We are not meant to do this life alone. As humans, we survived because of our connections with each other.
Today’s guest is life coach Brenda Bloczynski, who reached out to us to share about a friendship group she’s a part of with her church. It began as a “favorites” group that met via Marco Polo – a video messaging mobile app – right at the pandemic’s start. They shared favorite kitchen gadgets, make-up lines, hacks, etc.
Over time, it grew to become so much more. After lockdown, the women began meeting for regular dinners, breakfast clubs, and girls’ weekends. When one member was diagnosed with cancer, the rest gathered behind to support her.
Digital connection is “at our fingertips” all the time, but Brenda’s story shows us that what’s important is how we USE these tools. Hers is a beautiful example of how something so simple can grow into a flourishing, supportive community.
In this episode you’ll hear about:
- Brenda’s story of how the Marco Polo group started and grew into what it is today – and how much of its success derives from being PRESENT with other people
- How people are often scared of big groups – but if you feel the magic of a group, you often want to bring others in so they can feel it too
- There is no “equal exchange” in friendship – and why instead, we should think about nourishing our friends using our natural gifts
- How, as adults, society really champions the “catch-up” friends – but here, Brenda found a group of women to DO LIFE with as it happens, day by day.
- Group vacations, which are often most successful when you can break up and come back together at various points
- How Brenda’s friend group rallied around one of the members who was diagnosed with cancer
Were there (remote) social activities you did during the pandemic that you continued to do after lockdown was over? What were they? Did the time at home affect how you connected with people afterward?
Notable Quotes from Brenda:
“Sometimes when you’re in a big group, you feel like you have to either entertain or be entertained by somebody. And there’s got to be conversation happening. Sometimes people might think that there’s awkwardness, but when you allow people to just show up however they are, and you show up authentically yourself – there’s days where I don’t want to talk. I just want to listen to them, because it’s fun. Then it just allows you to relax and really enjoy the time together. Because you don’t have to fill in the void or the quiet awkwardness.”
“We needed that community to survive. And I think we still do. We still need that community. It’s been difficult to see that, now that we have social media. There’s so many ways where we feel like we can hide. The reality is we need the community. It’s such a beautiful process to create your community – to allow them to show how they can lift you up, or how you can lift them up too.”
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@itsalexalexander Let’s talk about “How to Join a Friend Group.” #friendgroupproblems #friendgroups #friendshipadvice ♬ original sound – Alex | Community + Friendship
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Podcast Intro 00:02
Alrighty, gang. Here’s to nights that turn into mornings and friends that turn in family. Cheers!
Podcast Intro 00:18
Hello, Hello, and welcome to the Friendship IRL podcast. I’m your host, Alex Alexander. My friends… They would tell you; I like to ask the hard questions. You know who I am in the group? I’m the person that’s saying, “Okay, I’m going to ask this question, but don’t feel like you have to answer it.” And now, I can be that friend for you, too.
Alex Alexander [Narration] 00:50
I know that a lot of you are here for those real life examples. This is what I keep hearing from people that love the podcast, because it gives you real examples that you can consider implementing in your own life. And today, today is one of those episodes. Today, we are going to talk about the journey of a simple, basically group text that is turned into this thriving friend, group, community. They’re doing all sorts of things together, living life together, supporting each other through hard times. And you’re gonna get a behind the scenes look at what this really took over the past three years. Now, something that I want you to keep in mind, and I touched on this in the episode, but I’m going to call it out here because I think it’s so important. Quite often, when I talk to people, they will tell me the ideal end goal. They will say something like, I want a group of friends that I can get together with all the time or I want friends I can have over to my house and just have it be casual. They talk about the end goal. And forget that that starts somewhere. Starts somewhere really simple. Probably seemingly, like meaningless in the beginning. A favorite thing’s text group? This is not something we would place tons and tons of value on if we were invited to it. But everything starts somewhere simple. Every friendship, every connection, every group starts somewhere. So that’s why I’m constantly talking about appreciating the value of the simpler interactions in our life. Because everything starts somewhere. We don’t meet anybody, and they’re just suddenly our best friend. I know that’s what the movies want to tell us. But it’s just not the truth. So, please listen to today’s example and maybe keep it in mind. The next time you’re invited to something simple, that we never know where those simple connections are gonna go, and how they’re going to grow in our lives, and impact us overall. Now, let’s get to the episode. Hi, Brenda.
Brenda Bloczynski 03:19
Alex Alexander 03:20
I’m so excited that you’re here today.
Brenda Bloczynski 03:23
Thank you for having me. I’m excited to be here too.
Alex Alexander [Narration] 03:26
You know, you are another one of those brave people who heard about this work, heard about my podcast and said, “Yeah, I want to talk about this stuff more. I want more people to hear about the possibilities of friendship and community out there in the world.” So I really appreciate you being here today.
Brenda Bloczynski 03:44
Oh, no problem.
Alex Alexander [Narration] 03:46
I am so excited about we’re going to chat about because I think that this is such a… I mean real… I want to use the word real like this is such a simple way that people can connect. Like this isn’t such a great example of how something so simple, some small action can blossom into this bigger sense of community, deeper connections. So do you want to tell us a little bit about the Marco Polo group that you were telling me about and how it all started?
