[Quiet Thoughts] The Building of Circles

Photo: I hosted my first drop-off playdate today. Ursa Major’s “best friend” came over for 2 hours of fun. I decided that the featured activity would be to make pizza. This is the result. You can probably tell which one I made and which one they made…


I am afraid that my Quiet Thoughts are an inarticulate mess this week. I don’t know where to start or end, and all of these thoughts are anchored in my experience from Tuesday. I’m going to start with a story and then work my way out and see if I come out on the other side having written something cohesive. You’ll have to excuse me as I work through this.

I studied Japanese during my undergraduate years after becoming fascinated with the culture in middle school and high school. It is not an easy language to learn, and while my husband was able to obtain a bit of fluency, I admit that I was a very poor language student. My professors explained that you cannot love Japanese culture without loving the language. I wholeheartedly disagreed (and have the poor marks to show for it). The biggest problem that I had with learning the language was the different levels of formality that it can take. Sentence structure and words can change in an instance between your boss, your spouse, your children, your friends. Of course, this is the same for English, and that’s hard enough as it is. As I’m fairly deft at code-switching in English, I just couldn’t seem to pull it off in Japanese. The changes are taught in the idea of relationship “circles”: The outer circles featuring the most formal language reserved for particular people or places, the inner circles featuring significantly less formal language for those you hold dear. This is a ridiculous over simplification of a very complicated subject.

Simply put, my Quiet Thoughts this week are about the people in our circles and how we assign them to near and far. I’m thinking about the Friends, the Allies, the Well-Meaning, and the other folk who have to have special labels.

Because, I realized this week, I’m a little overwhelmed by the expanding cast of characters in my life. Preschool and moving forced me to meet a whole different set of individuals while severing ties (in some cases) or severely changing the nature of relationships with others from the past. Moving out here has also given me a expanded catalog of nuanced levels of relationships that I’ve never had to experience before. Namely, “Your kid and my kid are friends, you and I can hold a conversation, but it’s clear that we aren’t ever going to be close,” or even “Our kids can’t get along worth beans, but you and I have a really great connection” and a million other combinations in between.

I suppose this all stems from my disappointment in Tuesday night’s outing. I didn’t walk in thinking that I was about to make my next three best friends forever, but I can’t say I was prepared to walk away feeling a little empty. I thought that our conversations at and about school were enough connection to touch off something wonderful. And while we talked of books and parenting, and spoke intellectually and critically  about various mommy-subjects, that time was not fully enjoyable, even though I needed it and wanted it to be. It’s not something I think I want to do again, even though I need to make more time to step away from this house and make meaningful connections with other people. Furthermore, after obtaining yet more insight into some of the other parents of this preschool, I feel even more uneasy about sending my boys back there next year. It clarified feelings I already had from this year and it is now certain to color the way I view events next year. I’m not so sure I’ve done the right thing here. Worse, I feel just as out of place as I’ve ever felt. I feel too young, too brown, outclassed… I don’t know how it shattered my confidence even though nothing disparaging was said. Indeed, all of the follow-up emails have been about was the next gathering and the creation of a new book club for all of us and all sorts of other stuff.

But have you ever felt like you’re just on the outside of a group? Like you’re supposed to get the invitations but not necessarily expected to show up?

The complication comes from these two children, who have begun the process of creating relationships that matter to them outside of the ones that they have with me and The Husband. As they go through school, this is going to get more tangled and complex. The circles are only going to get wider. Over time, the boys are going to start to notice the nature of the relationships that I have with some of these people, and I wonder what they’ll learn. As we move forward, and as the cast continually changes as we move from grade to grade and school to school, how much will my own social ineptness impact my boys?

Maybe that’s the crux of it. My feelings about Tuesday are more about me than about my company. I’m feeling like I’m the common denominator when I end up feeling like I currently do.  I know that I reach out and I’m approachable, but I always test “introvert” on my Meyers Briggs tests for a reason. I think that I have to more wisely choose who with and how I spend my time, and build a stronger and more consistent inner circle.

I also have to better learn how to lift up my heavy boys. I’m in pretty phenomenal pain today, with my lower back screaming at even the slightest of movement. I could barely bend forward to put muffins in the oven this morning. It’s all I can do to walk, let alone lift and lower my growing little bears for changes and eating and what not. This is the worst it has been in a long time and, I fear, I’m going to have to find my way to a doctor’s office. A hot shower helped for the morning, but here I am in the afternoon just as stiff and uncomfortable as ever. The thing of it is, I don’t know exactly how I managed to aggravate things this time around! Am I 29 or 59, seriously!? This might be a weekend of laying down on my bed and reading because I can’t do much else in comfort!

On this summer Friday, I wish you pillows and heat packs and advil.

Just kidding.

Seriously, I wish you a comfortable spot. Maybe in a library with the air conditioning going full blast, or a chair on soft sand listening to the waves crash upon the shore, or lounger poolside in a quiet community. I wish you lemonade with not too much sugar and plenty of ice, the tartness waking your senses, a stone fruit of your choice, and a fresh salad of spinach greens. I wish you deep green leaves alive with birdsong, rustling in a passing breeze. I wish you the distant rumbles of a passing storm, the rain coming down to green your lawn and give you opportunity to snooze. I wish you a good story, told or read. And a belly laugh, because they are fun and not often had. And a kiss on the forehead, because they are comforting and precious. And joy, because you deserve it.

Until Monday, take care.



