“Much unhappiness has come into the world because of bewilderment and things left unsaid.”
― Fyodor Dostoevsky
Author Terry Tempest Williams spoke at the Madison Public Library a couple of years ago. I eagerly listened to her tell stories of her creative process and her life as an environmental activist. As an advocate for Nature, she is a voice in the political arena, speaking and writing for a crucial entity that has no verbal communication of its own. Often her advocacy comes down to what she calls “Difficult Dinner Parties” where she engages with leaders of various types in discussions of how their actions and policies affect the environment.
In today’s political climate, there could be many reasons why hosting a “Difficult Dinner Party” might be advantageous for coming to understand a different point of view from friends, colleagues, even loved ones. Unfortunately, due to the threat of coronavirus, getting together for dinner isn’t an option in many cases.
Consequently, communication in a convivial setting has been hampered. To me, that’s a sad thing. I think it’s a morale-buster. Maybe it’s not the biggest problem we face in these difficult times, but I sure do miss a good dinner party — the preparation, the anticipation, the conversation, the communication of shared food, shared words, shared ideas, shared affection.
“Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary. The people we trust with that important talk can help us know that we are not alone.” ― Fred Rogers
How many different cultures have a ritual of gathering together at table to confer? Conference tables still occupy the high-rise offices of the most sophisticated enterprises. Maybe they only serve water and coffee, but the origin seems the same to me.
“Communication is truth; communication is happiness. To share is our duty; to go down boldly and bring to light those hidden thoughts which are the most diseased; to conceal nothing; to pretend nothing; if we are ignorant to say so; if we love our friends to let them know it.”
― Virginia Woolf
Here’s hoping that around the globe, we will be able to return to conversation around the table, that we will create safe and hospitable places and times to communicate directly and honestly, that we will come together to build bonds of understanding and friendship.
Thanks to our guest host for this week’s challenge theme, a horse named Biasini. I’m sure you’ll want to follow the link to learn more about that!
When did you learn cooperation? When did you learn give-and-take? Who taught you? Your mother or father? How did it make you feel?
Did you have siblings? Besides sharing parents, did you share a room? A closet? A bathroom? Did you share your emotions?
Have you ever had a partnership with just one very special person? How long did it last? How did you manage that?
Partnering isn’t easy…but it isn’t hard, either. It takes concerted effort, for which humans are actually well-equipped because we have quite an advanced way of communicating. It gets more complicated with more partners involved, of course. I think the rewards are increased in the process. Wouldn’t it be great if we could enjoy the partnership of all living things? After all, we share one planet.
This post is a feature article in this month’s Be Zine. To view the entire blogazine, clickHERE.
I had all but disqualified myself from writing about Friendship this month. “I have no friends,” I thought, envisioning ladies’ magazine coffee klatch groups, beer commercials and Facebook statistics. I don’t have the requisite exercise buddy, shopping buddy, or the Oprah-sanctioned “5 Friends Every Woman Should Have”. That little childhood rhyme started playing in my head: nobody likes me, everybody hates me, I guess I’ll go eat worms.
I’ve decided to re-frame the topic.
I do not have a lot of friends. I do not make a point to get together with acquaintances to socialize. I am an introvert and was raised by introverts. I didn’t have birthday parties or play dates as a kid. I had one good friend who lived two doors down, and we played together almost every day. He was a year younger than I and a boy. When I was in 5th grade, a girl joined my Sunday school class, bringing the class total to three – myself, the rector’s son, and this new best friend. She still sends me Christmas cards. When I moved from Illinois to California the summer before high school, I had to start all over. After a year, I had made a good friend who was a year older than I. She was a bit bossy, but she connected me to the Girl Scout troop, the school choir, the Italian club, and my husband. I was 15 when she introduced us. I was 45 when he died. Later that year, I met someone online – a bookseller who’d just finished a course in Spiritual Psychology. I’d found my new best friend. We’ve been together for almost 8 years.
photo credit: Carol Toepke
What I know about Friendship is not about quantity. It is about quality. I think I have enjoyed all the important health benefits that Friendship adds to life distilled into a few precious draughts. To feel that freedom that creates well-being, we have to be able to establish a trust that allows me to be completely myself; we have to create a safe vulnerability. Honesty, copious communication, time, and kindness are the key ingredients. For me, this doesn’t happen easily. It takes concerted effort. More often, I find myself in relationships with mentors or students. I feel quite comfortable as a student or a teacher. Those are roles I can hide in. To be in a true friendship, I have to come out of hiding and operate in an arena of wholeness and equality…which is far more risky. A tremendous accomplishment of my 24 year marriage is that I know that I can survive and thrive while being fully open to another human being. Still, I suppose it has to be the right human being. And those are rare.
