Practical Ideas

I Don't Feel x (Accepted, Connected, Loved)... What Do I Do?

Last week I shared a bit of my process for choosing my feeling words or themes each year... so this week I wanted to share how I take those words and plant them in my life. Because it's one thing to find words that resonate... it's another thing to remember that you chose them, why they matter, and what wisdom they have for your life right now.

I am a person very comfortable in the world of the "unseen"; I love talking about spirituality, ideas, and feelings. And while I think it's important to start there, and spend as much time there as you can--journaling about your word(s), making lists of how you already see that word showing up in your life, defining it in a way that excites you, and getting comfortable with owning that word--for me, the power only continues if I figure out a tangible way to take the word with me.

In other words, I can have an amazing journaling session and get excited about my word(s), only to forget them a month later, if I don't choose how to plant them.  It's akin to going on a retreat and having that "mountain top experience" that stays on the mountain if I don't intentionally figure out how to bring those ah-ha's into my day-to-day life.

Unlike goals (i.e. "Lose x pounds," or "Go to x networking events each month") that can feel all deadline-y, guilt-heavy, and task-focused; our feeling words should feel inviting, hope-full, and come with a sense of ease (i.e. "I desire to feel invigorated" and "I desire to feel supported.")

Transforming Feelings into Tangible Form

So where I get excited is in figuring out how to plant that word into my life so I keep seeing it, regularly choosing to feel the hope of it, and remembering that it's guiding me this year.

It's similar to why some people get tattoos to remember someone or to recall a significant transition in their life, others do vision boards where they can see their dreams manifested, and others make altars that center them immediately in a certain feeling.

Almost all my jewelry reminds me of something that matters to me.  Just touching it or seeing it can focus me immediately on what I believe matters.

I actually do quite a bit of my remembering with my jewelry. Here's a picture of my left hand right now....  every time I touch or see these things, they act like a "string around my finger" to remind me to not forget something that I've said is important to me.  That thumb ring has been there ever since my divorce fourteen years ago.  I remember crying as I took my wedding ring off... and my naked finger just kept serving as a reminder every time I felt for it, and it wasn't there, that I didn't feel loved.  I was living in Guatemala at the time and bought a ring to put on my thumb to remind me that I loved me and God loved me and that was enough.  That ring rarely comes off my hand-- and every time I feel it, play with it, and see it-- I think "I am loved." That belief has been cemented in my belief system in ways that fuel me far greater than I could have ever imagined.

That red string is from a retreat I went on in September where I realized that I was showing up with hesitation and fear in some areas of my life and I wanted, instead of fear, to show up with willingness.  So now, I tug on that string and whisper "I'm willing" whenever I feel fear.  I'm willing.  I'm willing... to show up and stay open even though this person hurt me.  I'm willing... to walk into this room of people even though I feel insecure.  I'm willing... to do what's in front of me even though this project feels so overwhelming. I remind myself I'm willing and my entire body changes almost instantly to match the new message my brain is giving.  (In fact, it's a spiritual truth "by beholding we become changed" that has been proven truth also by neuroscience!)

As a pastor I used to love sharing all the stories in the Bible of how people chose to remember their truths by infusing meaning into physical form.  Whether it was the Israelites miraculously crossing the Jordan River and collecting dry stones from the riverbed to pile up on the other side so that they could "tell their kids about the time that God parted the river" or the story of Jesus in the upper room with his disciples saying "When you eat this bread... remember me" which has turned into the practice of the Eucharist, or Communion, we know the power of being triggered to remember.

We do this almost automatically for much of our life when we want to remember something that has happened.  We take photos to remember events, we save a piece of hair from our child's first haircut, and we bake a family recipe to recall a person or a memory.

I'm inviting you to take your word and choose how you want to remember it this upcoming year.  Not to remember something that has happened, but to remind yourself of what is happening--what is true for you, what is already present in you, and what is also being called out of you in more ways this year.

I'm gifting this friendship bracelet to the women in my upcoming program so that they can remember their intention for the year ahead!

In fact, I think it's so important that I am including a bracelet with the word "connected" on it that will be given to all* the women who are signing up for my 21-day virtual program on friendship this month.  I picture them spending the rest of January just planting their feeling of connection, (or intimacy, acceptance, inclusion, or whatever other word resonates most deeply) as they listen to the interviews and journal for their own awareness, and then receiving that beautiful bracelet that they can wear as a reminder of the connection that they are inviting into their lives this year.  I want them to touch it and see it and remember that they are pursuing the feeling of being close to others in meaningful ways.  I want it to guide them to say yes even when it feels awkward, to initiate again because that's what it takes to build a friendship, and to hold hope that no matter their circumstances or personality or past experiences, they can experience more connection.

This year... I invite you to take the word you want to feel with you.  Infuse it into something tangible that can remind you to feel that feeling every time you see it or touch it.

We get to choose how we feel.  I don't have to feel unloved or fearful-- my ring and my red bracelet pictured above whisper to me repeatedly that I am loved and willing.  And that, I want to remember all year-long.

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* Just wanted to clarify that the bracelet (and the entire Gift Package valued at nearly $100) is only being given to the women who sign up by Wednesday at 10 am PT at FriendshipsWanted.com.  You're welcome to join us... I'd love nothing more than for you to pursue feeling connected all year-long!  (Or, you can buy your own piece of jewelry that says "Loved" or "Connected" here:  www.ConnectedGifts.com.)

Do You Want More Meaningful Friendships this New Year?

