How to Nourish Your Support Network

On one of the rare visits we made to my grandparents’ house when I was a little girl, I remember my amazement seeing the collage of phone numbers my grandmother had on her refrigerator. She didn’t bother to use notepaper. She just wrote the numbers directly on the side of her refrigerator to reference. Why her refrigerator? Because it was conveniently located right next to the phone. 
But consider the irony: a refrigerator also stores and keeps fresh the items that sustain us. When we’re hungry, we can reach in for nourishment. And periodically, we check-in, restock and tidy up in there. Shouldn’t our support system work in a similar way?
I believe the phone was one of my grandmother’s favorite communication devices and she had many friends. Over the years, many of her friendships remained strong and she continued to stay connected even when she moved back to her childhood home in Germany. (And there was no Facebook to make connection easy. Actually, I suspect she would have been appalled with the very idea of Facebook!)
While many people have no problem connecting through the many options available these days, they often feel stumped about how to deepen those connections. Take Facebook and Twitter for example. You could follow or friend hundreds of people, but many of those interactions mean little when faced with a pink form from your child’s school that requires three emergency contacts. (This is a very practical problem, by the way, when you’re new to town and you don’t have extended family to call on.)
Even though we’ve come to expect everything to happen at the speed of light, human relationships rarely work that way. Friendships are nurtured over time through attention, energy and shared interest and interaction, which could be why so many busy moms are overwhelmed and end up feeling frozen in isolation. When it feels as if you’re drowning in the duties of life, how do you begin? One baby step at a time.
Take advantage of the communication options at your fingertips and weave them together––virtually (social media, online, text), by phone and in-person (if possible). Use different mediums to pull together in-person get-togethers. Check in with friends on the phone or through text and email. Interact on Facebook or other social media. Using your resources together, you’ll find it easier to sustain friendships that are important to you. 
Inevitably, some friendships will go stale with neglect. I don’t recommend aggressively unfriending people the way you would tackle scrubbing out your produce drawer. Unless the relationship has become hurtful or draining, it’s okay to just let things be. You’ll notice that slowly and steadily, your friendships that do work will grow roots and blossom. 
And before you know it, you’ll have a map of contacts curling around your own nourishing refrigerator of support. 

Photo courtesy: “From the Ground” by Paul/
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