Shaking hands with Awkward (aka another post about making friends)

Making friends as an adult is awkward.

I mean, I’ve got the whole make-a-new-mom-friend routine down.

Me: Aww…he/she is so cute. How old?
Her: 3 months/48 months/ 6 years
Me: Cool. I’ve got 4 boys: 9, 9, 4, 2.
Her: Woah! FOUR BOYS? And TWWWIIIINNNS??
Me:….yeah. I’m a little nuts.
Her: Me too.
Me: Can I get your number?

And we’re friends. BOOM.

I recently started going to a women’s Bible Study (Community Bible Study) on Wednesday mornings. I expected there to be a lot of young moms there, but the vast majority of women in attendance are old enough to be my mother (I’m 33) OR my grandmother.

And the whole, “How old are your kids” convo starter just isn’t the same. Believe me, I tried it.

Me: Do you have any children?
Her: (smiling, thinking Oh you poor dear. You’re using that line?) I do!
Me: How old?
Her: oh, hmmm. Let’s see. I have a son who is 47 and a daughter who is 45.
Me: …Oh!

::facepalm:: (It’s just NOT the same, ya’ll)

There is this mantra in our society that you are supposed to “embrace” your life challenges:
Embrace the little years
Embrace the suck
Embrace the awkward…it’s the only way to get through it.

Well, I don’t know about you, but I’m not really a hugger, literally or metaphorically, and I really wasn’t sure this Bible Study was going to be for me, at least not the first week.

Or the second week.

My small group has one other young mom and while we’ve had some good conversations, the discussion mostly has centered around widowhood, Medicaid, grandchildren, retirement, cancer diagnosis, and caring for a mother or husband who has dementia.

I am fascinated by these topics, but fascinated like a person who is captivated by the beautiful and foreign facets of a cross-cultural experience.

I felt way out of my element, like I was visiting a foreign country. But I kept going, week after week, telling myself that even if I wasn’t willing to “Embrace the Awkward” I at least needed to be polite enough to shake hands.
But yesterday, when I went for the sixth week in a row, something shifted.

We don’t take a lot of time for sharing personal stories in our small group; the focus of our discussion is very much on the lesson. However, after the leader read a question from our study guide, I shared a relevant story about Benji’s Autism (and other challenges) for the first time and was open about my struggles in motherhood.

After my brief monologue, several women thanked me for sharing, their gray, curly hair bobbing as they nodded.

Soon, the bell rang for us to dismiss to the large lecture portion of the morning but about 5 women stayed behind, circling around me with warmth and tender smiles.

They asked me more questions about my sons. They listened to my current struggles and frustrations. One woman told me that her grown son has Asperger’s.

Then, as one woman was leaving the room, she walked quietly to where I was seated and slipped her arm around my shoulders.

“I just wanted to thank you for sharing today. You are a great mom.” She squeezed my arm in a brief hug and planted a light kiss on my forehead. “I am going to be praying for you.”

The other women promised to do the same.

I felt so heard and loved in that moment, not like an outsider who is part of a different stage of life, but as a fellow woman on this journey of life. Slowly—and all at once—I had become part of the group.

I’m really glad I decided to keep going to the Bible Study, to keep trying even when I was unsure about whether or not I would fit in. I’m glad I decided to open up about my life after a month and a half of listening and absorbing the stories of others.

I don’t like “embracing the awkward,” but I’m glad that I shook hands, because time is smoothing the uncomfortable moments away. I know this because that hug I received? It was tender and sweet embrace of a new friend.

6 Comments

  1. Cristina

    I’ve been going to a Bible study for a couple of years where I’m the youngest person, with most of the other women being a generation (or 2) older than me. It has been one of the richest experiences of my life. I’ve learned so much from these women and grown in my faith because of my relationship with them. My only hope is that I can give back to these women as much as they give me. I hope that if you stay in your group, your experience will be as wonderful as mine.

  2. Jenna

    Thanks for posting this! I’m working on “embracing the awkward” and making new friends too. Friends come in all ages and stages, but it sure can be tricky finding them sometimes.

  3. I was intrigued by the title, and can easily relate to feeling awkward. Loved the idea of embracing the awkward, and I will try to think about that the next time I leave a social situation. I am so happy for you that you have found this group! New friends, new supports – really fantastic!

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