At the beginning of December I was already looking forward to New Years.  There's something so beautiful about having an external invitation, like a holiday, to pause for reflection.  Most years, my husband and I spend an evening journaling-- using questions such as:

  • What was the hardest part of this last year?  How did I respond?
  • What do I want to celebrate from this last year?  What did I accomplish, where did I grow, and what am I proud of? How can I foster even more gratitude in my life?
  • What did I lose this last year?  Have I grieved those things fully?  Is there anything I want to do right now to honor those loses or let go?
  • Where do I hold angst, stress, guilt, or frustration?  What might I do now to go into the New Year with less of those feelings?

And then I inevitably pick a few words.  A theme.  An intention.

I don't do goals.  I do feelings.  What do I want more of in my life? And I name a word. Or two or three.  :)

Past words have included: gratitude, traction, abundance, courageous, and connected.

Then, from there, I can better make decisions about what would help me experience those feelings.  It ensures that I never set resolutions based on obligation or guilt, but based on pursuing the things I want to feel.

Entering my 2014

This year, in early December, as I was already scheduling a few weeks out to block off an afternoon for reflection, I pictured myself sitting in a group of women.

Just thinking about us all having a place to share our reflections and witness each others losses and celebrations thrilled me! I sent invitations out.

And yesterday afternoon I sat in that circle I created.  I don't think any of the 9 women who came knew more than 1 other person in that circle, and most of them didn't know anyone else.  But as always happens, because humans crave more meaningful conversation that we typically get, magic ensued.

What  a joy to be able to not just journal on my own, but then to also share some of my reflections with others.  And to hear their stories.  To resonate.  To be inspired. To process out loud.  To hear myself get clearer as I shared.  To celebrate each others wins.  To bear witness to their losses.  To collectively decide that we want to enter a new year with more clarity and less fear, doubt, and uncertainty.  We committed to live lives of love in 2014, instead of acting out of fear, and we chose it together.  That's powerful.

So this year when I chose my words, it wasn't just written on a page, but it was spoken out loud in a circle of supportive faces. I spoke mine and they spoke theirs.

My chosen words for 2014: "I want to feel generous, present, invigorated, and expanded."  I can't wait to see how I show up in my friendships with more presence and generosity!

What would you say if you were in that circle? What do you want more of in your life this year? (Here is a partial list of feelings words to see what jumps out at you!)

Choosing Connection

Is connection on your list?  Or, what about acceptance, belonging, appreciation, inclusion, mutuality, or affection?  Or maybe Frientimacy-- the intimacy of close friends?  Does one of your words include inviting more love into your life?

If one of the hungers of your heart involves being connected to others-- whether that be making new friends, repairing some old relationships, or developing some friendships into deeper and more intimate experiences--I invite you to join me this Friday night (1/3/14) on the free call I'm leading.

If one of your themes has to do with friendships, surrounding yourself with good friends, then I hope you'll carve out an hour at the end of this week to give yourself the pause to start thinking how to turn that word into reality.

Yesterday, as these women left my home... they just kept saying, "Thank you for organizing this... I needed it, but would have never done it on my own."  That's true for most of us.

So I extend the offer to you, to sit in a virtual circle with me this Friday!  Give yourself the inspiration and information you need to attract more meaningful connection in your life.

If you have a phone line, then you have a circle of women waiting to be with you.  :)

www.FriendshipsWanted.com

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Activity Idea:  A couple of years ago I came across Danielle LaPorte's Desire Map who does something similar but she adds some brilliant questions that I now answer after I pick my word/words:  What can I accomplish/experience this year to help generate these feelings?  What can I do this quarter....?  What can I do this week...?  What can I do today...?  Brilliant.  Reminds us that even drinking one green smoothie or sending a card to a friend might move us toward our word.

In the meantime, leave a comment sharing some of the words you're choosing for your 2014!

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas Card Conundrums: Send Them? Why? How Many? To Whom?

Every so often I get a question in my inbox that triggers an idea for a blog that I would have never even thought up on my own; this week is one of those. (A sincere sorry to those who have written suggestions and I haven't yet gotten to them!  I might still!) This email landed in my inbox on the very day I was compiling my own Christmas card list:

"I begrudgingly addressed *320* Christmas Cards over the weekend and I couldn't help but think that you probably have some advice / decision criteria for thinning it out to a more manageable amount.  Clearly everyone has their own motivations and their "right" number --  all I know is that 320 is WAY TOO MUCH for us!  Perhaps this is a topic for a blog post!?"

While totally wanting to honor the truth in that question that everyone will have different reasons and list sizes, I can at least offer up some principles and questions that might help us each make those decisions for ourselves.

How I Decide How Many Holiday Cards To Send?

I'll start with my short answer, and then give a longer answer that shows how it plays out for me.

In short, my rule is this: "Send the maximum number that still feels loving and expansive to my heart and body, stopping 10 short of the number that starts feeling heavy, guilt-ladden, or resource-depleting."

What that looks like is a bit like planning a wedding invitation list.  You don't have to invite everyone-- a meaningful wedding can have 2 witnesses or 1000.  We make the choice based primarily on 2 things: "What time/money/energy do I have this season?" and "Who do I want to give those limited gifts to?"

