PHONE RINGS, DOOR CHIMES, IN COMES COMPANY!
Her name was Debbie. What was I, 11? Maybe 12, when I met her? Yes, that sounds about right.
Her older brother was friends with my older brother, and they introduced us. And I remember that I went from not knowing Debbie to knowing Debbie in an instant. It was that fast. A light switch flipped on. We were best friends. And we did everything together.
NO STRINGS, GOOD TIMES, ROOM HUMS, COMPANY!
Sleepovers. Birthday parties. Trips to the beach. Vacations. Styling one another’s hair (badly). Crushes on boys. Double dates.
But mostly, just hanging out.
Looking back, it seems we had a lot of time for hanging out.
And you know what? I miss that.
LATE NIGHTS, QUICK BITES, PARTY GAMES
Apparently, I’m not the only one.
I’ve noticed people are hungry to connect in that way. I hear it all the time from clients and friends.
At first I thought it was just the Baby Boomers longing for days gone by. But then I realized all generations are susceptible to this ache. Even my twenty- and thirty-something clients bemoan the fact that they don’t have enough time to be with the people they care about.
Or find a community of people to care about.
DEEP TALKS, LONG WALKS, TELEPHONE CALLS
When I think about my own memorable experiences of community, I recall a brownstone in Brooklyn. The roof top. Warm summer nights. Calling people up at the last minute. No problem!
Or a tight-knit work team. Shared passions. Fiercely stating your beliefs. Collaboration. The gang’s all going to lunch!
Or the world of community theatre. Rehearsals. Costume fittings. Sitting with your buddies in front of those big mirrors, putting on makeup. Cast parties. Want to get together to learn lines?
THOUGHTS SHARED, SOULS BARED, PRIVATE NAMES
I’m sure you have your own powerful experiences of community and friendship, probably vastly different from mine. But whatever they are, such experiences are essential for our continued growth and development. They enable us to transcend loneliness and isolation and move toward belonging.
And remember, even Maslow’s famous hierarchy located friendship right in the middle of the pyramid. Not only was it a building block for goodies like self-esteem, confidence, creativity, and problem solving, but it was also the thing that moved us beyond an emphasis on individual safety and security.
ALL THOSE PHOTOS UP ON THE WALLS
Looking at Maslow’s pyramid, I sigh now and then. Because I wonder if we’ve regressed a little. Collectively, I mean. I worry that we’re losing touch with the art of friendship and community building. And we’ve holed up in our caves, focused on getting as much individual security as we can in order to create the illusion of safety.
I also grapple with the possibility that the more we become connected globally, the more we become isolated individually.
Strange paradox, isn’t it?
WITH LOVE FILLING THE DAYS
And as much as I adore my online community, I don’t think it’s exactly what Maslow had in mind.
Truth is, I miss seeing you arch your eyebrow right before you say something witty. Or how your face goes all goofy when you look at a dog. The sound of your laughter. How it feels to shake your hand or hug you.
WITH LOVE SEVENTY WAYS
Yes dearest, “with love”
From all those good and crazy people, your friends!
Those good and crazy people, your funny friends!
And that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?
That’s what it’s really about,
COMPANY! YEARS OF COMPANY! LOVE IS COMPANY!
And so, my friends, please talk to me about this.
Tell me about the art of friendship.
What’s been lost? What’s been gained? And where are we going?
The bold lines in this post are a song: Company, from the musical of the same name by Stephen Sondheim. Click here to listen:
Rustling sounds courtesy of Max the cat, who has a brief solo at the end.