Brenda Bloczynski 04:23
Sure. So it was… obviously like, in 2020, our lives changed. And we had a group of girls, ladies that we all go to the same church. And we wanted to continue to have community but it wasn’t even like… it wasn’t even planned to have community as in like, let’s see if we can make new friends. It was more of a favorites group. That’s how it started. It was a favorite group that one of the ladies created to share our favorite kitchen gadget or our favorite makeup line, or, you know, just like your favorite things. That was the goal. And so quite a few of us join. I don’t know exactly how many, but I’m gonna say about 15 maybe of us joined when this happen, right around when the pandemic started. So, you know, I did not know about Markopolos, so I joined Marco Polo for this group specifically. And then all of a sudden… and actually, maybe we should talk a little bit about what Marco Polo is, but it’s like, an app that you have where you can chat with people. It’s like a video chat. And so, you leave a message, and people see it, like, it’s like a group chat. So…
PODCAST EPISODE! Listen to the Three Types of Roots here.
Alex Alexander [Narration] 05:42
They can watch it on their own time, respond on their own time, it keeps the responses in order. So if there’s 15 people in a group chat, you can, kind of like watch as the conversation moves forward, somebody might build on something the previous person said, or answer a question, and that doesn’t get lost. It’s all kept in chronological order.
Brenda Bloczynski 06:06
Yeah, so that’s… the nice thing about it is that you can respond at your own time, you know, you record your video, and it stays there. And, you know, anyway, so it started as sharing favorite things. And then at some point, somebody probably shared something that was not their favorite thing. But maybe like, “Oh, I didn’t sleep last night, because our kid…” I don’t know. Something. I don’t remember exactly what it was. But all of a sudden, we’re sharing things that are a little bit more personal than just our favorite thing. So just like with everything, some people stayed, and some people decided it wasn’t for them, once we started getting a little bit deeper into the conversations, so from that group, a few have ended up leaving, some of us stayed, things got rough with life, you know, let’s talk about like, what happened today. Yeah. And so it just kind of evolved into this group, where all of a sudden, we’re sharing things that are personal, and we’re being vulnerable and open. And we’re starting to get to know each other. And we’re starting to trust each other, you know, just putting the time. And I mean, to be honest, like at the beginning, for me, especially, you know, most of what I’m going to say is obviously my perspective of how it happened. For me, it was like, well, I mean, I haven’t done my hair today. So I don’t want to be on Marco Polo, butI’ll listen to the girls, I’ll see what they have to say. And then something comes up and it’s like, oh, but I have to comment on that. So I would get on. So like all of a sudden, you know, I’ve seen my girls right out of the… you know, like they just woke up, pajamas on, makeup might still be a little smudge, things like that. So it’s a vulnerable thing for women, right? Like you don’t let people see you like that unless you trust them. So now, almost three years into it, it has evolved a little bit. But that’s kind of how it started.
Alex Alexander [Narration] 08:04
I love this for so many reasons. And that the first one is, so many people might say like, they look at the end goal of what you have here. Like you’re saying, I have this group on Marco Polo. And we’ll talk a little bit later about how it’s moved outside of Marco Polo too, but you know, they want the end goal. They want that group where they can get on and just be themselves still with sleep in their eyes before they’ve even had their cup of coffee and share some of their thoughts. They want that. But people don’t know how to get there. Like that’s the vision. That’s the ideal. That’s the goal. They don’t know how to get there. And what you’re saying is something so simple as share your favorite items, slowly over time, kind of like piece by piece got closer to that ideal. Sharing the favorite things is so… it’s just such a great example. Because so often, we all think that sharing anything about ourselves is like too much information that we’re burdening someone else. Do they even want to hear it? Are they even interested? But having such a small direction on why you would contact each other to begin with, you know, you’re walking around your house, you’re like, you know, I really like that vacuum. And it fits within that parameter. So you just pick up your phone and hit record. It makes it so easy to give yourself permission to actually initiate the contact. And initiating the contact is what builds over time to letting each other in to your lives, to talking about deeper things. If you don’t initiate the contact in the first place, you are now ever going to build the connections.
Alex Alexander [Narration] 10:04
This is so important. I want to go through it one more time. So what we have here, a formal community, her church. People already had some sort of contact information that are part of this group. So, they were invited to a Marco Polo group. And the prompt for the group was share your favorite things. So it gave you something when you walk through your house or through your day to share. And over time, this led to some of the what I call those small intimacies where they started to have their house in whatever state it was in, in the background of their video, or they weren’t fully dressed and makeup and whatnot, the way that they would be to go out into the world. Maybe it was a place to admit they had a bad day, or ask a question that they didn’t know where to get the resources. Now, the interesting thing about this is, so many of us stop ourselves from connecting, because we convince ourselves that sharing anything about us is TMI, is oversharing. Have you ever thought to yourself, I want to tell somebody that I like this product, or that I enjoyed this hike? Or I had a good day, only to stop yourself? Because why would they care? I think this happens all the time. We wait until we feel super close to someone to share any of these details. These are those friends where you know, we feel like we can tell anything to them. But in reality, there are probably a variety of people in our lives who would be interested in the things we enjoy, or whether we’re having a good day or a bad day. But somewhere along the line, we’ve convinced ourselves that sharing our internal world is not something anyone else is interested in, or very, very, very few people are interested in. So the next time you stop yourself from sharing, consider putting yourself out there. Consider this a small intimacy, consider it an act to tell someone what your favorite product is, or that you really love this restaurant, and see if that starts to foster some more connection and closeness with even your simplest of friends.
PODCAST EPISODE! Listen to the Three Types of Roots here.