  1. What are my resources this season?  In wedding language we would talk about a budget, how much time you have to make homemade centerpieces, and how much energy you want to put toward organizing this event in the midst of whatever else you have going on that year.  In holiday card language we must ask the same questions.  If your budget is tight this season, then you'll start reaching your limit sooner.  If your time is plentiful, then you may get excited about a few weeks of crafting homemade cards in front of a fireplace.  If your energy is waning then it may be that a short note of love being emailed out feels more do-able than coordinating that perfect holiday photo.  What resources are you coming into this season with?
  2. Who are my priorities with the resources I have?  In wedding language that would be like saying, "Okay, I have tons of money, now, would I rather pour that into a destination wedding for a few or an open-bar for everyone my parents have ever met?" Or, on the contrary, "I don't want to go into debt for this wedding, so I might need to either invite fewer people or decide to do snacks instead of a sit-down dinner." You know the process. In holiday card land, we need to do the same thing.

So finding that number between those two answers--where you stop short of feeling stress and angst-- is the goal.

And to state the obvious, every year is different for me.  So it doesn't matter what I did last year; it matters what we can and want to do this year.

What Is the Purpose of Sending Holiday Cards?

In a day and age of Facebook, when it feels like everyone knows what's going on with your life, do we still really need to even send holiday cards?

I lean toward yes. I believe holiday cards are a gift of thoughtfulness to people; not just updating. I'd like to invite you to send them out not from a place focused on your life, but but from a place focused on someone feeling remembered and loved. And to do that, we don't need "amazing" lives or worrying about how to wow others.

I remember the year after my divorce feeling like I couldn't send out cards because all the photos you see are of smiling families or couples.  But that misses the point.  I wanted to say thank you to my friends for supporting me that year and communicate that I was still alive after a tough year.  I remember one year not having much news to report and feeling lame, but again, that misses the point; I could still say "I'm wishing you the best new year" while I'm hoping the same for myself.

A challenge I hope some of you take on is that if you are typically the person who thinks they need to have this amazing card sent to a massive list as one of those things that makes you feel better about yourself-- this year consider just writing cards of love to 25 people instead.  And, on the flip-side, if you're someone who never sends out cards because you mistakenly think you need to have this"perfect" family photo or some big news--this year consider doing the same-- just pick 25 people (or whatever number feels do-able and good!) to say "Happy holidays!"

Let go of feeling like you have to reveal the perfect photo, share the most amazing updates, or have a glamorous and seemingly great life-- and instead, see it as a chance to send love to others who undoubtedly feel the same way you do 90% of the time.  Give love.

Who Makes the Cut and Stays on My List?

I actually think the 5 Circles of Friendship can serve as a useful resource as you make your decisions about who to send cards to.

One year, I decided to only send cards to my Confirmed Friends-- the women with whom I always want to feel close with even if we only talk once or twice a year, but opted to skip the friends I'm in constant touch with since I knew I'd be celebrating with them in other ways.  One year, I included my Committed and Community Friends in that list and decided that what felt best to me was hand writing cards to all 20 of them to tell them what I loved about them.  I obviously couldn't take on such an expression of love if my list that year included every friend in my life.

5 types of friends image

 

 

 

 

And every few years I think, "It's been a while since I've touched base with everyone-- I'm going to take it on!" and I look forward to a few evening of fires, hot drinks, and a big project. But even then, I go through my address book and ask myself:

  1. Who am I actually still in touch with?  (There's no point in sending cards to people from my past unless they're also still part of my present! And no guilt in not staying in touch with the whole world--that's what Facebook can help with!)
  2. Who fits this years criteria? (Nah, she's more business, and this year I'm sending to personal friends.  Or, no she's my daughter's friend, but not really mine.)

Going back to the wedding metaphor,  if you only have x hours and x dollars then you can't invite everyone and you need to pick your top 20 or your top 50 or your top 100.  And start on the Right-Side and work your way Left until the x number of cards you ordered are gone.

No wrong answer here. I don't for a second believe holiday cards have to be mutual.  I send them to the people I love with no strings attached.  They don't owe me one!  And I assume the same for those who send me one.  If they want to remove my name from next years list because I didn't send them one this year then so be it- my worth doesn't go up or down one iota based on how many cards I get.

Holiday love from me and my hubby, Greg Nelson, to you.  May you stand under your metaphoric "kissing ball" this season with courage and hope. xoxo

This year, I encourage you to give as much love as you can in whatever ways it feels do-able.  A card sent in stress is no gift at all.  Send what you can with love.  If it's only 6 cards-- then 6 it is. Our goal is let the people who matter to us know that they are loved-- however you do that is fine.  Breathe deeply and let go of any obligation to love in any way that causes you more stress than joy.

And because I cannot, and will not, send holiday cards to you all-- "I wish you each a very meaningful holiday-- that you will receive what you most deeply need." xoxo

Throwing Myself a Birthday Party of Gratitude!

My birthday was last week and I lived it up this year with a retreat-day (complete with a massage, soaking in a rooftop infinity hot tub, and journaling), an afternoon of shopping with my husband, 3 days of play, America's Cup races, and yummy food with my parents who came into town, and on the actual day of my birthday I threw myself a little birthday party with some of my girlfriends. One or two people made comments like "You shouldn't have to throw your party!" but I smiled and said, "That's what I want to do!"  And indeed it's exactly what I wanted to do.  Why leave it to chance? Why risk it not being fulfilling in the ways that only I could possibly know I need? Why not create the evening I most wanted to experience?  Besides, life has been full with so many different events and groups the last couple of years that so many of my friends hear me talk about each other but haven't actually had the privilege of meeting each other. I could think of nothing I wanted more than to be surrounded by some of my friends and showing them off to each other, possibly even launching a few new friendships among them!

