Growing a Community Through One Garden
Growing up, I always struggled making friends and keeping them. Friends are still kind of a foreign concept to me, at least in real life. I loved making relationships with characters in books or in movies. They were always there for you, with their distinctive personal traits and their flaws. Even if they let you down, fictional friends always apologized and characters always forgave. At least, that's how it felt. Even today, as I get hooked onto a television show, I find myself saying, How do these people stay friends with each other since childhood? How does that work?
Recently, I traveled with some women I had just met only a couple of months ago, most I only just met that night. I had been asked to attend a public speaking event for Glennon Doyle Melton , which was inspiring in and of itself. I had never read any of her books, heard of her blog, or really even of her. But it sounded like fun, and I hardly get asked out to go do something like that so I accepted. Get out, go do something for yourself. Not quite knowing what to expect, I was happily surprised by her stories and learning about her outlook on life. It was nice to hear from someone else that what I was doing and feeling was good. One of the points of her story was to look at the hotness in your life, the pain and the guilt deep down, and use that to your advantage. Make something with it, be truthful about it.
I tried to think of what that hot-pain was for me. Of course, I still had my own deep pains about my single-mothering situation. And it's not something I plan to go public with anytime soon. It's not that it's too painful to talk about, or that I wan't to cover it up. Because I am truthful, I speak hot-heated truths, and I am proud of that. If any of you ever want to ask about my story, you can read my version here, or you can just ask me privately. But I'm just not ready to write all of those feelings down yet. I don't know how that would affect my life right now, and the last thing I want to do is stir something up that's settled.
So I dug a little deeper. That was kind of the surface level of my pain, I knew that was the easy thing to write about and to explore. But something that I really think bothers me is that I feel I speak truths to people hoping to find friendships and often find that I am never fulfilled with them, expecting others to meet me in the middle. And why is that? I think a lot of that stems from betrayal in my past.
When I was eleven-years-old I went to a slumber party for a girl in my class. For whatever reason, one of the girls thought it would be a good idea to make everyone at the party stand on the scale and weigh themselves. I had never really thought about my weight before or if it mattered. After that night, it was the only thing I thought about for years. I was the heaviest girl there, and though that sounds like a typical childhood story (which is sad in itself) it was a mortifying moment! These girls that I had thought to be friends had only wanted to single me out and make me feel bad. They never asked me to play again after that or talked to me at school.
So, I changed schools. I ran away, a lot. That was easier, and I loved that Glennon brought up the use of "Life's Easy Buttons" that night. What were my easy buttons? I thought of flight capabilities. You know, the Fight or Flight complex? It made me wonder if that was just my personality or could I do something to change that?
Throughout middle school and high school, I often would just cut friends off if they disappointed me. And they tended to disappoint me a lot. I had my fair share of mean, young girls in my life. I tried my hardest to not to be one, and I often left deceitful people behind me, which even as I'm writing this doesn't really seem that wrong. I'm still trying to figure out if there's a better solution than walking away. But in amongst that group of people were friends who were not bad, but had drifted, and I kind of just left them behind. I remember hearing from one of my good friends even now be told by a girl I had once hung out with quite frequently that she was "Kayla's Replacement Friend." That didn't make me feel good at all.
With the walking away comes isolation. After having Tad, it was really easy to isolate myself, to interact less, to make excuses to myself not to meet new people. The age we live in makes a simple solution to contact those we love and know well but never actually sustain a relationship with them. I constantly miss the people I've grown to know, and we sometimes say hello to each other over a text, but it's not likely that we'll meet up. Living in different states doesn't help either.
So where are those amazing friend groups that never leave your side? When I feel like I am reaching out and speaking truth, why is there no community? I can knock the internet all day or Instagram or whatever outlet people use as a way to disconnect from reality, but I just don't feel like I use it that way. Lately, I've felt like maybe it was starting to turn into that. Of course, I want to grow our business, but I was losing sight of who and what I wanted to attract to our website. I was seeking more followers and not more community. I wanted readers, but I wasn't looking for friends who would read my words and hear my truths. I never want to lose sight of that.
Which brings me back to my night out with new friends, ones I had just met. I received a really sweet message from a reader a few months ago asking if we wanted to buy some chickens off of her. She had seen my post on Instagram about us thinking about getting backyard chickens and wasn't sure if we would be interested in taking a few off of her hands. At that time we weren't really ready to take them on, but we decided to meet up and just talk about chickens over a cup of coffee. It was kind of like a blind date! I was a little nervous, hoping that it would be fun, but also expecting it to be just a random meeting and then nothing would stem from it. To my surprise and joy, it was so fun, that we've been meeting up for coffee ever since! My new friend even makes our herbal soap that we sell in our shop and her little girl is the model for our new bonnets. That's just one friendship from sustainable living.
The more I write about gardening, sustainable living, and eating whole foods, the more people I meet. It's been like a bait, bringing in people who I never would have thought to approach. I am learning so much from word of mouth and from experienced keepers of the craft. It's amazing. So my friend asked me to join her and some of her friends for a night out on the town to see Glennon. The other women were farmers themselves, growing organic produce, and some of the funniest and wonderful women I've met in a long time! They were happy, they spoke truth, and they loved the same lifestyle I loved. It was community, it was a healing night for me. Thank you, ladies!
After I got home, I sat on the couch and told Jill about my thoughts on how this silly garden that we hadn't even planted yet was changing my life. It was bringing in new people with extraordinary personalities, people that I felt like could understand me after only knowing me for a few hours, and the ground we were planting on still remained untilled. I told my mom about how they had offered to sell us their organic, grass-fed meats and produce, how one of the women said she knew a man that could mentor me in beekeeping, and that I could come help her on her farm. I had started to get this happiness bubbling up inside of me as I realized that that was what sustainable was. That was what a sustainable community was at one time. Why didn't that exist anymore?
At one time in this country, we knew our neighbors. We knew the man or woman who sold us beef and chicken, how he or she raised his livestock, and we had a relationship with them. Our produce was grown in the backyard and you left zucchini and tomatoes on your neighbor's doorstep if you had too many. It was exciting to receive fruit as a gift because it was beautiful and whole and a surprise. When you walk into a supermarket, there's no relationship there. You've instantly removed the community and replaced it with chemicals, with a fake surprise that you feel like you could just get anywhere. Food is important; to me, food is relationships and community.
As I spoke my truth to Jill, we both kind of started to tear up, realizing what whole, unprocessed food and community meant to us. To me, it was a life changing moment, and a total push into this beautiful lifestyle. It was my call-to-action to share with you how important this lifestyle is, and that I believe anyone can make it happen, affordably. I can't wait to share more with you. Love to you all!