t cooperate, I just have to accept this fact: I am NOT a joiner. I am not a gregarious, outgoing social butterfly. I am a homebody. I like to spend time with my boys, read, study religion and philosophy, and analyze pop-culture from a spiritual standpoint so that I am able to meet people “where they are.” While my two little guys are still young, I shall stick with my level of comfort so that I am able to care for them best.
It may change over time… or it may not. I have reached a point of acceptance about which either outcome will be fine with me.
So, to all my friends: you are loved and appreciated. I do want to spend time with you. Sometimes, however, the very idea of an impending social function causes flare-up inducing stress and I am physically incapable of attending. Please do not take it personally when it seems I drop off the edge of the Earth every time a new social event is announced. I’m still here… safe and comfortable in my happy bubble, and I’m okay here.
Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art…. It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.