We live in a world where there is only a 50% chance that any two of our closest friends know each other! It's so easy to meet people from here-and-there, giving us the feeling, at times, of having lots of friends but not really having a "group" of friends.  I've realized recently that I have several amazing groups of friends, but that my worlds hadn't collided in a little while.  It was time! A birthday is a fabulous excuse to bring the people we love together! (And with my birthday being on 9/11 I feel an ever greater joy and honor to spend that evening celebrating life and friendships!)

So I made my dream list of local friends. They were quite varied: one has been a friend for the entire 8+ years I've lived in San Francisco and another I just met in May; one was in her early 30's and another in her early 60's, one came in fierce stilettos & fashion garb and another one was make-up free and walking around in her socks; one is traveling around the world on a mission with her life-changing book and another one who isn't quite sure what she'll be doing next; one who has created and celebrates her financial abundance and another who isn't exactly sure how to pay next month's rent; half are mothers, half are not; one has been married over twenty years, another is happily single... And those are just some of the differences between those who could come!

The night was SO very special. I kept the planning easy (tacos!) so that hosting was a breeze.  I wasn't there to impress anyone with my party throwing skills as much as I was there to make sure everyone felt loved!  I don't think anyone who came knew more than 2 other people, some didn't know anyone but me.  But by the end of the evening, I couldn't have been more blessed by the loved felt in the room.  Email addresses were being exchanged, photos texted to each other, and I just sat their gleaming in pride at how amazing my friends are!

That's me in the white tank--the little black lines read love...love...love...:)-- surrounded by some of the women I'm lucky enough to call friends.  Call me a grateful birthday girl!

In fact, one might think that to sit in a room with amazing women who are showing up in this world in such big, beautiful, authentic, and deep ways might be intimidating.  But on the contrary.  As I went around the circle describing each friend to the others I kept hearing myself use words such as "truth speaker," "strong," "independent," "a fierce protector of causes and people," "living out her mission," and "generous." Those words kept coming up over-and-over, and I slowly realized that even while we all couldn't be more different from each other, in other ways we lived out the truism that "You are the sum of your friends."

These ladies have rubbed off on me... been contagious in their courage.  I've not only been more inspired to be those things I admire because of watching them be those things, but it has given me permission to be those things without fear of failure, judgment, or jealousy.  We see each other all doing our best to be the blessing in this world we feel called to be and we cheer each other on. They give me confidence.

My take-aways for you:

1) Throw your own party! I am proud of myself for planning the party I most wanted.  And I ended the night with satisfaction that I was surrounded by the women I wanted around me and that I could run the party how ever I wanted! (complete with sharing questions and stories about each woman!)

2)  Show your gratitude!  I actually named mine a Girlfriend Gratitude Birthday Party, went around the room and bragged on each women in front of everyone, and sent them each home with a card telling them what I admire about them.  (You can get more ideas from my book on page 134-135.)

3) Don't be afraid to collide your circles! I'd be lying if I didn't admit that I felt a small pang of worry the afternoon of the party wondering if my circles of friends  were just too different from each other to really connect, but deep in my heart I knew they'd all rally and fall in love with each other, just as I had.  And it was magical!  Now I feel more joy knowing that many of my friends have met each other.  (And it makes me want to throw myself a monthly birthday party just to do it all again!)

The season of thanks is coming!  So you don't need a birthday to plan your own little soiree.  Just pick a date in early November for a Girlfriend Gratitude Party of your own, make a list of girlfriends and start inviting!  :)

 

 

Advice & Encouragement from GirlFriendCircles.com Members

When I interviewed Shoshana a few weeks back about her personal experience in GirlFriendCircles.com down in the L.A. area, I discovered that a group of 11 women from GirlFriendCircles.com all went on an overnight trip together to San Diego, a couple of hours away. I was so thrilled at the idea of a group of women building their friendship in such a way that I immediately asked if a few of them would share their experiences with all of us so we might just see what is possible!  :) Not the best photo quality but at least all 11 of us are in this one!

How did this trip come about?

Shoshana: "I can't remember exactly how the San Diego trip came about, but after talking about going to Santa Barbara and maybe renting a house for the weekend, we ended up landing on San Diego since most of the girls could only do one night. I then created a Facebook page for the trip and invited everyone to join. Another one of the girls made the suggestion to take the train and we were off. I reserved rooms for us at the Hard Rock Hotel and for our dinner, collected everyone's money through Paypal or checks, and posted on our Facebook page all the info that everyone needed, including which train to buy their tickets for. We got seats together and talked for 3 hours the whole way there and back. It was definitely a great way to travel with 11 girls. I'm not so sure our neighbors on the train would agree!"

Dinner was so much fun after having talked all afternoon on the train!

What did you all do together on this trip?

Shoshana: "We hung out by the pool, had a great time eating dinner together, and basically just hung out together.  A highlight was definitely dinner! We were seated in front of a big window on a busy street so a lot of men enjoyed dancing for our big group of women in front of the window or ripping their shirts open which produced a lot of fun laughs. (We were in San Diego's Gaslamp district so it's a very fun scene.) After dinner we went to a place for dancing for a little while before hitting up a rooftop bar. But my favorite part of the trip was getting to know the girls better during the train ride down and back where we could all just talk.  The going out and pool part was fun, too, but the activities mattered less to me than the time I got to spend connecting with these great women."

Okay, bringing in a few other GirlFriends-- tell me what you were feeling on your way home from this weekend!