The love of a true friend is extraordinary. It goes beyond the giddiness of fun, beyond the pleasantries of companionship, beyond the nobility of human kindness, beyond the affirmation of attraction. The love of a true friend is challenging. It asks you to be entirely forthcoming. It asks you to question your habits and assumptions. It asks you to change and react to change. It asks you to be the best you can be. And it asks you to challenge your friend in return. Because of this dynamic love, life is never boring and your relationship never goes stale. Because of the trust you build, you can enter into the most intense realities of life with some security and the sense of adventure. As my husband used to say after another trip to the hospital, “Never a dull moment!”
My calendar is not full of lunch dates or parties; my phone doesn’t ring for days at a time. Still, I have tasted the best of Friendship and grown braver, healthier, happier and wiser. And no worms were harmed.
This post was written for The Be Zine which is dedicating its April issue to International Poetry Month. As a Contributing Editor, I am honored to be able to join with truly accomplished poets in celebrating Poetry, but I am well aware that my skills do not match those of my colleagues! Treat yourself to some truly substantial fare by visiting the magazine here.
My favorite poetry is philosophy dressed in dreaming, not logic. It imagines a larger reality, a more expansive love. Rilke is the gold standard, I think. Oh, but that is the pièce de résistance, and there’s so much more besides that. I am a poem consumer, not a gourmet chef. I know very little of form or craft, but I love to taste and participate. So I’ve written a love poem to my late husband because, well, you might as well start with breakfast.
Thick, boyish lashes fringe Other eyes, perhaps as blue, Open, tender toward Beloved
Still smiling youths may offer Eager grins, warm confidence Gleaming ‘neath soft whiskered lips
Clear voices might ring Thrilling, gentle as yours when
You sang at daybreak just for me
Surely now first loves make vows, Grow mature together, devotion’s Friendly joy becoming solid strength
Fathers must bend heart and arm Wrap manhood’s grace boldly around Each golden, blessed child – like you
No doubt live sorrowing pairs With looming loss, still holding, Fingers trembling, to brave last words
I cannot boast an only, greatest grief; I know this storied world is vast. But still I weep in fond belief That you and I loved first and last.
“The Universe has been telling me to focus on Love. ” That’s exactly what I’ve been hearing, too!!
I’ve been working on editing this month’s issue of the Be Zine coming out on the 15th on the theme “Nature: Wilderness, Gardens, and Green Spaces”. I discovered (or re-discovered) that it’s all about our relationship to this Place. Our existence is about a relationship. ALL of existence is about a relationship (don’t take my word for it – ask Albert Einstein!). In other words, it’s ALL about Love.
Love makes the world go ’round. Not just our love for others of our species, but the Love that holds all of Life in its embrace. Respect it all!
Well, this is an obvious one. After all, I am a widow. How can I forget the love of my life, my one and only husband, the father of my four children and the man who bought me my first Canon (an AE-1 for Christmas when I was 17)? I am in a wonderful relationship now with a new partner, Steve, and he’s featured in many of my posts. But Jim is my first love, the man who was beside me for 30 years, from the time I was 15. So much of my adult formation took place in those years, even though profound change has happened since. Shortly after Jim died, I became an empty-nester, I sold our home, and I stopped practicing evangelical Christianity. Gone are my ‘suburban mom’ characteristics…the van, the mortgage, the disposable income, the salaried position with a Christian company in my home town, the prayer groups and Bible studies, the daily involvement with my kids. My life is definitely different. I am much more independent and self-reliant now. But I haven’t forgotten how well loved I was, how dedicated Jim was to taking care of me. As his best friend said at his memorial service, he was a Prince of a man. And he was definitely Charming.
Rarely do I have an unobstructed view of a landmark. Typically, those are BIG things, and there’s something in front of them. Well, if that’s the way it is, then I guess that’s my point of view.
It kind of makes you think about focal points and how you see the world. Steve is always saying that he’s ‘holistic’. He likes to see how the whole picture connects. I usually try to organize the world in a more linear fashion by taking out the thread that I’m interested in and laying it out flat for observation. Compartmentalizing, he calls it. So after I’ve drawn out various parts and examined them, he squishes them together again. We’ve gotten over fighting about this; now it’s an exercise that edifies both of us.
Take it apart; put it together. Try to see the world from someone else’s point of view. Yeah, that’s a good practice.