Fighting Isolation With My “Above Average” Tribe

Well hey there, friends. Long time no talk.

I feel as if that is something I’m saying to a lot of people these days: Long time no talk. Life has been crazy busy. With my new work position, I am finding my days filled with work projects and new mental challenges with my training intake. This is a far cry from the past few years where I was struggling to find things to do around the office simply to keep from falling asleep. Now, by the time work is over, I am exhausted. A good exhausted, but exhausted nonetheless. By the time I get home, take care of the pups, make dinner, and complete basic household chores, I have no more of my energy to give. Needless to say, my relationships have come to take a backseat in my typical day-to-day agenda.

One relationship I have been able to focus on though is my relationship with Christ. I’ve been facing a lot of conviction on my lack of “God time” throughout the current pandemic and wanted to rediscover my life in the Word. So in August I decided to join my church’s Fall session for a women’s Bible study. The Bible study I joined is based on Jennie Allen’s Get Out of Your Head: Stopping the Spiral of Toxic Thoughts. The study itself has been challenging and I would recommend it to any ladies out there who find themselves stuck in their heads and spiraling downward. It has a number of “weapons” to get you through your negative mindset and redirect you to begin spiraling upward instead.

This past week’s session focused on three specific toxic thoughts: victimhood, complacency, and isolation. Isolation in particular struck a chord with me. Not only due to the overall isolation everyone has felt since the pandemic began, but also for the reason I mentioned above. I was forced to recognize that my relationships — those core relationships that mean the most in my life — have been slowly being pushed further and further back in my life and I am becoming more isolated with each passing day.

I mentioned this internal battle with my Bible study group last night. This group, let me tell you, this group has been a Godsend. In September, I chose to leave the Pink Tie Ball Committee (ugh). Then a week later, word came that Women Among Women would be taking a break until further notice (double ugh). So my two monthly group gatherings (about all my introverted self can manage nowadays) ended. Since then I’ve been lacking another type of relationship — a “women-centered empowerment” group. My Bible study group has quickly stepped up to bat and knocked the ball out of the park in this regard.

In last night’s study, I discussed how my internal battle of isolating myself has caused a bit of a down-spiral in my life. I’m caught in this unwelcome domino effect: feeling overwhelmed, slightly edgy, and attention-seeking, wanting to reach out to people, knowing my friends are also struggling with overwhelming and busy lifestyles, fearing I’ll be burdening a friend when reaching out, feeling shame that I am not as independent as I thought, being prideful and saying I am independent, feeling disappointment that friends are not reaching out in the timeframes I desire, saying negative things like “who needs them!”, knowing those thoughts are unfair, talking condescendingly to myself for those selfish thoughts, becoming depressed, feeling both lonely and alone…

[BREATH.]

Jennie Allen portrayed my thoughts in a concise image:

It was not until I wrote my feelings down in my study journal and spoke them out loud that I recognized the folly in my thinking. Everyone is busy nowadays. Everyone is feeling overwhelmed. Everyone feels some sort of isolation. Even if COVID had not happened and life was continuing on “as norm”, those situations would still apply. Life is hard.

Yet life is so much easier when we realize that it is not meant to be done alone.

We do not have to actively choose to feel lonely.

There is no shame in inviting people into your little bubble of the world.

So I made the cognitive decision to reach out to some of my friends. Those who I have not seen recently but who I consider my “core group.” To one, I simply wrote how much I miss her and apologized for my lack of communication lately. To another, I sent a meme which sparked a laugh-filled conversation. And another, I sent a quick note of how grateful I am of having her in my life and appreciate her brilliance in my life. Her heartfelt response put a smile on my face for the remainder of the day.

Jennie Allen makes the argument that building bridges with the right type of people helps with our thoughts spiraling downward. The path diverges when you have to choose who you seek out during those moments though. We all know those people who would push us down the hill faster (metaphorically only hopefully.) You know, that person who will turn the discussion on him/herself and cast your feelings aside. Or that person who will take your problems and turn them into his/her own gossip column. Yet, there is also the option to go to one of those people who will throw you a rope and help pull you to the top of the mountain. That person who will listen with no judgment, tissues in hand, and validate your feelings. The person who may give you some tough love and tell you things you don’t want to hear. The person who will allow you to be as vulnerable as possible without feeling any shame.

The decision sounds simple on which path to take, doesn’t it? However, when standing at that fork in the road, sometimes the decision is difficult.

For me, sometimes I want to get out of my own head and let someone else talk over me. I hate expressing myself in front of others, especially when my emotions may display something I perceive as weakness. (Like simply demonstrating a NEED for help, amiright?!) The thought of going to someone, specifically someone I love and care about, for help makes me feel like such a burden. That’s the issue, isn’t it? Those thoughts come from the devil.

They create isolation.

They create loneliness.

And God created us to be so much more than those debilitating thoughts. God created us to be known. He wants us to be connected. He wants us to be and to feel loved.

When you come to that fork in the road, take the harder route. Seek out the lights in your life. There may be hard conversations ahead that challenge your mindset or stir up new feelings, but when discussed with the right type of people, you can be assured that the hardships come from a place of love and care and positivity. Do not allow a negative person to take hold in your life because that negatively will ultimately diminish your own radiance. You were not made to continue spiraling down into a web of negativity.

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.

Proverbs 4:23

I am blessed to have the tribe I do. I have a number of awesome friendship circles, but my core TRIBE… they are above average.

I love going back to a lesson learned at a leadership summit years ago. This lesson came from Jim Rohn‘s quote that “you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” My five people — though time spent together differs in the method and length lately — are so incredibly wonderful that they up my average every day. They each bring something vastly unique into my life. They are the ones I turn to in the worst of times. They are the ones who allow me to vent, validate my emotions, celebrate my achievements, and provide me tough love when I fail. They are the role models anyone would desire for their children. They are the type of friends who have become closer than blood. They are the types of people that project positivity into every facet of my life.

I would be half the woman I am without them in my life.

There is not enough praise to thank God for placing the people He did into my life. I can thank Him in another fashion though — by reaching out and connecting with these positive lights. They each hold a special place in my heart because of what their friendships bring into my world, and it is about time I stopped playing the victim and be proactive. No more considering myself a burden to those I know love me in return. No more feeling sorry for myself over situations that are within my control. No more lying to myself that I need to be strong and do life on my own.

Today, I choose to spiral upward.

So if you’re feeling a bit isolated as the pandemic trudges along, I encourage you to follow my example — reach out to your core group. Tell them how you’re feeling. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised to hear you’re not alone… in your feelings or in Life in general.

Bottom line: the people around you matter. Choose them well. And use them better.

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