Yana: (a member since Dec. 2012, who first went on a one-on-one and then started meeting others through ConnectingCircles)  "On my way home from San Diego as I looked around at this group of women, I felt..... like part of a community and grateful to have these amazing women in my life! Why? It was such a diverse collection of women of all backgrounds/ages/professions and yet we all took the initiative to get together and go on an overnight trip. Eleven girls traveling could be a recipe for disaster but everyone had such a good time eating, dancing, and socializing."

Kelly: My first event with GFC was last October. I signed up for the site after Googling "how to make friends in LA." Moving from another state, I found it really hard to connect with people in this city.  But on my way home from San Diego, I felt really happy knowing I'd met an awesome group of women who are all interested in making friends and sharing new experiences. Looking at the group of women that spans the age range of 26-44, its amazing we all met over the past 6 months and have become friends that hang out all the time.  I've finally connected!

Nina: I feel like I'm super lucky to have gotten to know such a lovely group of women. Each and every one of them has been committed to developing friendships. They are an open-minded, kind bunch of girls who simply likes to have fun and experience life together. I moved to LA 7 years ago, and up until this point... I had really struggled with forming close friendships with women in LA. I had girlfriends, but hardly any of them were local. Now I have this group of supportive SoCal women in my life that I couldn't be more thankful for.

As for specific memories from the San Diego trip....when we were eating dinner, we kept drawing attention to ourselves b/c we were such a big group of women sitting by a window. People kept waving at us. A little boy even kept coming up to our table to perform dances for us. It was super fun to get away and spend time just chatting/ really getting to know the girls that I roomed with.

A few of us waiting for the others while enjoying drinks!

Stephanie: My first event with GFC was only a month or two before this trip! I went to a happy hour in Venice, organized by Shoshana, in the first part of June and met half a dozen women, most of whom came to San Diego.  On my way home from that trip... as I looked around at this group of women on the train with me I felt a few things:  Very proud of myself that I had reached out, risked being vulnerable and asked for friendship, and also lucky to be in the company of women who are making their way with courage, openness and a sense of self that just nice to be around. We had all had fun in the group as a whole, but some of us had broken off into smaller groups and done our own thing.  It seemed like everyone was content with the weekend happening whatever way made everyone comfortable. We all had each other's backs at the clubs and if someone needed out of a situation, there was someone there to extract them.

Shoshana: Yes! One of the important things we learned about group travel was to give everyone the freedom to do things in their own way.  For example, the distance from the train to the hotel was about was a mile so some of us walked and some of us took a taxi. We then all had a late lunch all together, but then again some of us lounged by the pool while some went to go get manicure and pedicures. At around 6pm we all headed to our rooms to nap/relax/get ready. And again, a few of us were ready first so we went downstairs to sit outside and grab a drink before the others joined us. The wonderful thing about a group that size is that we don't all have to do everything together, but that we could break into smaller groups when appropriate!

So many of us would love to go on a trip with friends... what so you think specifically helped you build these relationships?  In other words, how did you get to this place?

Yana:  I moved to L.A. due to a long distance relationship and a year and a half later still found myself unable to make the city my home. I took the initiative to search for websites to find friends and dove right into making connections and going to events.

What specifically had to happen to create these friendships? Not being afraid of rejection and making the time and commitment to nurture and grow these relationships. I feel like at this point in my life (engaged, new puppy, planning wedding, working in finance) I just don't have the luxury of being in high school and surrounded by people also ready and willing to make that connection. As I didn't go the traditional going away to college and living on campus route, I don't have those 4 years to go back to for friendships. As I get busier and busier it's important to make time for building a foundation of friendship in a new place without the luxury of old friends and family to have my back.

Kelly: We got here because a lot of the girls in the group were proactive in creating their own group events on the GFC CalendarCircles. That made a huge difference. People started inviting other girls from the site they had met individually and pretty quickly there was a larger group of girlfriends.

Nina: My first event with GFC was a Connecting Circle in November at Cafe Gratitude in Venice, CA. I believe there was 5 other girls present, 4 of whom have become close girlfriends of mine. My first impression was something like "Wow! these girls are really nice and normal!"

I was pretty skeptical going into the whole process since I had previously tried to meet some girls in LA via craigslist and had some issues with flakiness, lack of commonality, etc. I was assuming GFC would be more of the same.  But I knew from the very first night that my experience with GFC would be different. The girls were intelligent, sweet, funny and truly open to making friendships. I reached out to a couple of the girls right away after my first Connecting Circle to meet up for coffee or dinner. I think this was the most important step I took, because it ensured that I began to form relationships with some of the girls.

Stephanie: I could see myself being friends with some of these women for a long time.  Some I will perhaps get closer to, and some will come and go.  I think acceptance of each other for who we are is very important, not having too many rules for others to follow, and knowing what my own expectations are from the friendships are important.  I didn't expect to come away with a new BFF - but I may have found a friend or two who I would like to travel with in the future or have other adventures with.  I really loved that so many of them were like me - okay doing things on their own but also happy to be in a group.  It's been a long time since I've had a weekend with women that I came home and felt like the whole thing was a great time.  A very nice memory and (hopefully) the beginning of some new friendships.

Any advice would you have for other women just joining GFC?

Yana: Sign up and reach out to people out of your age range/economic background/likes. It's a bit more difficult to do that in L.A. due to the city being so big and traffic dictating what one does during the week, but weekends are the best. Go to events and make events of your own and don't be afraid to mix your "GFC" friends with connections you've made outside of the website.

Kelly: Try to go to as many of the CalendarCircles and ConnectingCircles as possible because you will meet many different kinds of people and are bound to eventually find one or more new girlfriends you really connect with.

