When I first moved to the community that I now live in, neighbors that I had just met would end their texts with these types of phrases. I’m not going to lie: I was a bit freaked out by it. I have no problems expressing affection, but it usually takes me a few years, not weeks.
Despite my stand-offish-ness – because I was traveling, because I was busy with work, because I was struggling with grief after losing my dog – my neighbors continued to invite me to their events. And they get together a lot. I finally felt a sense of connection when I hosted a book club about a year after I moved in. But it really changed when I went to a holiday party last December. My introverted self was reluctant to go, but I decided that I should go. And since moving to this neighborhood, it remains as the best decision I ever made. I didn’t have a date and I knew a fair amount of people from our book club, but I was still anxious (see above: I’m an introvert). There was assigned seating and I was in the middle of a group of people whom I had not met. And I had the time of my life. The next day, my stomach hurt from laughing so hard. And I finally felt like I belonged in this amazing community that lives at 10,000 feet.
I hosted a neighborly brunch in early 2018 – with the intent of making it a quarterly event, but I have yet to plan another one. Mostly because there isn’t time to do it between traveling dinners, and birthday gatherings and barbeques and pig roasts. I love to run into my neighbors when I am out walking, and I always look forward to seeing them.
It was with all of this in mind that I read The New York Times article, “How Loneliness is Tearing America Apart.” According to a recent large-scale survey from the healthcare provider, Cigna, most Americans suffer from strong feelings of loneliness and a lack of significance in their relationships. This could easily be me. I work from home, which is situated on 3 acres. I work A LOT. I’m an introvert. But even though this community is the first one in over 10 years that isn’t a city where I can hear my neighbors’ TV through the walls, I have never felt more connected.
The article goes on to point out that too many Americans don’t have a place that they think of as home — a “thick” community in which people know and look out for one another and invest in relationships that are not transient. To adopt a phrase coined in Sports Illustrated, one might say we increasingly lack that “hometown gym on a Friday night feeling.”
I am so lucky to not feel that way.
For Cinco de Mayo this year, a group of us from “the mountain” went out to celebrate. I volunteered to be the designated driver, and it was a full car. I picked up one neighbor whom I had not met before – and I learned throughout the evening that she is a lovely person. As she got out of the car at the end of the night, I happily said, “Love you!” And it was then that I realized that I am home.