Brenda Bloczynski 12:54
Yeah, it really was, like, just as simple as like, our favorite. And I think at the beginning, it was even difficult for us. Like, you know, after a while you run out of favorite things maybe. And so it started to become like, well, what’s the prompt of the day today? Like, give me your best hack or show me your favorite room in your house. Like it started like that it started, all of a sudden, we’re all doing tours of our house because we haven’t seen each other’s houses, right? Like, not necessarily. We knew each other from, like I said, from church, we knew each other, we’ve seen each other. But we didn’t have that deep connection where it’s, you know, some of us knew each other from other, you know, like we had had some friendships. But not everybody had that. And some of them were new to our community. Some of them were people that have been in the church for many years. So it’s like, it was all like, all different. And we just found one thing in common that we could be a part of. And honestly, it did take a lot of being brave and exposing yourself. And did we probably, I mean, sometimes I was like, maybe I shouldn’t have said that. And then the girls were so kind to not make it a big deal. So I think what I can tell you is like from the beginning, all of the girls that are part of this group now, we all were looking for deep friendships, but we didn’t know that we were looking for them. It’s like a weird thing where it’s like, I didn’t know how much I needed this until I… now I have it in you know, like it was something that was missing from my life.
Alex Alexander [Narration] 14:30
Yeah. I mean, I would assume that a lot of people are gonna identify with that as they listen to this. Society really champions this as an adult, especially I would say as an adult female caregiver, mom champions this idea of like the catch up friend, like the moments when you can sit down and kind of tell someone about how your life has been, but you’re not in the present moment with them. You’re like doing things with them. It’s very different to be doing parts of life and like updating someone on the process as you’re going through it when you’re in the moment than it is telling someone after it’s all said and done. And it feels like what you’re saying, right, it’s like you let someone into your present. You walked them around your house time. We’re like, real time. Today sucks. I know, I said, I was doing good yesterday, but today, I am not doing good. And that is like, a piece of these deeper connections that I think a lot of people aren’t acknowledging they want. Because we’re really sold this idea of like, well, you have all these people that have known you forever. And like that is beautiful. Don’t get me wrong, I love those friendships too. But the reason we I think, love those people, because at one point we, quote unquote, did “life” with them. So what you’re saying is like, you created this virtual way to kind of do life with these people.
Brenda Bloczynski 16:04
Yeah, we weren’t allowed to go places. You know, like the world had shut down. And I mean, I became a stay at home mom. Well, I was a stay at home mom, but I started home-schooling my kids. And, you know, a couple of the girls in that group literally walked me through the first steps of like, how do you even do this. And I think that if I would have had that, I don’t know, that I would have been successful. There’s been so many things, so many things that I’ve learned from this group, from the women that are there, I consider them you know, like, you talk about sometimes with like, these are my best friends. Like, do I have nine best friends? I do. And I have some other really good friends too, that maybe I don’t catch up on Marco Polo with that I would also consider you know, I have friends from high school that I still hang out with, and I still see. And they’re really good friends of mine, you know? And so I think it doesn’t have to be a specific way. And the fact that we found this friendship with such a big group, we allowed ourselves to be ourselves in the group. And then we had the grace of like, this is how you’re showing up today. And that’s fine, too. You know, like just having that openness of, yeah, today was rough. During the pandemic, there were very, like, a lot of not good days for a lot of us, right. So seeing that, and living that with them real time was just… you can’t not bond with somebody when you’re doing that every day. And we still continue to, you know, check in with each other very often. And, you know, like you said, we did kind of pull it out of that virtual app. And then now we see each other more often in real life, and we get to do a lot of fun things together. So that’s been another thing that’s like, amazing how we’ve been able to take it away from just the computer or the screen and create something beautiful for ourselves and for our communities to
Alex Alexander [Narration] 18:12
Do you think that it was easier to let people in, because you’d already let them in in small ways before. Like you’ve already showed up without makeup on. They’d already seen the inside of your house when it was a mess, they’d already heard when you had a bad day. So do you think that when you started spending more time together in person, it was easier?
Brenda Bloczynski 18:31
Yes. For sure. It was easier. Yeah, it was easier for me to open up to them and even to other people, because of the relationship that we already had. Yeah, for sure.
PODCAST EPISODE! Listen to “Joining (or forming!) friend groups here.
Alex Alexander [Narration] 18:43
Yeah. What kind of things do you all do in person when you’re together? I’m curious.
Brenda Bloczynski 18:50
We do dinners out. We do girls weekends together of it. We also celebrate lots of birthdays now in person, which is super fun for me. So one of the girls took it upon herself to do breakfast club on Fridays. It was Tuesdays, now it’s Fridays. And so like, that’s how we took it out of the screen and took it into real life. It’s like she decided other people need this kind of community. How can we bring this out and kind of start inviting other people? We knew that we wanted to show other girls or other women in our communities that, you know, it’s okay to have a big group of friends and it doesn’t have to be scary or overwhelming. It can be fun. And so we started with, you know, Breakfast Club. We started inviting other women but not necessarily were part of that Marco Polo group. And so now, I can’t attend us often anymore, but they do it every Friday and that has kind of led into other, I was hosting for a while, foodie adventure group. So once a month, we would go out and have dinner to a different restaurant in Seattle or around our neighborhood. We love food. So we love to try different ethnicity, you know, food from different ethnicities. Our favorite is Indian. So we go to Indian food a lot to eat Indian food a lot. But we do, I mean, all kinds of. Peruvian, Korean barbecue, that was super fun. You know, and it allows others to be a part of something. Like maybe some people don’t feel comfortable with a large group. So maybe you can go out and have coffee with a handful of girls instead of 15. Or maybe they want to bring their husband. So like this foodie group adventure, the husbands were allowed to join us. And so we got to also start creating some community with their husbands. We want to make sure that it’s not something that we’re keeping to ourselves, we want to bring it out to the community. And we want to show other women, that it’s open for everybody. That’s kind of like our goal. It’s like, one of the girls said it, we’re not a circle of friends, we’re a U. There’s always room, there’s always an extra seat at the table, there’s always something else, somebody else can join.
