I was riding in the car with my family last weekend and my brother and I were playing around with the idea that commiserating with people is a bit like being “co-miserable”. The act of commiserating with friends when life feels like it is unravelling is a sure way to bond with people.
The stressful moments of dress rehearsals when things are going wrong before opening night.
Seventeen and eighteen year olds who have no idea how to survive their first round of midterms – but get through the allnighters together.
Friends who, due to serendipity or dumb luck, simultaneously go through seasons of grief or heartache and play the role of shoulder to cry on together.
These aren’t particularly easy things to go through, but when we survive them with the support and love of friends we are able to manage better. And sometimes even look on them as happier memories because we shared them with others.
There are some memories that I remember so fondly even though living through them was difficult. There was a day when I was living in Florida when all of the women I was living with were having a bad day. Homesickness, trouble with boys, school stress, the general grind of life; we were all going through our own issues, but we shared the feeling.
We gathered in the kitchen, it started with just a few of us talking while making dinner, but eventually all our roommates joined in. The six of us sat around the kitchen island on bar stools and chairs from the dining room table. We shared mac n cheese, cheesy mashed potatoes and our stories.
These were women who went from perfect strangers to close friends in a matter of months – but a lot of that bonding came from honesty and vulnerability with each other. It came from walking through life together and being able to say when we weren’t having a great day. It doesn’t need to be earth-shattering, but knowing you have permission to say “Can we go get Del’s and drive around listening to Sam Smith in your car?”
We often won’t have the power to fix the problems of the people we love – but we have the ability to show up and create space where it’s okay to not be okay. Where we can admit that life can be heavy sometimes. A place where we can fall apart together – and build each other back up. If that’s not community, I don’t know what is.
The courage to be vulnerable isn’t easy to summon, sometimes it’s 72 hours of a roommate-ship before you’re spilling your biggest secrets and sometimes it’s months of consistent Tuesday night bible studies before we share when we’re having a really bad day.
We build relationships differently with each person we meet, and whenever it feels like you’ve built that appropriate trust, having the courage to be honestly and authentically you is so invaluable.
Since that car ride with my brother I got coffee with a friend and we talked for nearly four hours. It was a beautiful and refreshing feeling to sit with someone and genuinely just share our struggles and triumphs of the recent months. Socially it’s maybe not that common to get so vulnerable with feelings in a coffee shop – but to me that is the heart of friendship; knowing there is space to be honest. Having people in your life who allow you to feel comfortable and supported enough to share the parts of you not everyone gets to see.
There are going to be times in life that things fall apart a bit and life feels like it is unravelling – things just happen and we don’t always have control. But having community makes those times easier.
Maybe it looks like getting Taco Bell in the middle of the night because you can’t sleep, maybe it’s honest phone calls, maybe it’s having the worst day ever and wandering around Target with smoothies, maybe it’s friend’s who come to your rescue as soon as they hear your terrible news, maybe it’s driving around listening to Sam Smith and venting about your feelings, maybe it’s tearing up over London Fogs after you admit to someone who cares that you’ve been having a hard few months – however you cope with the unravelling of life I hope you do it with friends, you can be co-miserable and look back on it later as something that wasn’t so bad.