9.21.2006

Unbreakable Bonds

Not one to sit back and wait for life to happen, I take the reins and whip the horse…gently. Along the way, I like others by my side, so I come up with an activity and elicit companions to join in. Sometimes I offer up a dinner party of a thoughtfully constructed guest list. Other times I pick up a couple of tickets to an event and place a call to extend an invite.

Very often I get responses like, “Oh, that sounds great, but I can’t plan that far ahead,” or, “It’s too last minute. I’m tired and don’t feel like heading out.” It’s as if I am trying to make plans with Goldilocks.

Word from those who have transplanted to Los Angeles is that it is a tough city in which to cultivate friendships. People are busy, exhausted by entertainment industry work schedules, too spread out, hidden in their cars, overwhelmed by the traffic, burdened by family and children, overextended, or simply waiting for a better offer.

Some days I take the ‘not this time’ in stride and just put out more invitations. On others, my insecurity punches me in the stomach as I convince myself that if I were further up the food chain, I’d have people lining up at my door for the simple pleasure of drinking water from my tap.

But when I can collect a group under one roof, pour wine and offer experimental dishes of assorted tastes arranged for the colors they embody, it’s worth all the frustrating phone calls and dead-end emails. On the night when friends and acquaintances gather, I have created community.

As I observe my guests talking and eating, I slide into an alternate reality where time slows. I inhale the shared laughter and sway in rhythm to the music that overtakes the room like a perfectly designed soundtrack. To me, this communal moment is the heart of life.

And I wonder if others need these gatherings the way I do, if my longing for community stems from a disjointed and erratic childhood, if I’m always looking for the familial connection I never felt I had.

Through very unscientific methods, I’ve discovered that those who often feel alien on the planet felt alien in their own childhood homes having inhabited the role of the outsider taking notes from the periphery. As the misplaced child, we shook our heads side to side wondering how we ended up where we did. By the time we moved out on our own, we wondered what that had all been about.

You either dissect it for the rest of your life or become a stand up comedian. Or both.

Or you look at your past as the launching ground that got you to the present. You recognize that it served a magical purpose that turned you into a therapist or an artist, a dedicated athlete or a writer.

It’s easy to wish we could rewrite the past, to cast ourselves into arenas that we imagine as the perfect fit, to erase any pain and hurt. But certainly it’s more valuable to identify the unique traits we developed from our unique circumstances, to embrace our role as survivors of pasts and childhoods that we claim we would never have chosen.

Sometimes I wish my childhood had offered me delicious memories of shared love and laughter and unbreakable bonds with siblings, rather than fostering the hungry observer fixated on understanding human behavior. But had I found my place of belonging, I may never have developed the eye and ear that serve me in my art. And without the powerful longing for connection, I never would have become queen of the dinner party. Self-crowned.

7 comments:

jen said...

I could have written (ok, not as well) your post...I am always on an eternal search for community and it's often proven elusive - and what you wrote makes sense..I never had the foundation for it.

Great post.

essgee said...

"To me, this communal moment is the heart of life."
To me too. Often it is very hard to arrange ... with friends or with family ... but I agree, it is blissful when it happens.

acumamakiki said...

Wonderful words here, words that spoke to my lonliness and frustration as an adult longing for good friendship and connections. I feel that I often settle, that I take what I can get in friendship while I continue to seek and reach out when I find a kindred soul.

Stefanie said...

Hey I need friends too! I came over via Neil and I like your writing. I live in the valley ( I know I know) and am a writer. I've had to give up a few friendships in the past couple of years due to I guess you could say "growing out of them." I have a daughter and a few of my friends (stand up comics) couldn't change with me. Anyway, I'll keep reading.

V-Grrrl said...

There's a reason the sitcom "Friends" was so enormously popular--it fed our fantasies and probably raised the national bar on what we expect from our "circle."

The pace and demands of American life are insane. God, even our leisure is seen as "something to do" and not "something to enjoy."

It takes time and a concerted effort to build friendships as an adult. It requires a commitment and level of openness that many people aren't willing to give.

When Mother Teresa commented on the "poverty" of life in the U.S., she was so right. We have so much and yet in some respects seem to lack everything that matters.

Neil said...

I actually get a little depressed reading blogs sometimes because the community and conversation is so much more vibrant and interesting than what I have in reality. But nothing can replace real people sitting around together and interacting. And you are right about Los Angeles. Maybe it is the driving culture -- but it is a difficult place to coordinate a social life. I think the driving and the distances make people less spontaneous.

ecm said...

Great perspective as always. Perhaps the desire for community is a basic need. There is this poem I love about a kid running away and ends about how all we really want in life is for someone to look for us and find us on a summer night. I'm paraphrasing, clearly, but I love the image. Your essay conjured it for me again.