Alex Alexander [Narration] 21:10
For anybody that’s just listening to this, I’m over here with like, the biggest smile on my face, because I have my thoughts, right? Like what my experience and what I’ve seen, you are confirming the belief I’ve had, which is that when you build these kinds of communities, you feel stable in them. Like when you feel comfortable, you want other people to have this. So I have some groups of friends. And we actually, you know, people will say like, because people are scared of big groups. You’re right. People are scared. They’re not sure like, oh, do I have to be best friends with everyone in the group? How do you manage this? That’s a lot of potential drama. It’s really not sure. Miscommunications happen. Frustrations happen. You have to communicate through them. But there’s just a lot of misconception, I think. But when you’re somebody who is in one, like you are, like I am, we actually spend a good amount of time talking about ways to bring other people in. Because we want other people to have this experience. Like my friends and I truly have conversations like, what friend of yours… like friend of a friend, can you invite to this? How can we meet them? How can we invite them? What other groups are you a part of? Bring them here, bring your family, bring your spouses, bring your kids. Like, I really think this is a thing like when you feel the magic of the group. You want other people to feel that too.
PODCAST EPISODE! Navigating Big Life Changes with Friends. Listen here!
Brenda Bloczynski 22:45
Yeah, 100%. I mean, it’s just such a beautiful loving part of it, you know?
Alex Alexander [Narration] 22:50
It is. And the bigger group is, you know, there’s something else that you’re saying here, which is like, once you’re comfortable with these people, it makes it so easy to find, right, like now you have these recurring gatherings where not everyone can attend all the time, but you still get a pretty good sized group, people make it when they can. And then when you’re in those gatherings, you can start talking and find out the people like food. Now, like who wants to go once a month and try different foods. And then it allows for all these like offshoot activities, I really do think that when you invest enough time to build those groups, you want to share it, and you want to keep letting it spread. And if you are somebody that’s not in one of those groups, you look at the group and you just feel like it’s so… like you’re outside the circle, when in reality, I think most of the time the people that are in the quote unquote “circle”, they think it’s the U. They want you to come in, or like “Come experience the magic.”
Brenda Bloczynski 23:54
For sure. Like I know that we are very aware of like, how can we bring somebody else into this? And who do we need to reach out to who would be great for this or that, you know? Because we all have our things that we are good at. How can you connect with somebody else? Like in my case, with food. Like, how can we bring the husband so that now the husbands have a little bit of a community as well? Or, you know, they feel welcome into our group because somebody said, I think when I was trying to think about my group, I was like, “Yeah, let’s make a group and we’ll you know, we’ll have a limit.” I think I say like… because you have to have a limit at some point, for dinner anyway, at a big restaurant, or at a restaurant if it’s too big of a group. So I said, “Okay, maybe we can do like 12 people.” And then somebody said, “My husband would probably really like that.” I was like, “Well, let’s open it up to the husbands”, you know? And then one day, somebody had to bring their teenager because they were with her. And I said yeah, of course. Like this is open to Anybody, anybody that wants to have community and eat food is welcome. It’s just such a beautiful way. I mean, I think when you’re sharing food to or when you’re sharing something, when you’re gathered around a table, you never know what kind of conversation is going to come up, right? Like, sometimes you can all of a sudden be laughing about something and somebody shares something else about, I don’t know, it’s just the variety of conversations that you can have around a table is just amazing. Maybe if you’re in a group that really likes to do something like a sport together, then maybe sometimes you’re only talking about that. But when it’s open like that, when it’s about just having community, that conversation can be so different.
Alex Alexander [Narration] 25:49
I mean, that goes back to the being present thing. I think that there’s something that happens when you are with people. Where in the beginning, right, you asked some of those, like catching up with them questions like how’s your week been? You know, you said you had a big meeting two weeks ago, did that go well? Are you feeling better? Right? You ask them these kind of questions to follow up. But at a certain point, when you’re with people, you’re just there. You’re just in the moment, you’re talking about the food they’re putting on the table. Somebody says that they had that food when they traveled through Southeast Asia. And now you’re asking them about the trip in Southeast Asia. And maybe you’re not interested in that. So you turn your head and you look at someone else, and they’re talking about books, and suddenly you’re like, “Oh, I love books. Yeah. Have you read this?” The exploration, the unraveling, I guess, that happens when you’re just like, present with people. But it has to be long enough to move past those questions about the past. Or like you’ve covered all that. So if you’re with somebody for a 30 minute coffee, or an hour long dinner, you may never get past that into the present. But like the present is where the magic stuff happens.
