For most of my adult life I haven't had a lot of friends. I still don't.
I've never written about this because I've always believed that the measure of a successful life is having many, many friends. I've worried that my lack of friends means something is wrong with me. That is it somehow MY fault.
If I was just happier, kinder, more fun, more involved, more _____(fill in the blank), I would "attract" friends, lots of them.
But I've tried really hard. I am friendly and empathetic and "likable." I have no problem talking with and meeting new people.
But here's the honest truth: I don't maintain an active and busy social calendar because...I like being at home.
I don't host dinner parties or entertain during the holidays because, well...large groups of people frighten me—especially if they're in my home. I don't like traveling because I get terribly homesick. I don't like group activities because I chafe under membership requirements, rules and expectations.
I guess you could say I have social anxiety. I mean, I know some of this is fallout from being raised in a cult (I associate social activities with trauma). But even if I hadn't been raised in a cult, I still wouldn't like group activities.
My idea of torture is a party. Or a women's Bible Study. Or a mommy-and-me group. Or—God forbid—a conference. But if you don't go to parties, or attend lots of group-y things, then how do you make friends?And we're all supposed to have lots of friends, right?
OK, but maybe having lots of friends isn't a good measure of a happy life. Maybe it's ok if we just have one or two friends.
One of my therapists recently asked me if my friends could tell that my mental health has improved over the last couple of months and I just stared at her, embarrassed. "Well," I squeaked. "I don't really have friends that I hang out with regularly."
To my surprise she didn't react negatively. "That's ok," she said. "You're more of a homebody, right? You're more family-centered?"
I almost wept tears of relief. Because YES. And also: It's OK? It's ok for me to be like this?
Here's the thing: I am a very happy little homebody. I like being in my garden with my roses. I like watching my dogs play. I like my bedroom and my writing desk and my art corner and my books.
For me, a quiet home is the measure of a happy life.
And I'm finally ok with that.
I like being home and I like taking care of my home. I like arranging and rearranging the furniture. I like organizing and decluttering.
I like couponing. I like sewing and baking and painting (---> those paints over there? my FAVORITE watercolors!)
I like quiet nights by the fire. I like animals and trees and looking at the night sky.
Whenever I have to leave home, I feel terribly homesick.
Things like parties make me very unhappy and very homesick.
Parties are so noisy. So many people. So many lights. So many facial expressions I must plaster on my face.
Weirdly, though, I love the idea of a party. I have this fantasy party in my head which is a small gathering of two or three likeminded people who enjoy deep, quiet conversations. This doesn't happen at any of the parties I've ever attended. Especially when it's a kid party or a party where a lot of alcohol is served.
Don't get me wrong, I enjoy a little wine with a nice dinner. But I get very nervous and even frightened when people drink too much. They start getting noisy. They say things they don't mean. They think they are so funny and expect everyone to laugh at their jokes. They break things. Sometimes, they lose their tempers. Why risk that kind of evening when I'd be much happier at home with my dogs, reading or writing by a cozy fire?
Here's the thing: I am an ambivert. I am energized by people. But I also need a lot of quiet space.
It took me FOREVER to learn that while I am energized by people, it has to be the RIGHT people in the RIGHT setting. A quiet lunch with one or two friends is quite enough for me. I have the ability to connect deeply with people but I don't have energy to connect with all the peoples.
To the outsider, my quiet homebody life might look boring. Or like I'm not DOING anything. But this quiet life IS something.
It is something very, very important to me. And it is also vital to my health and wellbeing. I need quiet and space to reflect, to come up with new ideas, to stare into the garden, to take a long walk in silence. I need time to really SEE things. I can sit in one place staring at a tree for thirty minutes and find so many wonderful things happening there.
I decided to write about this today because I know I'm not the only one who enjoys a quiet life at home.
If you feel badly because you don't have a WHOLE BUNCH OF FRIENDS or you're feeling somehow guilty because you don't keep a busy social calendar, I want you to know that you're not weird. There's nothing wrong with you.
People may misunderstand you but that doesn't mean you are required to meet their expectations. Or even explain it to them.
Sometimes my kids are frustrated that I don't go out very much. I know they sometimes wish I enjoyed going to parties like all the other "cool" parents. They often ask me to be more involved in their schools. Or chaperone field trips. They get annoyed that I so rarely allow their friends to sleepover. They wish I was more comfortable in crowds so we could enjoy a whole baseball game without me needing to leave at the 7th inning, or refuse to sit in a seat unless I'm on the aisle.
I don't expect them to like my rules or like my peculiarities. But I do expect them to be respectful. They know that I have anxiety issues. They know I need my home to be a safe, sacred space. Over the years, they've learned to accept me and they are very understanding. I think when they are adults they will realize I gave them a different kind of gift: the gift of a quiet, loving, stable home. A home where they could always find their mother. A home they could always return to, no matter what.
I am not a good cook. I don't use my back yard for entertaining. I have mental health issues. But I love sewing for my kids. I love creating beautiful spaces for us to enjoy as a family. I love nurturing pets and roses and connectedness.
I have finally figured out that it's ok for me to be me. And guess what? It's ok for you to be you, too. Comparing yourself to someone else's life will only lead to despair. We can be quiet little homebody nerds together, k? Look, here's a little birdie I painted for you. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go cozy up with a good book and hot cup of tea.
Speaking of books, maybe you'd like to try something like this? I suggest "Big Little Lies." It was FABULOUS.
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