Nina: Even though I met amazing women at the first event, I also continued to attend ConnectingCircles to meet more girls. Once I started to get to know the girls more, I simply made sure that GFC and these ladies were a priority in my life, by attending as many group/ individual get together's as I can.  I even set a specific goal to make sure that I got together with at least one of my new GFC friends at least once/ week and chatted with other girls in between. After awhile, the friendships became more natural. I would definitely recommend taking initiative in reaching out to girls you click with. I also would make sure you make time/ prioritize your new friendships as well.

A huge thanks to Stephanie, Yana, Nina, and Kelly for being willing to share a little of your experiences, and a HUGE thanks to Shoshana for being a catalyst.  What a gift you gave, not just to yourself, but to all these women.  May we have more women like you who are willing to put events out there to help women connect.  There will be friendships formed because of your initiative.  THANK YOU! 

 

 

Not a "Joiner"? Something to Consider...

Last night I stopped by a friend's house to drop off some homemade banana bread (I have to brag about that for one second because I do things like way too infrequently!) and left her home with a blog idea I wanted to write based on her recent decision to put her child into preschool.  What does preschool have to do with you making friends? So glad you asked. "But I'm not a Joiner!"

So the traditional answer that most friendship experts give to women who are looking to make new friends has to do with things with the word "join" in them.  Whether it's joining a book or hiking club, signing up for a class, going to a spiritual community, or committing to volunteer at an organization-- the underlying message is: say yes to a group of people who are already affiliated to be doing a specific thing at a specific time.

Hesitant to join a group? Many of us know the feeling.. but there are benefits to it!

Invariably then, many women (or reporters if the question was asked in an interview) will then often say, "Yes... but what if I'm not a 'joiner'?"  When I ask them why not, they'll say that either those experiences feel artificial, the events are too structured, the associations don't have enough flexibility to them, or that they simply don't see themselves as people who like interacting in groups. Fair enough.

Now back to the preschool conversation.

A couple of weeks ago my friend had given me a convincing list of why she and her husband had decided to opt out of preschool this year.  Basically they had decided that they wanted to be more active in providing the benefits of preschool (i.e. interaction with kids, exposure to creativity, learning stimulation) themselves rather than paying someone else to do those things for them.  They were excited about field-trips they wanted to take her on, experiences they wanted to plan, and play-dates they were going to schedule.

But recently they changed their minds. And a lot of it had to do with the benefits of joining something.

Because as they said last night, "We just realized how much energy it was going to take to do everything we had pictured... and, to be honest, all that planning, scheduling, and initiating to create our own experience wouldn't leave us the energy we need for some other big life areas we need to be focusing on."

If energy were limitless, then for the sake of argument, it is probable that they could have customized an amazing, perhaps superior, substitute schedule to preschool. But energy is not without limits and they have some big endeavors coming up that are important to them to plan, create, and make happen, too.  They chose to ask themselves, "Is the time, finances, and energy worth it to us to create something, rather than participate in something that already exists?"  Either answer is acceptable, depending on what else someone has going on, how much energy they have for planning, and how many other priorities are competing with this one.

Now back to "Joining."

So when someone says to me that they aren't a joiner... I'm completely fine with that!  I have no reason to urge someone to commit to anything that isn't in harmony with who they are.  However, friendships require seeing the same people frequently, doing something together (i.e. meet for lunch, an activity) that has to be planned, and making sure it's scheduled in consistently.

Therefore the follow-up question begs to be asked: "Okay, are you willing to do, and have the extra energy to exert, what it takes on your own to create the things that "joining" can do for you?"

In other words, can you commit to 1)  meeting new people and reaching out to them regularly, 2)  initiating the making of plans, whether it's picking a restaurant and time or finding a movie to go to, 3) and following up with repeatedly to make sure that your time together keeps happening consistently? All of those things are do-able. But it requires a fair amount of commitment, energy, time, and planning to pull it off.  It's worth looking at your life and deciding what other priorities are pulling at you right now and how much time/energy do you want to put toward building new relationships?

The truth is that "joining" anything is so not necessary.  Nor is it often even better.  It's just often easier.

So if you find yourself wishing for more friends or activities in your life, and you don't want to join something, then you just have to be clear that a meaningful friendship requires time together, plans of some kind, and initiation to keep it scheduled.

It's for ease, convenience, and energy-management that many of us will end up opting to step into structures that are already planned and organized. We join churches, classes, sports teams, choirs, boards, associations, clubs... and preschools-- not always because those actual things are superior to what we could plan, but purely because they are superior to what we actually do plan!

If my friends had nothing else going on in their lives... I trust they could piecemeal an amazing childhood schedule filled with friends, play, creativity, and learning.  But in this case joining a preschool made sense for them.

An added bonus? The preschool they've chosen is very parent-involved so it will be a structure for them to make friends, too.  One more thing they don't have to make happen all by themselves!

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As always, all women are invited to join GirlFriendCircles.com-- a match-making site for female friendships-- where things like ConnectingCircles are planned for you OR you can be in charge of the planning and initiating by searching our database or posting events on the calendar!  :)

 

 

 

 

A Success Story: Shoshana is Making Friends in L.A.

From Shasta:  This is a blog post written by Shoshana K., a member of GirlFriendCircles.com, who is 30, lives in Venice Beach, CA with her boyfriend and two dogs. She runs two charitable foundations and volunteers her time with Big Brothers Big Sisters and developmentally disabled adults.  I think it's so important and inspiring to share our stories with each other! Searching for Friends Online?

