My heart used to sink every time I was asked to fill in the blank below the words “emergency contact.”
Most of the time, I could go on with my busy and full life, and not think very much about it.
But as my pen would hover above those words, the reality would close in around me.
I moved away from my home in the centre of Canada to the city I now live in seventeen years ago. I was seventeen years old at the time, thousands of kilometres away from my family.
When I first moved here, and for nearly a decade afterward, I was surrounded by a community of fellow university students. When I graduated each of my degrees, that shifted slightly and I was supported by the scuba diving community within which I had become so entrenched. Even though I spent some of those early years travelling abroad, I was always able to come back to people that I could very nearly call family.
When I had my children, that shifted. The people I had considered to be my closest allies, my emergency contacts, even, were a part of a life that I no longer lived. Motherhood had shifted my reality so much that I found myself somewhat adrift, looking for a new sense of community.
So many of the women I talk to talk about how hard it is to make friends as an adult.
Friends, let alone a community. Let alone the people you would call at 2a.m., or put on your emergency contact list. The people that Brene Brown refers to as your “bury a body friends.”
Earlier this year, I found myself feeling deeply sad and lonely. I was having a crisis of community.
I felt I had no one other than my husband who could be my emergency contact.
And if he was trapped in the burning car with me, we’d really be fucked.
Morbid, I know. But here we are.
And so I put my *get shit done* hat on and thought, okay, how can I Fix This Problem.
I chuckle as I look back on it now, but I very earnestly went about phoning people I had lost touch with. On my weekly to do list appeared the word “connect” – a reminder to reach out to someone – anyone – and say hello. I started to plan a girls night.
After several months of this, I was exhausted, and I had spent a lot of money and time at coffee shops, connecting with my community of acquaintances.
I felt even more sad. I felt like I was putting in all the energy when it came to building my community.
And then something shifted. I realized that I had spent seventeen years living away from my family – the same amount of time that I had spent living with them. I had spent ten of those years, already, without an emergency contact other than my husband.
Everything was fine.
We had figured it out.
I started to wonder if my loneliness and sadness was just a story I was telling myself. Surely, the need for an emergency contact was. I mean, in true emergencies, we always find a way, right?
I asked myself the question “what if what I seek is already seeking me?”
And I held that question for a while.
In holding that, I stopped maniacally scheduling coffee dates, and started noticing all the ways that the community of people within which I was situated were showing up for me. I started noticing the people who were showing up, unconditionally, without being asked. I started noticing how community was manifesting in my life in ways that had gone unnoticed by me because they were not the ways I wanted, or was expecting.
Several weeks ago, I sat in circle with a group of women who are my people. We had been called into conversation by my dear mentor, and we sat together sharing food and deep, perspective-shifting thoughts. We were speaking the same language – the code of the rising feminine – and the energy in the room was palpable. We leaned and laughed, touched, and shared chocolate. We held long, heart-opening, deeply grounding hugs as we left and walked out into the night.
This summer, I made a new friend. I like her so much that we spent three days together in the backcountry together. We went zip lining together, and she was my right hand woman at the reWILD retreat.
For several months, I have met every few weeks with two women who I’ve known for a long time, but who, in our efforts to connect regularly over vegan ice cream, have only recently become much more a part of my life. I have this sense of them even when they’re not there.
In my lonely time of No Emergency Contact, I had asked some women in my life: what is your community like? Where are your people? Do you have people?
My idea of female friendship or family-away-from-family looked like Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte and Samantha’s weekly brunch dates.
But when I allowed it the space to manifest on its own and recognized all the ways it was already present, my sense of community was far richer than that.
I now feel deeply embedded in a community of women I love dearly. No maniacal coffee dates, just the enduring knowledge that they are there.
They are just the kind of people I’d want by my side in any emergency.
This whole experience was such a deep learning for me, in so many ways. My habit is to effort everything, and when I efforted my desire to cultivate deeper friendships and community, I just tired myself out and got nowhere. My belief that I had no one to call in case of emergency was making me deeply unhappy, and yet it was merely a belief – not true at all. My belief that I would be totally fucked if I was in an emergency was also patently untrue. And yet I believed these things so wholeheartedly that I was making myself miserable. What’s more, it was making me blind to what already existed for me.
The power of our thoughts is incredible – they have the ability to both delight and destroy us.
The power of letting go of control and allowing things to flow is one so many of us – me included – struggle to see.
And perhaps more importantly, when I got out of my own way and stopped believing the things that were making me sad, I realized the power of community. What surged forth in my life was so much better than brunch dates, so much deeper and more powerful. I am deeply rooted in a community of women – in THE community of women; I am held and supported and loved.
And so are you.