I have been asked many times over the last few months how I have enjoyed moving to the south. It's hard to deny in the midst of the recent "polar vortex" that the winter weather here is more tolerable than it was in Minnesota. I still miss the snow, but not the below zero temps. (My new custom license plates read "MissinSno") One however does not live just for the weather . . .
I would say that one of the biggest struggles has been moving beyond the southern hospitality. I actually think that people here are very hospitable, some of the friendliest people I've met. I can order food at Chick-fil-A and the man behind the counter will strike up a conversation just because of my Minnesota accent (yes, it's soda here not pop, it gives me away every time!). While waiting in line at the grocery store I have had strangers start a conversation with me, men holding doors for me and telling me to have a nice day, one person standing in front of the green beans at the grocery store even shared a family recipe on how to make good southern style beans (potatoes and bacon!). With the exception of the lady at the counter at the DMV, everyone has really been very friendly. It's a nice change.
Beyond that though, I am slowly dealing with the idea that "friendliness" does not necessarily lead to or mean "friendship". While I have found people to be very chatty and nice, it stays at that. I recently volunteered at an event at our Y and I was talking to a lady who moved here 20 plus years ago. She mentioned something that I had started to sense, people here are social but not relational. That has been a struggle for me.
One of the great treasures I had after 20 plus years in MN was that I had many connections, and great relationships. People that had moved past the "nice to meet you" stage to really getting to know me and us as a family. I had a very close groups of gals that knew me, my weaknesses and my strengths. I had co-workers that knew who I was beyond the 9 - 5 work day and lived in a neighborhood where we actually talked to each other.
That is the key piece that is missing here. I know it may change in time, but the hard part for me is that I enjoyed having other women to talk to - when I needed advice on mothering, etc., I had other mothers to share with, others who knew what it was like to be a wife, mom, newbie runner, want to be good cook, etc. Just other women to share with who gave advice, took advice, encouraged, guided and in the end, helped me in my journey as a woman.
Here, even though we have found a church, I've started a part-time job, are members of the Y, and attend events for our kids, it's just us. I enjoy and love my family very much, but there are just times when you need a little outside input. It's been hard to sit at home at night without a phone call here and there from a friend, or knowing that there is not a group of friends that I could call just to unwind with over a glass of wine, etc. It was strange to come back after being gone for two weeks over Christmas and not have friends who called to say welcome back or ask how the trip was.
Recently we have talked about getting a dog, or as my son has described it, "we need to buy a friend". A simple statement with a strong impact. It made me realize that for my kids, while they are meeting other kids at school, they too are missing having close relationships.
In looking at scripture, there are many examples of relationships, friendships that spurred others on in their daily walk, their life journey. We are wired for relationships, even those who are introverts, while they may not like lots of people around, there is still a need in their life for someone to know them, to "get them". While I am thankful for the deep relationships I have in the north, my life is now in the south and the lack of relationships make this move feel very incomplete, I feel incomplete.
Yes, I am enjoying the weather, the southern charm and the new recipes . . . . and it is my hope that at some point I can look back at this post and see that things have changed, for right now, it's like putting a puzzle together and getting to the end to realize that the piece you need to complete the picture is missing.
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