A Small Matter of Friendship04/11/2020
Image: © Sam Manns
This global pandemic has wreaked havoc with friendships. I’ve come to truly understand just how fundamental friendships are.
Friendships transport us to other times and different selves, they nourish the soul and the best ones challenge us, spurring us on to become more ‘ourselves’. Friendships are the golden threads that shine through the fabric of everyday life. They light our paths in moments of darkness. They can show us pain, but also untold joy.My three-year-old used to love going to nursery. She would bowl in boldly, play and mingle with her mates, dance and sing. At pick up time, she didn’t want to leave.
I have witnessed in her from birth the powerful role of building close connections with others. Are our children sent to teach us more about ourselves, to test us? I have been lucky enough to hold life-long friendships, yet I am also deeply independent and cherish time alone. I have been blessed with a daughter whose favourite pastime is sitting on my lap, facing my forehead and rubbing noses, or just generally tapping my face. For hours.I fear she loves too well. Forming bonds that run deep, over pinks and purples, unicorns and princesses. Since COVID though her group has been divided and wrapped in bubbles. Bubbles have subdivided into cliques. Her friendships have faltered and I sense she is suddenly utterly unsure, searching for where to place her glittery Birkenstocks next, find her footing and lay her claim in the world (yes, she insists on sandals in late-October).
With this new routine of never really knowing where we will be going — ‘Is it a nursery day?’ she hesitantly asks each morning — or how long it will last. Nursery days start with intense negotiations about socks or leggings or dresses or T-shirts or long sleeves, and shades of pink or the blue that I let her believe is purple. Or anything really that might be able to draw a line in the sand in a battle of wills. But this is not just about fashion and frills, it is about identity and it’s about friendship. It’s a three-year-old’s way of finding out who she is today and building friendships based on shared passions: pinks. My weary inner-self gets that much.
On the last day before London entered Tier 2 restrictions, I had dinner in a restaurant with a friend. After the awkward arrival, wanting to hug but not being sure of how cautious you or the other person planned to be, and the relays to the bathroom to wash hands, we sat together and began talking.
This simply and absolutely filled my heart with joy.We smiled and laughed and things felt lighter. We reminisced about the past and talked excitedly about future plans (and the impossibility of making any). We encouraged each other’s dreams and listened to each other’s thoughts and fears. But the table was only ours for two hours, and the time just wasn’t enough.
The truth is that all this social distance and self-isolation is hindering us from expressing different sides of ourselves. We are permitted — expected even- to seamlessly continue working-self, obliged to follow through on the promise of parent-self. Yet somehow the selves that restore and regenerate the others: the carefree friend LOL’ing with pals and colleagues, the free-spirited live-music lover, or spontaneous exhibition goer, and the big family gatherer are all being closeted away and it can feel diminishing.
Yet it’s important to remember that for some who have been touched by the loss of life to this horrendous virus, friendship’s end can feel even more absolute. Along with the loss of shared identities ignited by each unique connection.For those of us fortunate enough to experience the brisk chill of November's first frost on our cheeks, let’s make a pact (little fingers ready) to nurture and protect the friendships we have. So how do we maintain the only thing that kept us going the first wave round?For my daughter, I’m hoping she is in the process of learning to be a little more independent herself, to feel confident and secure inside so that she doesn’t need to worry so much about what she is wearing on the outside, to make the first move in the dance of new friendships, to hold her own space.On my part, this winter I’m going to have to brave the freezing cold, because walks and chats outside in November, if done with a good friend, still warm the heart.
Read her further thoughts on Medium