Lessons from the Ladies of Mom 2.0 (2 of 2): Gather your secret squirrels
Who are your secret squirrels? And more importantly, do they have this patch?
My second take-away from Mom 2.0 is the importance of a war council, a tribe, or as the fabulous Karen Walrond describes it, your legion of secret squirrels.
Gather your Legion of Secret Squirrels.
To be 100% honest, I’ve never really felt a part of a close-knit group of girlfriends. Maybe it was growing up mixed race and always feeling “in between”, or maybe everyone secretly feels like they don’t belong. Whether it truly is me or whether it’s more common than I think, Mom 2.0 convinced me to get over my lone wolf syndrome.
Who are your secret squirrels?
Your legion of secret squirrels are the friends that know you so well that you can comfortably share an idea, a passion project, a piece of your soul with them and know that they will be truth-tellers and love-givers at exactly the same time. You don’t just become someone’s secret squirrel overnight. I don’t have anyone in my legion who I’ve known less than 10 years.
I want you to think of the people in your life who have seen the darkest, meanest, smallest, hardest chunks of your soul and love you anyway. Seriously, list them either mentally or aloud right now. It doesn’t matter how many you have, as long as it’s more than 0 (and less than 10 imho, but if you are really, truly close with that many people, good for you!).
I have 5 secret squirrels (and several newer friends who may soon join the legion). Only 2 of them know each other, 2 are moms, 3 are women, only 1 is an actor. They live in Hawaii, San Francisco, Tucson, Seattle, and somewhere in Virginia. You see the trouble for me. I have to work really hard to gather my legion.
There were years when I saw no one in my legion at all. It wasn’t until looking back that I realize how disconnected and lonely I felt. If you are a transplant to LA or NYC, like so many mama actors are, you might know what I’m talking about. I’m two years in to the project of pulling my legion back together, and I can tell you this: along raising my children and nurturing my marriage, it is the most worthwhile project of my life.Along with raising your children, gathering your legion of secret squirrels will be the most worthwhile project of your life. I promise. Click To Tweet
How to gather your legion
If you are feeling disconnected from your legion of secret squirrels, here are some thoughts I can offer to help you gather the troops:
- Identify who they are. You know in your heart who your secret squirrels are, but your mind might second guess: Fear might say, “oh, they don’t really feel the same way.” Guilt might say, “it’s been too long” or “I’ve been a bad friend.” Ignore those voices and if a name arises that you think could be in your legion, add them to the list (you can always take them out later if you need to–winkie smiley emoji)
- Reach out to them. True story: I was talking to one of my secret squirrels 5 years ago, he was telling me he had been diagnosed with thyroid cancer. The phone got disconnected, my son started throwing up, and I forgot to call him back. It was three years before we spoke again, and the last two years and 11 months of that gap I felt guilty about it almost every day. Your opinion of me might have just plummeted (trust me I hated myself too), but I didn’t know how to bridge the gap. There’s only one way–call and say I’m sorry, or I love you, or I miss you, or I forgive you, or whatever big thing needs to be said. There is no situation in which you will regret doing this, I promise.
- Continue to reach out to them. If your secret squirrel is also a mom, they will be very busy for many years. Reach out anyway. One of my secret squirrels lives in Hawaii, and if she had not been diligent about keeping in touch, visiting, calling, I don’t know if we would have remained as close as we are today. Her friendship has set an example for me of how to do it. She calls me when my favorite Hawaiian song plays on her radio and just lets the song play on my voicemail.
- Put marbles in the jars that are worthwhile to you. Brene Brown has a great metaphor for friendships called the marble jar. It goes something like this: A relationship is like a jar filled with marbles. Marbles get added to the jar in a variety of ways: time (those friends you’ve just known forever), intimacy (being vulnerable with someone, sharing your true self), shared experiences, and what I like to call energetic closeness (when you just vibe with someone). If you have a friendship with lots of marbles in the jar, losing one or two here or there really doesn’t make a huge difference. You might go long stretches without speaking and when you reconnect, the relationship is still strong. Likewise, if you don’t have a lot of marbles, a 6-month dry spell will kill the friendship. So think of your relationship with each of your secret squirrels like a marble jar–how can you add marbles to the jars that matter to you?
I encourage you to take the time to go through this. Even if you feel close to your secret squirrels, I’ve learned that you can never appreciate your friendships too much. How can you add marbles? How can you deepen the relationships that you already have? You never know, that mama you meet at the park today might be a part of your legion of secret squirrels 5 years from now.
How do you connect with your secret squirrels, mama actor? If you are looking for potential squirrels to add to your legion, reach out to mamas in your neighborhood, or come over to The Mama Actor Community on Facebook. It’s a great place to start.