While on vacation in Mexico last October celebrating my 30th birthday, my boyfriend and I were discussing how hard it was for me to not have my friends living nearby. I grew up in Orange County, but have been in Los Angeles for several years--it's amazing what a little distance can do to friendships. Between graduate school and working full-time for many years, with no time to go out or to meet people/foster new friendships, I was feeling the absence.

My boyfriend has nice friends who I enjoy spending time with, but I really felt like I should have my own friends as well. He jokingly suggested there should be a site that exists to make friends similar to a dating site (we met on Jdate almost 4 years ago). So I pulled my iPad out and searched on Google. I found GirlFriendCircles.com, liked what I saw, and decided that I would join when I got back to LA.

"This picture is from Isabel's birthday that celebrated at Malibu Wines with our GFC friends. We all brought components for a picnic and hung out there most of the day sipping wine and listening to music." --Shoshana (in the red dress, back row, far right)

I approached the whole experience in a positive and open-minded way. I knew I had a lot to offer potential friends and knew what I was looking for in a group of friends.

Getting Started on GirlFriendCircles.com

My first event was a ConnectingCircle [small group gatherings of women organized by GFC] at Cafe Gratitude in Venice a few blocks from my house. I was looking forward to meeting new women so I was excited, but definitely also a little bit nervous.

Once I got there though I was very comfortable and had a great time talking to the 5 other women I met. The event was a lot of fun, I found it easy to find things to talk about, and the whole thing felt really natural and relaxed.   Afterward, I was definitely looking forward to getting together with some of the women I met and also excited about attending another ConnectingCircle.

After my first event, I attended another ConnectingCircle.  It was at this one that a few of the girls reached out to get phone numbers and to meet up afterward. I ended up meeting one of those girls for dinner the following week (this was back in November) and we have been friends since. (Also, from my first ConnectingCircle, while we did not make immediate plans, there is one girl from my first meeting whom I see regularly and another I see from time to time.)

I think GirlFriendCircles.com clicked for me really quick. I have always had big groups of women in my life: girl scouts, teams, clubs etc. So it was very natural for me to meet women in a group setting. I have found that so many women are just looking to connect so GFC has been the perfect vehicle for me to make new friends. I will say that actually not being afraid to follow-up and call or text or e-mail another member is huge. I think getting over that initial fear of rejection is a big step.

My Friends Now!

"This is a photo of four of us who met through GirlFriendCirlces who joined a group of others to hike in Malibu together, followed by lunch at Neptune's Net. The hike was really challenging--I think it was about 7 miles--but we pushed through and finished!"

Now my friendship circle consists of about 13-15 women I have met from the site. There are a handful I have seen more frequently than the others. We have done hikes, fitness days, birthday celebrations, meals, and many more activities together.

When I first met with Nina for dinner after my second ConnectingCircle we had a long conversation about our love for reading and expressed that we both wanted to be a part of a book club.  She suggested starting one so we got a few other girls interested. We started with maybe 4 girls and have added a few more. She really was the catalyst that started all of this and she continues to maintain the Facebook page and list of potential books. Additionally, she just organized a comedy event and has also talked a group of us into doing a 5k with her in a few months!

I have put together a few fun nights out/in, as well. The first was just at a fun restaurant/bar that about 15 girls attended and then I had a wine night at my house. I am hosting another wine/game night in a few weeks that about 10 girls are attending so far.

It's just amazing to me that I met so many really great women through this community. I might not have everything in common with every single one of them, but I have more than enough things to connect on and we have had so many great times together. I feel like they are there for me and are understanding and supportive and most of all fun to be with.

The beauty of GFC is that we are all on the site looking for the same thing.  And we found it in each other.

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Want to inspire others? Share your friend-making story with us at shasta@girlfriendcircles.com! What has worked?  What hasn't?

Want to see other inspiring stories from our members? Here's one from an Ambassador in Chicago (we recently begged Kathy to become our Ambassador director in case you want to get more involved in that way!) and here's two real stories from NYC!

Note from Shasta:  Over 80% of our members who have attended at least 2 ConnectingCircles say they've made at least 2-3 friends.  The odds are good... what I love about Shoshana's story is that she went to more than one ConnectingCircle, found more success when phone numbers were exchanged and follow-up plans made, and she continues to post and RSVP to events where she not only keeps fostering her newly made friendships for herself, but also keeps giving the opportunity for others to join and connect!  Thank you Shoshana for sharing your story!

 

My Favorite Sharing Question of All Time

While I was teaching and launching 4 more Friendship Accelerator groups yesterday, I made a mental note to myself that I would put to written words all the reasons I gave the attendees of that workshop for regularly using my all-time favorite sharing question. Here it is for you! The Question:

Called the "High/Low" question-- it invites all participants to share a highlight and a low light of their choosing.

A highlight can be: an event, a milestone, a decision, a choice for self-care, an accomplishment, a goal achieved, a moment appreciated, or a cherished conversation.  Anything that produced feelings of positivity... joy, contentment, serenity, gratitude, pride, or inspiration.

A low light can be: a tough conversation, a disappointment, a heartbreak, a loss, an unmet expectation, an obstacle, an insecurity, or something that is causing anxiety and worry.  Anything that produced feelings of negativity... fear, loss, sadness, anger, or disillusionment.

I call it the "High/Low," one of my workshop attendees in Chicago says she calls it "Thorns & Roses."  I like that, too!

Applications of The Question:

One of the four Friendship Accelerator groups yesterday that shared their answers to my Favorite Sharing Question!

