Thriving in Winter

Jackie Alvarez brave collective

Hello, Darling,

January is cold and dark. And the feeling is amplified in the shadow of Christmas. December is about seeing the good in everyone; January is about seeing all the not-so-good in myself and trying to become “better.” (Whatever “better” means.) It’s like opening the door on a really cold day. I’m inside my warm, cozy home, and when the door opens I get suddenly blasted with lonely, bitter cold air.

I think that’s why January is when I feel most acutely my need for friends. I need people around me providing warmth and reminding me who I am.

My most poignant moments in life have been fueled by friendships. Friendship breeds life into my world. It has been because of people behind me, encouraging me, cheering me forward that I have done some of my best growing, made my biggest accomplishments and become better versions of myself.

I’ve had the privilege of being a part of a Brave Collective the past few months. There are 8 ladies in our Collective, each of whom chose something brave to pursue in the next year. There’s something special about sharing courage; when we do, it grows. We shared a meal together, and then went around the table stating the one brave thing we wanted to pursue. As each of the women who went before me spoke, their vulnerability made me feel safe with mine. Their courage made mine feel more real. My resolve grew.

My brave was about writing some of my life stories. I have a lot of life stories – some hilarious, some adventurous, some I don’t like to talk about because they hurt too much. I read this quote in a Sue Monk Kidd book once about how sometimes we write down our stories so that we don’t have to carry them any longer, and we can move forward in our becoming. That quote stuck with me. And this year, with the encouragement of other women pursing their own brave things, I started writing my stories.

At first, the writing was clunky. I ran out of words quickly, and the sessions were short. But as I continued to write, I felt compelled to release the stories inside me and words started spilling out faster than I could type. Eventually I had this desire to reconcile a relationship that was showing up in my stories. The reconciliation required a trip across the country, but more than that, it required putting myself on the line and facing rejection. I had purchased a late night plane ticket. I was packed and had hours to sit around thinking. One of the brave women in my Brave Collective hosted an impromptu send-off at her house. There were many hugs and words of encouragement, and also a glass of wine to calm the nerves.

The words and support of the women in my Brave Collective changed my whole trip. I knew who I was walking into the conversation, so I could say what I needed to say. And as I walked out of the conversation without reconciliation, the rejection didn’t seem to go quite as deep. I was absolutely broken-hearted, and the ladies in my Brave Collective were broken-hearted with me, but their shared courage kept me from utter devastation.

All that is to say, the poignant moments of my life fueled by friendship have also been poignant because of heartbreak. The loss of particular friendships have completely altered my world. And even being as extroverted as they come, I have been skittish about getting too close to people. It’s hard finding people who have similar interests … and schedules … and who live close-by … and who I like being around … and who like me back. And yet, I can’t help but crave kindred spirits.

This January with all the pressure to become “better,” I hope you’ll step back with us at Hello, Darling and focus instead on building up friendships in your life. Friendships breathe life into our world and help us become in ways that are much more poignant than resolutions. Consider hosting or joining a Brave Collective as a way to launch your new year. It’s a safe place to grow and become and fail. It’s a commitment to seeing and encouraging each other.

We’ll be talking about the Brave Collective on Hello, Darling as well as all things friendship. We have tips for making and keeping friends, expert advice, stories of friendships born and lost. We hope you’ll journey with us this month into deeper friendships breathing life into this New Year.

Warmly,
Jackie Alvarez
Executive Managing Editor

How has friendship breathed life into your winter seasons?