Brenda Bloczynski 27:06
Yeah, I mean, even just last night, we went out for dinner for one of the girl’s birthdays. And so it’s funny, because some of us are early birds. And some of us are, you know, night owls. And so the early birds were like, dinner? It sounds like… we did it at 5 so that most people could attend. And then after that, we were going to go do karaoke. We knew some girls were not going to make it to the karaoke part of it, because it was later at night. The girls that were there that are the early birds, they’re like, “Aren’t you so proud of us? We stayed for two and a half hours at the restaurant!” You know, and it’s really funny that we want to make sure that they feel comfortable staying as long as they want to, right, for us that they want to stay longer. We make sure that we’re letting them know, whenever you’re ready to go, it’s fine. At this point, they’re also trying to stay a little bit longer, because they’re having fun, they’re enjoying their time there. And so they’re pushing maybe their bedtime, so that they can be a part of the fun too. So it changes you in a way that maybe you don’t expect it. But it is that openness of like, I’m gonna allow myself to stay here, or I’m gonna allow myself to go to bed earlier, whatever it is, so that you can all experience that part of the conversation that you moved past, the catching up about today. Now we’re talking about maybe a little bit more of a harder conversation or difficult or, you know, deeper conversation.
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Alex Alexander [Narration] 28:38
Yeah, you’re like in the thick of it. You’re trying to decide what you’re actually going to do about a problem right now. Like, can we talk this through? Or yeah, you’re having some of those more real conversations where everyone’s… what everyone’s saying might actually affect the outcome, because you haven’t maybe done it yet or you’re processing it or whatever it is. Do you all still… like is the Marco Polo group still alive?
Brenda Bloczynski 29:04
It is. It has shifted. We still connect with each other on Marco Polo. And, you know, there was a shift in our group at one point, but we are still on Marco Polo. And they’re you know, there’s offshoot groups to from that, you know, where there’s three or five of us that are talking about something or there’s all nine of us or you know? Like so, it has shifted in a way where we still all check in almost every day with each other. We have all kinds of women there. So like, we have somebody that has a baby, she can’t be on all the time. And then we have somebody that doesn’t have… you know, her kids or adults. She might be able to be there more often than the new mom. So, we try to check in. And if at some point, one of us hasn’t checked in in, let’s say, three days, five days, we start to take it on to like, what’s going on with you? Like sending a text, and hey, are you okay? Do you need anything? So we do check in with each other pretty often.
Alex Alexander [Narration] 30:13
I love that. But yeah, I mean, I get what you’re saying, because you’re seeing all… each other in person, sometimes maybe you don’t need to go as deep in the Marco Polo group, because you can just talk about it when you see them in person next week kind of thing. Like that totally makes sense that there is a shift. But I think that’s good, too. I don’t know, maybe just like, talk about or acknowledge for the podcast, because there are gonna be people listening. Because I do think that sometimes when that shift happens, it might give some people anxiety. Like, it’s something bad happening to the group. But obviously, just as life changes happen, and availability happens, you don’t have to see each other in person, that obviously means that the ways you’re spending time and connecting and communicating are shifting too.
Brenda Bloczynski 31:05
Yeah, I mean, there’s one girl that I see every week, one of the girls I see every week. And then one of the girls actually move to… so we are in Lynwood area, and one of them moved an hour and a half north. And, obviously, we love to see her on Marco Polo as often as we can, because we don’t get to see her as often in real life, in person. She does make a lot of effort to drive back and forth as much as she can. She’s going through some health issues. So you know, we also try and go and see her as often as we can. I’m actually on my way up there in a little bit after we’re done with this. I’m gonna go see her. We do try to do at least one weekend away every quarter if we can, whether that means like… the last one that we had was very close by. It was like Snoqualmie. So, it wasn’t that far from where we are. But it was enough of a distance to be able to be together and we were celebrating birthdays, and there’s a few things that we were celebrating for that. We miss that too. Like sometimes we just want to be with our girls for the whole day and do all the things that we want to do. And the beautiful thing about when we do girls weekends is that we all go and we just decide what we get to do. You know, like some girls don’t like to go on a hike. So some of the girls might stay back. And it’s okay. It’s just like, whatever you want this weekend to be, that’s what it’s going to be for you. And then hopefully, we’ll all hang out together at some point. And what ends up happening most of the time is we eat a lot of great food that some of us make. I’m not one of the good cooks there, so… but you know, like we eat lots of great food, we have lots of great company. And we do sometimes get out, you know, like somebody might want to go to… for a hike. But we all always come together for a meal, whether it’s dinner or breakfast, we’re always together for one of the meals, at least.
Alex Alexander [Narration] 33:15
I love that. That’s kind of how we travel with our friends. I like it because like instead of moving as a group of 15, all the time, couple of people will go off and they’ll do something they want to do and it gives them time to connect, then they’ll come back to the group and then, you know, some other people are off. Like it gives time for those smaller groups or one on one connections. Because I think sometimes we forget that like the group is built of, like your group, like 15 individual relationships. Some of which you’re like really close to someone, maybe some… you’re only close in one area of life, you really talk about like one common thing. So, you have to like allow time for those bonds. It’s not just the 15 together all the time, like the 15 together happens because of those individual connections. Like do you feel like you are closer, maybe to certain people, even if it’s just like certain areas than others?
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Brenda Bloczynski 34:18
Yeah, for sure. There’s things that we have in common, you know, with a smaller part of the group, but we allow for everybody to show up however they want, you know? And so I think sometimes when you’re in a big group, maybe you know this is just me, but you feel like you have to either entertain or be entertained by somebody. And there’s got to be conversation happening, like awkwardness. There’s some awkwardness. Sometimes people might think that there’s awkwardness, but when you allow people to just show up however they are, and you show up authentically yourself, you know, there’s days where I don’t want to talk. I just want to listen to them because it’s fun. Then it just allows you to relax and really enjoy the time together, because you know that you don’t have to fill in the void or the quiet awkwardness. I think that’s so special too about this group.