If it's with friends you see regularly, such is the case for my weekly girls group or with family that comes over most Friday evenings, then the question can be limited to the short time period since we've last seen each other: "What was a highlight and low light from this last week?"

If it's with friends we haven't talked to in a while, such is the case with my "SoCal girls group" who is scheduled tonight for our first quarterly phone call, 2 months from when we were all together for our annual weekend trip, then it becomes more of a "What is one "high" going on in your life right now, and one "low?" giving the freedom to name a biggie that happened last month or to pick the thing that matters most this week.

If it's with a friend I haven't seen in ages, then the question might be bit more broad to encompass more time, "So in the last year, what would you say has been a highlight and low light for you?"

If it's with my husband who I see every day, and already happen to know most of what his day looked like, we still ask this question in a variety of ways.  If before bed, we might say, "So what was one of your high moments and low moments today?" as a good way to reflect on the day.  And I'm still surprised sometimes the impact one email can have... showing up in either category.  If it's after a trip, "Looking back on the trip, what would you say was one of your favorite highlights and low lights?"

The question is even great within themes, not necessarily constrained by time.  Yesterday, in the Friendship Accelerators, I asked the women to share with each other, "What is a highlight/low light for you in your current relationship status?" Or it can be in your job, where you live, about your body image, or any other subject.

Here's Why I Love The Question SO Much:

  • Honors Real Life: There's a time for hypothetical, but it's not when I'm wanting to connect with my friends and find out what really matters in their lives.  This question reminds all of us that there is ALWAYS a duality to life-- when you're in a season of uncertainty or grief, there are still moments of good to be recognized, and when you're in a season of recognition, goal achieving, or ease, there are still unmet expectations, stressors, and new worries.  And, sometimes, more-often-than-not, the very same thing that is a high can also be a piece of our low.
  • Decreases the Chances of Jealousy:  It's all too easy to see the highlights of each other's lives-- the marriages, kids, fancy trips, and awards-- and end up feeling less thrilled with our own.  But when I journey over the long-haul with my friends, seeing the lows and highs, I really think it reminds us that no one's life is perfect. We stop begrudging each other for what we each have.
  • Increases our Ability to Celebrate our Wins & Cheer for Each Other: For many women, we're more comfortable sharing our lows, than we are our highs. We don't want to be seen as bragging, and we've picked up intuitively that others seem to like us best when our marriages aren't amazing, our kids aren't perfect, and our career isn't rocking.  But if we can't practice our greatness and capacity with friends, then who do we get to practice owning our light around?  We need to be able to say, "I'm proud of this part of my life," and we need to keep practicing telling our friends that we're proud of them, too!
  • Puts Control into the Hands of the Sharers: By asking for a high/low there is enough structure to prompt and direct our thinking (as opposed to just saying "So what's up?" "What's new?" or "Tell me what's going on these days.") but it's also broad enough to let each person choose what they share. If one low light feels too vulnerable for that occasion-- pick another. On the other hand, if something happened that you secretly wish people knew and could support you in-- this is your chance to let them in.  Your choice!
  • Invites Honesty: You ask someone how they're doing, and they'll say fine.  You ask them what's going on, and they'll inevitably give you a summary of the kids or work.  I've noticed entire groups of people--even people who consider themselves close-- can spend the entire evening giving updates, talking about what they saw in the news, or telling a story they know will regale everyone. But if you give them permission to share two specific things that matter in their lives then the conversation changes to what they want to share, not just what they were asked about or what they thought would make entertaining conversation.
  • Protects Space for Each Person: I really believe most people want more substantial conversations, we just don't feel comfortable taking over the conversation and offering up some things that feel mundane, feel like downer-subjects, or could be perceived as bragging. But that doesn't mean we don't want people to know us. By asking this question to a living room full of people, we may sure that the introvert has protected space to share without her having to fight for the floor.  We make sure that the extroverts aren't just entertaining, but really sharing.  We make sure no one leaves saying, "No one even asked me about..." and feeling as though they weren't even seen.
  • Develops Intimacy: When done regularly, as each Friendship Accelerator will do in the ensuing four weeks when they get together, this question can build a real sense of connectedness.  We worry less that our highlight this week doesn't feel huge in contrast to someone else when we can see the pattern over time that all of us have joys and all of us have pain-- our turn for each will come.  In the meantime, we feel seen.  We know that someone knows that we're stressed about money, fearful about not getting pregnant yet, or worried about our grown son's latest seemingly-destructive choice.  We admitted it in a safe place because everyone else was sharing, too.  We weren't left "out there" feeling like we're the only ones with a problem.  And simultaneously, we didn't fear what others thought when we shared our pride or joy-- because they did it too.  We feel supported.  And we can support.

During the Friendship Accelerator, after I have all the groups share their high/low with each other, I ask the women to raise their hands if they would have voluntarily offered up what they just chose to share.  In other words, would they have guided the group conversation to that story, had the space not be made for it.  I'd guess about 15% of them raise their hands.  Indeed, sometimes the high or low is such that we might offer it up without being asked, but more often than not, we need someone to ask us before we gladly share.

I'm already looking forward to tonight's call with my 4 girlfriends who live in Seattle, San Antonio, and Southern California.  I genuinely want to know what's mattering to them.  And I'm glad I don't just have to leave it to chance that it's shared....

Here's a list of more Sharing Questions-- these are the ones we use in our ConnectingCircles (small member-led gatherings of 3-6 women in local cafes) in the GirlFriendCircles.com community.