I am especially excited to share today’s HerStories essay with you, a beautiful story of friendship, dancing, and new motherhood. I am grateful to claim the author, Hollie, as one of my “real life” friends. She has become the kind of friend that I feel honestly understands who I am, and we have been able to openly share the sometimes challenging experience of parenting toddlers. I know you are going to love her story:
Friends Are the Family We Choose for Ourselves: My “Sole” Sisters
My husband and I moved to Denver in late September of 2008. I had left behind a close-knit community of people in a small town in southern Utah. There were the other employees at the animal rescue organization I worked for, the people I practiced yoga and Zumba with every week at the small local gym and the friends I used to hike, camp and adventure with on weekends.
But the biggest void in my life was left by the group of women I used to belly dance with. It was an eclectic group, all different ages, body shapes and sizes. The joy of dancing and performing with this group was a something that I missed deeply.
I was able keep my job and work remotely from Denver, but I found the long days alone in my home office very lonely. I missed the boisterous office environment back at the sanctuary, complete with office dogs and cats and lots of like-minded people collaborating daily to rescue at-risk animals and improve their quality of life and chances for adoption. And my evenings left much to be desired, with few activities and no close friends with whom to socialize. On weekends my husband and I got out for an occasional hike, but we spent a lot of time working on our 100-year-old house. I felt very socially isolated.
In late October, I convinced my husband to attend an event in Denver called the Witches’ Ball. We dressed in spooky attire and went to the Mason’s hall where we gawked at the costumes and watched a fantastic performance by a belly dance group called Serpent Moon. I had so much fun and went home to look up the group’s web page. I found that they all taught dance classes and I vowed to join, but kept putting it off until after the holidays.
When I finally walked into class, the women were all very friendly and I got a positive vibe from the group. Although I hadn’t danced regularly in quite some time, I found my skill level adequate and I was welcomed to the group and immediately swept up in plans for performances.
Denise joined the group around the same time. She was also a transplant to Denver and didn’t have a robust social circle here. We hit it off and I felt a kinship with her, but I hesitated to get close too quickly. I had a history of forming friendships of convenience when I was lonely, only to find later that my new friend and I were not as compatible for close friendship as I thought. The results were sometimes awkward and I did not want to make the same mistake again and cause any uncomfortable situations that would jeopardize my participation in this new group.
But as time went by, Denise and I found we did have much in common. We had similar likes and a quirky sense of humor. We chatted during class, made some costume shopping trips together and finally ended up in a semi-regular movie night with our spouses at a local theater.
When I found out I was pregnant with my son, I was giddy. I opted to tell my dance troop early because my health had become a cause for some concern and I wanted them to know the happy reason for my recent fatigue and other health issues. Denise and the rest of the women were so excited for me. They loved to hear the details each week about how big my baby was and how he was developing. Together they threw me the most beautiful and memorable birth circle and baby shower. Since my own family members were all so far away, I was touched to have my dance sisters looking out for me and sharing the excitement of my pregnancy.
The day my son was born, Denise and her husband Kevin visited us in the hospital. They were the first people besides the hospital staff, my husband and me to hold the new baby. I still cherish those pictures and they are displayed prominently on our “friends and family” wall in our home.
Throughout those hazy first weeks as a new mom, I lost touch with most of my pre-baby friends, but Denise continued to visit. She held the baby, kept me company, told me stories about the dance troop and gave me a lifeline to the world outside our sleep-deprived but deliriously happy home.
Later, I tried to return to dance class, eager for exercise, companionship and a chance to recapture some small part of my pre-baby life. But then my son went through a difficult period of nap boycotts and crankiness which caused me to hide out at home for fear of making a public scene. In the evenings, even though my husband was willing to watch the baby, I was physically and emotionally wiped out and couldn’t find the energy to make myself go to dance class. I again felt socially isolated and depressed.
Denise continued to visit, usually appearing on my doorstep with a soy chai latte and no expectations for the day except to hang out and keep us company. Her presence brought smiles and laughter to my otherwise stressed and harried days and helped me feel like I still had some connection to my pre-baby life and identity. When she left, she would give me a hug and tell me how much fun she had.
Now that my son is older and easier to parent, I have found some time to re-join my dance troop. I am looking forward to my first performance with them in almost a year and I can’t wait for the thrill of being up there on stage again with my “sole” sisters. They never gave up on me, especially Denise, even when I was lost in the fog of new motherhood. And they all welcomed me back with open arms when I was ready.
Hollie is a former computer programmer for Best Friends Animal Society and a current stay-at-home mom. Her hobbies include taking photos of her son and two cats, and occasionally of nature when she is allowed out of the house. She enjoys cooking when she doesn’t have a toddler hanging on her leg and sometimes when she does, and she loves to belly dance, which she could not manage without her incredibly supportive husband.