Alex Alexander [Narration] 35:10
I always tell people that one of my favorite things is when somebody falls asleep on my couch, like if we’re having a bunch of people over to watch a game or have a meal or something. And let’s say, whether it’s just one person, or maybe it’s a couple, so the couple’s there, and one person really wanted to come, they have the energy, they’re excited, they’re talking to everyone. And the other person is just there, because like, they wanted to be with everyone, but they’re really, you know, have had a long day, they’re really tired. So, they’re quiet on the couch. And then they maybe, let’s say, fall asleep. And they inevitably, apologize, like, “Oh, my gosh, I’m so sorry, I fell asleep.” And I’m like, this shows me that you’re comfortable enough to just be yourself here. Like you wanted to be with other people, so you showed up. But you’re also exhausted. Like, this actually is the most endearing thing to me.
Brenda Bloczynski 36:06
Yeah, what an honor, right? That you can be maybe a safe place for them to be okay falling asleep. You have to have a connection, you have to have some sort of a trust.
Alex Alexander [Narration] 36:16
Yeah. But it’s kind of that idea, right, of like, what you were saying about hosting. When I have people or when people are together, what we’re all looking for, is to just simply do what we want to do, to like exist together. It’s a lot of trust on their part to just like fall asleep on my couch. But also, it’s trust on my part as the person who, quote unquote, is “hosting” that, you know, I could be thinking, oh, my gosh, they’re so bored. Or do they even have fun tonight? Maybe I shouldn’t have told them I wanted them to come. Maybe they felt pressured. And instead, I’m just simply like, okay, well, I’m gonna trust that they wanted to be here and be around everyone, but they’re tired. And I’m just going to trust that on all accounts, they’ve done what they wanted to do, and that we’re just all going to like simply exist together.
Brenda Bloczynski 37:08
That’s a good point. It’s a good point. Yeah. And I think that’s another thing that you kind of get to know people as you do life with them. You know that maybe they did want to show up. But it’s okay for me to say, hey, I want you here. And it’s okay for them to show up however they are or not, or say to you, “Maybe not today, because I’m tired”, or whatever. So, yeah, we do have a lot of that too where we make sure, you know, some of us have FOMO, we want to do all the things with everybody. But then there’s days where we can’t. We can’t show up. Actually, as we talk about this, I kind of want to shift the conversation a little bit and kind of show you something that I thought was really important for one of the friendships in particular in this group. One of our girls is going through a cancer journey, she found out she has cancer, I would say in the summer of last year. And so we’ve been walking her through this journey. And one of the girls, it was going to be her birthday. And this person felt like she wasn’t helping as much with our friend that is going through cancer. I’m the planner, I’m the… let’s make a birthday celebration happened somehow. And so I reached out to her and I was like, how do you want to celebrate your birthday? And she said something to me that kind of struck me like, no, no, this is not the friendship that… this is not who we are. She said, “I don’t want to make anybody celebrate my birthday when I haven’t been showing up to, you know, whatever, to take care of our friends or to other birthdays.” And I said, “Listen, if you don’t want to celebrate your birthday because you don’t feel like celebrating your birthday, then I’m fine with that. We don’t all have to celebrate our birthdays. If you don’t like celebrating, that’s fine. But if you don’t want to celebrate your birthday with us because you think that you haven’t showed up enough, let me tell you right now that nobody’s keeping score. And that’s not the kind of friendship that this is. We’re not going to let you get away with this just because…” Her job was really demanding at that point. So nobody was thinking, where is she or why is she not helping. You know, but she felt like she wasn’t showing up enough. And I just had to tell her like, “No, this is not how this friendship works. It is not like a 50-50. You haven’t put in your 50 and therefore you don’t get to celebrate your birthday with us. Like we love you. We want to celebrate you. And we can be respectful about the fact that you might not want to celebrate, but we’re not gonna let you not celebrate because you don’t feel like you deserve it.”
Alex Alexander [Narration] 39:51
Yeah, like her capacity is currently capped with work. This happens with people with younger kids or somebody who’s caregiving. I mean, there’s sick… there’s a million reasons somebody’s capacity is capped. And we’re saying it’s just like, everybody recognizes that. That’s okay. This is not your moment to be the one, like the driving force on everything. Like it’s okay to just show up sometimes.
Brenda Bloczynski 40:18
Well, and let us love you too, right? Like, why would you not let us love you? You can’t stop us from loving you and wanting to celebrate you. So…
Alex Alexander [Narration] 40:27
What a beautiful thing you’ve done for your friend by just… I mean, basically, you’ve been like, listen, you don’t need to earn our love. We all care about you. Right? Your friend doesn’t get to decide the gatekeep… people caring about her. You get to decide. And you decide you care about her, you want to celebrate her. So you can say, you don’t want your birthday to be celebrated. But otherwise, you don’t get to pick us loving you. Like what a beautiful gift to give your friends and be like, “No, no, no, no. We care about you. It’s not how this works.” Because I think we all do that. We shut ourselves out sometimes.
