To My Fellow Black Sheep

I cried a lot this week and once I had processed a couple of important things yesterday, I raked my yard a bit. Now my nose is obscenely stuffy because it was windy, and I was downwind from my neighbor who was burning maybe yard clippings or trash. Who knows. Though, I haven’t cried today, you couldn’t tell because of how sniffly and mouth-breath-y I’ve been.

This isn't really about my yard, though, or my stuffy nose. It’s about why I was crying so much this week. It’s a cascade some of you may recognize.

Spring has brought on more sprouts in my life than I was prepared for. What I thought would be a nice little figurative 10’x10’ garden bed is feeling more like 10 acres of forest. I’m so glad, so grateful, but also a bit overwhelmed. I don’t know about you, but when I’m truly feeling overwhelmed, I think, “I wish I had someone here with me to help”, and that’s when things start to snowball for me, because I don’t have any family nearby, and my friendship/community situation is apparently, for me, the relationship equivalent to swimming across the Pacific Ocean (i.e. indiscernible and very difficult). The one friend I have here is a beautiful soul, but I’m afraid to ask too much and cause her to distance herself from me.

I wish I could tell myself that my concern is unfounded — my worry that she’ll become overwhelmed by me and run away — but my experiences inform me otherwise. There’s clearly something about me that causes most people to flee once they’ve known me for a little while. Something about me that doesn’t seem to be worth the effort. I’m never entirely sure what that something is, no matter what I do to try and solve the mystery.

If you find yourself identifying with me here, then you, too, are the black sheep of the family… and of your friends, and probably also the surrounding neighborhoods.

In the area where I grew up, black sheep were used as a counting system. There would be one black sheep for every 99 white sheep — you could count 3 black sheep and know there should be 300 sheep in the flock and they would all be spread out across a massive field. Occasionally, however, and especially near the watering hole, the black sheep would find each other, bunching together like a great wad of dark wool. Suddenly, they didn’t seem so isolated. Suddenly, they were no longer alone.

We are not alone.

Knowing this and feeling it are two different things, though, I understand. In my experience, the way to really believe that I’m not alone is to be reminded of the fact — and not just with words, but with consistency and action. To look around when I’m struggling and see a line-up of love, wisdom, and practical support. To be given the opportunities to receive blessings, and return them in kind. To find that no lengthy “catch-up” call is required, because we’ve been living life together, and we already know the latest news in our worlds.

So, I want to leave off with a small request: join me, here. Let’s talk to each other and connect. Let’s cry together when things suck and laugh together when everything is great. Let’s meet up for coffee or hang out over video chats. Whatever way fits best into our lives, let’s be there for each other — for all the black sheep in our flock.

Let’s gather together at the watering hole. What do you say?

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