when you're looking for your village

Thursday, May 22, 2014

We're standing in a dark hallway, silently weighing our next move.

Behind one door, I hear the baby's slow, sleepy wail.  From the next, the toddler dashes out, sees us, and runs back in.  Her shenanigans woke up her brother.  My husband's not home, and everyone is off their game.  They both should have been asleep an hour ago. Where do I start?  I choose the baby's door, and my best friend moves quietly toward my giggling daughter.

We're both tired, my friend and I.  She's had a long week at work, and she still has things to do before her day can end.  My kids are not her responsibility.  But she sings my daughter to sleep anyway, because that's who she is. My friend is quietly faithful to everything she touches.  Deadlines or not, she isn't going to leave me to conquer a runaway bedtime alone.

Six months ago, my best friend moved into our basement, which we rearranged into an apartment. Initially we did it so we could all save money, but she quickly became a part of our daily rhythm.  Now the baby stands at the door every afternoon, watching for her car and screeching her name.  She usually spends an hour in the evenings with us, and many nights she helps with the bedtime routine.  Yet I rarely tell people she lives with us.  Because maybe it sounds too weird?  Maybe we sound codependent or something?  I know that's not our reality, but I still wonder if other people perceive us that way.  

For stay-at-home moms, your best friend living in the basement is the stuff of dreams.  It is beautiful and good, not weird or codependent.  Only, it could be.  If we were codependent or weird, the community would be too.  Because a real community draws out who you already are.  My tendency to withdraw when I am stressed, to hide from unpleasantries, to give too much energy to pleasing others, to dawdle-and-panic over housework .... it is all more obvious in the context of a community.

Only it doesn't matter.  I'm already accepted here.  And because I know I already belong, I'm free to be honest about my issues and faults, to face them without fear, and to try to be better because being better is good for the whole, not because I'm in danger of being cut off if I don't.

A community is forming around me - in my best friend's decision to live downstairs, in a church I hold close, in friendships and social circles.  A real community is rare and beautiful.  It comes along once a decade, and in between we talk about it, remembering what it feels like to belong.  But all the vision casting and brainstorming in the world can't create a community.  It can only form when we stop performing for one another, and we stop performing only when we know we are already accepted.  If you're looking for your village, find others who value honesty - who value you - above any ideal or trait.  That is the birthplace of a real community.

In the end, both of my little ones fell asleep on my best friend last night.  When the baby just wouldn't settle down for me (they can always sniff out a sucker), she swayed with him in the dark until he collapsed against her shoulder, exhausted.  I whispered my thanks before tiptoeing to my room.  I don't talk about it much, but I love having my best friend in my basement, just as I love the larger community sprouting up around me.  I am thankful to know I belong.


  1. Hi Stephanie! I'm Heather and I have a question regarding your blog that I was wondering if you would be able to answer! If you could email me at Lifesabanquet1(at)gmail(dot)com that would be great :-)

  2. I love this. Leila and I often plot living beside one another.



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