8 Comments Add yours

  1. Miriam Joy says:

    I know what you mean about being outside of a circle. For me, when I took up Irish dancing at the age of thirteen when all the other girls had been doing it for years, I constantly felt out of place, because they all knew each other. Moreover, my parents were so not into the whole thing, and didn’t hang around outside lessons (partly because I was old enough to get the bus there), so they didn’t ever speak to the other parents, and therefore I never had the parental connection that the others had, I never lift-shared etc… And I didn’t do as many competitions or even as many classes as the others.

    Now, at ballet, I’ve got friends, and I don’t feel so out of place, but even so I joined late to pre-existing friendship groups — I came into this class even later than I joined the school at all. So that means I sometimes don’t feel like I’ve got the connection I wish I did have. Again, my parents aren’t really in on it the way some of my friends’ parents are, making costumes for the shows etc. It does impact how much I feel like a part of the school community, especially when it comes to things like the post-show BBQ. My parents aren’t around that day, so I’ll be going on my own, and that’s going to be … typical, to be honest.

    This is probably rather discouraging as you’re worrying your socialising with impact on your kids, but, er… sorry? It’s only been an issue since I was older, and it’s only looking back at the Irish dancing days that I can see how my parents’ lack of enthusiasm for the sport impacted on my experience in that dance school. I didn’t realise it at the time.

    1. K.C. Wise says:

      So, I just read this and my head exploded in terrible mommy anxiety, like, “oh no!!!!!”

      And then I read the one below this and I take a deep breath and I’m like…ok, maybe I can do this.

      But then I have decided that there are absolutely no right answers, I’m a ruinous ruiner and my boys will ABSOLUTELY be in therapy by age 10. Just, without a doubt!

      1. Miriam Joy says:

        I’m sure everybody feels that way and noooo, I didn’t want to make you feel bad! Because honestly I didn’t even realise it at the time and anyway Irish dancing was a really toxic environment for me, which is one of the reasons I left — my parents didn’t want to be involved for a reason, and it was only because I nagged them that they let me do it. So.

        1. K.C. Wise says:

          ok ok ok… I’ll take a deep breath and step away.

          Can you still do the Irish dancing? That’s such a THING here in Boston. Google it. It’s kinda wild… with the wigs and the glitter…

  2. I love ya, but you’re killin’ me, Smalls.

    Darlin’, not every contact has to matter, and at 29, there are no more circles; that shit was done after 7th grade. The only “real” circles in life are any you might draw around yourself to keep people out.

    Repeat after me, “My name is KC, and I am a rockstar.” That is all you ever need in your brain because you Do measure up, you Are the best mom, your boys Have the best they need for where they’re at.

    And I would grub the hell outta that pizza.

    You’ve written before about how the boys meet people. They don’t have expectations; they just change space. Major just learned taking space versus making space; Minor just learned how to own it. Do you ever greet the world like they do? What happens if you do?

    When I mentioned the abandoning of circles in junior high, it wasn’t to say that your social skills are immature, but to ask if you’re dragging along some outdated measurement of worth? I don’t know. I hit junior high, looked around at all the other tossers, and decided I was awesome with the bar set that low. I learned that if I saw no barriers, I’d always fit in.

    I may not always be appropriate for the moment, but I don’t feel excluded if the only space I care about is that which I occupy. I can only control what’s in that space. That is where I have to focus: am I polite, friendly, calm, and adaptable? If I can answer yes to any one of those, I move forward.

    But I admit my courage is mostly a side-effect of self-absorption.

    While you’re waiting for your shiny, new niche to arrive from Ikea, can’t you just note all the things that make each surface different and interesting then take only the pieces you need? Worry about depth later?

    For now, just meet new faces like you learn Japanese, one character at a time.

    It’ll free up your heart to listen for the ones speaking your language.

    And seriously, box me up some of that pie.

    Best of luck, outlander.

    1. K.C. Wise says:

      It’s like… 15 characters at a time…


      I know that you’re right. I know it. I read it and the words are true and it feels good to read them because, dammit, I need to read them.

      I think that most interesting part of this comment for me is the following: ” Major just learned taking space versus making space; Minor just learned how to own it. Do you ever greet the world like they do? What happens if you do?”

      Such an interesting question to me. I wonder if I even COULD greet the world the way that they do. Do I even have the capacity for that any more. It isn’t to say that I see the world with great fear or anxiety, but I do see the world with a particular set of expectations… And then again, your question makes me wonder if I “see” the world at all. I see me and mine as I go through it, but am I really looking as I go? Interesting interesting…

      The pizza dough is quick and simple. This was actually a Pioneer woman recipe:

      She calls for a stand mixer for that, but since you aren’t kneading, I’m not convinced that you need it. (I have one and use it… but if you don’t have one, I don’t feel like it excludes you from making that recipe.)

      but if you DO have a stand mixer, you need THIS recipe:


      My Cooking God has three heads: Alton Brown, Julia Child and my Grandfather

      1. K.C. Wise says:

        I also if this is me deciding that I am, actually, a social climber at heart?

        but I feel like that isn’t true. I’m not trying to ascend into a particular thing. It isn’t like I aspire to join the country club crowd… far from it…

        I’m pretty much just crazy, girl. CRAY-CRAY!

        My yard… she is so greeennnnn…. and the lilies and the roses are blooming around the barn!! It’s like… just so… it’s amazing!!

        My herb garden died.

        So basically, if I didn’t plant it, it is living. If I did, it died a horrible death.

        Except for my two black berry bushes… and my pachysandra seems to be doing ok…

        But everything else… dead…

      2. You are so great haha. I dunno; I figure if you can out up with my BS, you can handle anybody 😉

        Thx for the pizza tips!

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