Alex Alexander [Narration] 41:06
This episode is such a beautiful example of these friendships, this group, this community building out of something so simple as basically a group chat. But I keep coming back in this episode, to all the places we are holding ourselves back from connection. And as I just called out in the section, this is such a great example of not feeling like you’re maybe worthy of a celebration, feel like you’ve earned a celebration. Let that sink in for a second. And feel like you have to earn being loved on by your people. Oof that’s a rough one. And after this little soundbite that I’m clipping in here, I go on to talk about this idea of reciprocity. You’ve heard me talk about this before. But as you listen to what I’m about to say, think about all the areas we hold ourselves back here. Like if somebody that is a friend of a friend offers to show up for you to drop off a meal and you find yourself saying, “No, no, no, no, it’s okay. You don’t need to do that.” Why are we doing that? Probably because I’m going to offer the idea that we don’t feel like we’ve earned it? Why do we feel like we need to earn being cared for. And then to continue and flip it around, those moments where maybe you want to show up for somebody where you have the capacity to drop off a meal to a friend of a friend. And you think, well, I’m not close enough to do that for them or that might be weird, that might be overstepping. When in reality, in a moment that somebody’s at their rock bottom, they could use all the help anybody has capacity to give, just some thoughts. When you read about or hear about friendship, for the most part out there, there’s all this talk like reciprocity, right? Like, I do this for you. So, you do it back for me. And there’s like this equal exchange. And I don’t really like that way of looking at it. I talked about nourishment. So the idea is like, I figure out the ways I can nourish the people around me. There’s certain things I can’t do, I don’t pressure myself to do it. And I just trust that in the moments where I need nourishment, I’ve surrounded myself by people that when I put it out there, will nourish me back. And sometimes I put things out that, like they might not even directly go back to you. They might be that your brother’s family needs something and it just happens to fall in my skill set. Right? So cooking, like cooking is my skill set. So you might say, you know, my brother got in an accident. I don’t even know if you have a brother. I hope he does not get an accident, knock on wood. And, you know, it’s been really hard for them to cook with all their kids. And then I can like, you know, I could drop off a meal. And I have totally done this for people. And although that’s not directly nourishing you, it is taking a worry off your plate instead of it feeling like that’s the only thing you think it’s something you need to do, even if it’s not your way of showing up. Like even if you’re not a cook. That tends to be how I think of it. And then in moments where you’re saying like somebody’s at capacity, they need to be nourished in that moment. And when they have more capacity, they can hopefully step in and help others. Like I think it’s just less of this back… like tit for tat kind of thing.
Brenda Bloczynski 45:01
Yeah. And I think when you are not expecting them to show up, like you’re not doing it for them to show up, then when they do, it’s a gift. It’s a gift for them, because they know you’re not expecting it. It’s not something that they have to do. And it’s also a gift for you or your family, or, you know, whoever they’re doing it for that whatever it is that they did. So yeah, we have some girls that are definitely the ones that make the big meals, like, you know, like I was telling you, with our girl that is going through cancer, we have one girl… well, there’s actually a few of them that make the food and then some of us go and drop it off, because they might not be able to drive that far. And so now, I think after almost three years, if not three years, I have lost track of time since COVID happened. It’s about three years. Now we know our strengths. Right? Like, so now we know who we want to cook, or who would be the best person to take that role. Like I said, I’m the planner. I like to plan, I like to organize. I’m good at cleaning, maybe you know? And I can drive people around. I’m… I’m most of the time, the one that drives people around. My car is big enough that we can fit quite a few people in there. And I enjoy driving, I actually get motion sickness, so I prefer to drive. And so yeah, we all have our thing, right? And some of us right now can’t. Like, you know, the one that maybe has the younger kids, she might not necessarily be able to do the driving or, you know, but she shows up in ways that she can. Just knowing also your community and knowing who might be able to do something, or how that they fit in into whatever is happening, like for us right now taking care of this girl, one of the girls is a nurse. And so, she went and spent the first couple of nights with our girl after her surgery, and another one went and made some freezer meals. And I’m gonna go up today and check on her and see what’s happening with… you know, I’m the one that is more able maybe to help her clean up because I don’t mind blood or you know, whatever it is that comes with that. And, you know, our friend has a great community up there to where she’s living now. She has built a great community. And one of the things that we’re so grateful is that she allows us to be a part of that journey. She has walked us through her journey with her. Like she has allowed us to be right there with her through her journey, and we are more able to now take care of her, because we know what she needs, right? Because she’s open enough to say, “Hey, today, this is what I need.” And one of us will figure out how to get it… get it done or you know, bring it to her if it’s something that she needs. So that’s another thing. It’s like, sometimes when we’re going through difficult things, we want to keep it to ourselves, or we want to figure it out ourselves. A lot of the times, we need that community to be able to get through it, right? So the fact that she has allowed this group and other people into her life, and she’s been so open about all the things that she’s been going through, like I have learned so much about how to support somebody in a situation like this, because she allowed me to be there for her. So I have so much respect for people that go through this. And not that I didn’t before, but I just didn’t know what it meant, right? Like, there’s so many things that you just don’t know, because you don’t know them until you have to walk with somebody, or walk yourself through something like that. So…
Alex Alexander [Narration] 48:47
Yeah, she’s let you into the messy and the vulnerable and you get to see it.
