“I can feel insecure, or I can close my eyes and expect God to provide the biggest blessing: enough.”
It’s called Plaza de Bolivia, a wedge-shaped expanse of green with two fenced playgrounds, a carousel, and plenty of sunbathing city-dwellers. It’s sandwiched between a busy train track and Avenida del Libertador, an eight-lane boulevard filled with taxis and buses. The high-rises along the Avenida are a mountain blocking the sun.
And in the middle of it all, I watched my daughters dig holes in the sand. My heart was filled with dread.
I watched the other mothers in groups of two or three on the sidelines of the sandlot. They shared the local tea, yerba mate, with a spouse, or chatted over a magazine with a friend. They seemed part of the place, confident in their connectedness to it.
And I felt left out. I felt alone.
We’ve just moved, and moving is always hard on me, a homebody. Still, it irked me, this feeling of near-desperation to feel connected and acknowledged by the strangers at the park. Because I felt alone, but I’m not.
For one, I have my family with me. And as a gigantic bonus, the friends I made here fifteen years ago have surrounded us with welcome and love. I’ve been surprised at how happy and content I’ve felt in our first month abroad.
But there’s something about a sandlot and swings. They’re like a greenhouse for my insecurities.
Few people say hello. I wish I looked interesting enough for someone to approach me. I make desultory conversation at a swing, and feel crushed when people seem tepid.
I hate my neediness, my encroaching sense of desperation. It depresses me.
Maybe I feel needy because I have nothing to do at a park. Maybe it’s the easy conversations I see other people having when I’m an awkward introvert. Maybe it’s the sidelong glances people give me when I speak in English with my girls.
Maybe I’m afraid that the real culture shock is about to hit—for all of us.
Back home, after we put away sand toys and walked the six blocks home, I sat still with my neediness a bit. I tried to think about why I felt needy. Why I can turn on a dime from contentment to gasping insecurity.
And then I realized: I was assuming it was up to me—my looks, my charm, my awkward attempts at conversation—that these things would open up doors and provide friends. So when I came away from a park without a friend, I felt like a failure.
In truth, have I ever charmed my way into friendship? Have I ever found community with concerted effort?
No. Friends have always dropped at the oddest times, in the strangest ways. They’ve always been a bit of manna from heaven.
I can make efforts to reach out and connect. I can be friendly. But there is no way I can create friendships with the force of my personality.
I can feel insecure, or I can close my eyes and expect God to provide the biggest blessing: enough.
- Enough community to make our trip here rich.
- Enough resources to survive the times I needed more people than I had.
- Enough generosity of spirit to reach out to people when the time is right.
- Enough hospitality to focus on helping others, instead of using people to paper over my insecurities.
How can I relax when I think it’s all up to me to make our life free of loneliness? How can I feel content if I think happiness is mine to make or lose?
The truth is, sometimes I feel anxious about friendship even in the best of circumstances. I worry about people leaving me, about my own awkwardness or selfishness, about the ebb and flow of closeness.
I long to let go of these heavy expectations of other people and sit still. I long to appreciate the love I have for what it is: enough. Trusting that abundance will come in due time and due season, as I sit still in quiet anticipation.