“Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind; "Pooh!" he whispered. "Yes, Piglet?" "Nothing," said Piglet, taking Pooh's paw. "I just wanted to be sure of you.” ― A.A Milne, The House at Pooh Corner
This last seven months has prompted behaviors from me akin to pioneers circling the wagons preparing for attack. In my wagon train is a wide coterie of family and friends. I have wagons full of sisters, some genetically linked while others are connected to me through history, shared experiences and common bonds. I have friendships that have lasted more than fifty years kept alive with regular phone calls and visits. And I have relationships equally strong that do not receive that frequent nurturing yet when we are together, revert to an immediate intimacy that belies our long separation. My friendships form intersecting and overlapping circles: junior and senior high school friends, college friends, neighbors, parents of my children’s friends and sports teammates, colleagues from several different schools where I taught, my central office colleagues, friends of friends, book discussion groups and my newest group of friends are my Les Poissons Gallery friends. In the past several months, technology has fueled our communication and networking. Google Duo and Zoom have allowed us to safely see each other on occasion, enjoy happy hour and host lengthy discussions. However, I still miss my friends!
There is something about the interactions of women that encourages a camaraderie with open and honest displays of need, support, advocacy, strength and comfort. Women talk, really talk, candidly sharing who they are and who they want to be. More importantly girlfriends listen, balancing what they hear with what you feel. Girlfriends hear what is not said: unspoken fear, misdirected anger, and mounting insecurities. And immediately switch to cheerleader, promoting your abilities and championing your causes. Girlfriends will cry with you, drink with you and kick ass for you!
I am blessed to have cultivated a sorority of friends; loyal and loving. Some friendships are delicate and require sustenance, nurturing and even some pruning to thrive and grow. Other relationships are strong and steady with a shared interdependence that showcases the individuality of the friends. Then there are alliances forged by shared experiences that transcend the years catapulting the friends back to who they once were. Each and every relationship is special and valued!
Yet, this pandemic has exploited those relationships, leaving friends and family divided by their choices about safety. Anxiety is already surfacing as the holidays are quickly approaching and we rethink family gatherings! For many, staying home for work and school promotes feelings of abandonment and loneliness and it is a short, slippery slope towards self-pity. Some throw caution to the wind and socialize indiscriminately, others pay homage to the precautions but still mingle and mix with multiple groups. And then there are those who recognize their vulnerability and isolate themselves from all but a few.
You can find respite and sanctuary in an art gallery. The gallery encourages you to engage with a variety of artists through their displayed works, a safe and socially distanced protocol. The artists provoke you to explore your emotions without pretense or expectations; they invite you into a world created especially for you, your memories and dreams. They paint what they see but understand that it is your vision that transcends that painting from a picture to art. This symbiotic relationship between artist and viewer is built on caring. The artist skillfully manipulates the viewer to care about what he sees, and in caring will find a deeper connection with the piece of art. This may be a sign of the times, but this sounds, rather oddly, like the beginning of friendship to me!