Brenda Bloczynski 48:52
Yeah. And we really like, are so grateful that she has allowed us to be part of that and to love her so much, you know, like, however we can. I was able to go to a couple of her appointments. You know, I wasn’t able to do all the things and you know, you’ve talked about this on the podcast. We don’t necessarily need one person to be all of it for you. It’s hard. It’s hard to be the only one to do something with somebody. But when you have a community like this where the strength of others can be a way, you know, like to serve this person, and she’s allowing us to do it. It’s just so magical too. It brings me to tears sometimes to see her posts on Facebook or Instagram where she is going through something, her surgeries or her chemo or whatever she’s going through. And it brings me to tears to see how many people have been supporting her, right? And I’m right there with her. And she’s like a sister to me. Like she’s the one that… we’ve been friends for, I don’t know over 10 years now. So out of the whole Group, this friend is the one that I know, she’s actually the one that brought me to this church, she invited me to the church. And so, she pretty much is the one that has opened so many doors or, you know, helped me. It was really hard for me, she’s like a sister to me. And so it was really hard when she had that diagnosis. And, of course, it’s hard for her, right? And I can’t even imagine what was going through her head. And then you want to support your friend. And I felt like I haven’t shared this with many people. But I felt like, so heavy, right? Like this whole thing now fell on our laps with her diagnosis, and then all of a sudden, it’s like, but we don’t have to do it alone, because we have so many other people that we’ll be able to help with food or doctors prevents, running her from where she lives. Because she was coming all the way to Kirkland to do her chemo. So that’s a long drive. We would meet halfway, sometimes, we would meet her sister in law halfway so that we didn’t have to do that big drive just one person. So yeah, I mean, it’s just, you need that community. I think we were created, or, you know, like, us, as people, we, we are meant to be in community.
Alex Alexander [Narration] 51:17
We are meant to be in community.
Brenda Bloczynski 51:18
If go back to like, the caves, we needed that community to survive. And I think we still do. We still need that community. It’s been difficult to see that now that we have social media and you know, like, there’s so many ways where we feel like, we can hide. And the reality is, we need the community. And it’s such a beautiful process to create your community. And when you know that you already have it, to allow them to show how they can lift you up, or how you can lift them up too. I could talk about this all day. So…
Alex Alexander [Narration] 52:01
We aren’t meant to do this life alone. I firmly believe that, that we are not meant to do this life alone. And, you know, I think if this episode illustrates anything, it’s I do think that technology and social media and apps and whatnot, like they’re tools. They’re tools, but it’s what we decide to do with them and how we take it, and like connected into that real life where we are being more vulnerable. Like if you never open up and allow it to go outside of that, then I think that’s where a lot of people get in, in trouble. And in trouble, meaning like they feel so disconnected, even though, quote unquote, “connection” is at our fingertips all the time. Thank you so much for this beautiful, beautiful example of how something so simple as a Marco Polo favorite things group, and a little time and some intention can grow into such a flourishing, supportive community. It doesn’t happen overnight. But it definitely is possible. Like this is such a great example for people that are seeking that. So thank you so much for sharing with anybody. If you have any last, like things you want to share about the group or to people?
Brenda Bloczynski 53:32
If there’s anything that anybody is going to take away from this is, it might not be easy, but it is so worth it to open yourself up and be vulnerable. And you know, like, of course I’m talking about, you don’t need to share all the things with everybody. I’m actually a very private person. And I don’t share a lot of things with people that I just met. But it’s okay to just allow yourself to be you wherever you go. And that will attract the people that you want to have connection with. I think that’s one of the things that I have noticed, even with my life is that if I just show up authentically, then the people that are attracted to that will come to me and I will be able to create friendships. And you’re not going to please everybody. You’re not going to be friends with everybody. And you have to be okay with that. I think the relationship that you have with yourself first, when you have a good relationship with yourself and then you bring that to other places, you are able to… somehow the energy or whatever it is, you know you start attracting the people that you want in your life and they might not stay forever. They might just be there for a little bit of time. But it’s so worth it to just show up yourself, authentically yourself, allow the relationship to run the course that it needs to run and just enjoy it while you have it.
Alex Alexander [Narration] 55:10
Whether it’s short or long, it was real.
Brenda Bloczynski 55:13
And there is a reason. You’re going to find something, you’re going to learn something from them. They might learn something from you, whatever it is that you can offer at that point, and just let it do what it’s supposed to do.
Alex Alexander [Narration] 55:25
Yeah. Let it be. Well, thank you so much, Brenda. This was such a great… this was such a great convo. This was so good.
Brenda Bloczynski 55:33
Thank you for having me. Such a pleasure.
Alex Alexander [Narration] 55:36
There we have it friends. And inside, behind the scenes example of how somebody took something so simple as a Marco Polo group, and turned it into this thriving community in their lives with the ups and the downs and the hard times. We got examples of the types of conversations, the intentional small acts of vulnerability that added up over time. Like this episode was so rich, and so many tangible examples that any of us, myself included, you, your friends could implement into our lives. Be sure to head to the show notes, and check out where you can find Brenda and her work. Pop over and ask her some questions if you feel like it. With that, I’ll see you next week.
Alex Alexander [56:37]
Thank you for listening to this episode of Friendship IRL. I am so honored to have these conversations with you. But don’t let the chat die here. Send me a voice message. I created a special website just to chat with you. You can find it at alexalex.chat. You can also find me on Instagram. My handle, @itsalexalexander. Or go ahead and leave a review wherever you prefer to listen to podcasts. Now if you want to take this conversation a step further, send this episode to a friend. Tell them you found it interesting. And use what we just talked about as a conversation starter the next time you and your friend hang out. No need for a teary Goodbye. I’ll be back with a new episode next week.