Sunday, August 16, 2015

Camaraderie and joie de vivre

Indigent Smurf, Goes by name "Papa"
Gillian Cornwall, c August 15, 2015

How does it happen - the change from fine to not fine? How do we lose our ability to commit - socially, financially, with friends, or with lovers? When did the fear roll in like a weighty summer storm, our personal barometric pressure rising and falling throughout the day without warning or comprehension of the cause. When did we stop going to visit each other at home or say "yes" to a simple dinner invitation? When did we lose our ability to commit and begin to favour couch and Netflix over the company of friends and loved ones? When did we become too "busy" for one another? Are we afraid our homes are not fine enough to share with friends if we lack the granite counter tops and stainless steel appliances (thank you, HGTV)? Why don't you come over to my not-so-styling,1970's apartment building so we can discuss it over a glass of wine or a cup of tea?

There is no purpose in looking to me for the answers. This week, I haven't the answers - just more questions. I will speculate along with the best of them but I can't make any facts stick. My first speculation leans to perceived time available and fear - fear of commitment to anything or anyone. Maybe it's too much choice so we wait and wait for the best option until all the options have passed us by and we go back to our Netflix and Facebook. 

Maybe it's just me and this is just self-serving tripe; however, it is harder to get people to commit to a coffee date (no, I don't mean a "date-date," just a get together), lunch, brunch, dinner, walk, trip to Tahiti - anything really.... This isn't a judgement piece either, because while I am frustrated by it, I do it as well - often. I worry that I won't have the money, the energy or the time when the time comes to join / participate or I feel anxious about the tasks I have set for myself in my own life and I don't think I've time to stop to be with the people I want to get to know or the people I love. 

Weird. I never used to be this way. Is it a symptom of ageing? I hope not... I don't want to be a "fuddy-duddy." I think just writing "fuddy-duddy" kind of makes me one and now I've gone and done it twice! 

I wonder how much of it has to do with SNS (social network service) usage. One study by Daria Kuss and Mark D. Griffiths in the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health from 2011 certainly indicates a negative correlation with people who spend more time in SNS and spend less time socializing IRL (in real life). This being said, I have a group of wonderful friends who use SNS to facilitate their IRL experiences - to meet for coffee, meals and activities - and I love these folks. I want more of this. The strange thing is I don't see them that often because they have more expendable income for socializing because they are, for the most part, in couples. Again - not judging, just saying that I think it makes it easier. 

I do some things alone. I take myself on walks, I go shopping and I take myself to events but it would be awfully nice to do more things with a friend. At times, I wonder if new female acquaintances are concerned that I am "asking them out" so they say they are busy to avoid a potential awkward refusal of a request for a date. If any of you are doing this, it's okay. If I am interested in you as more than a friend, I will tell you and then you can say, "no thanks" and we can just carry on with our friendship. 

I do get invited to large group social events by friends or through Meetup but I can find large group activities difficult as I am somewhat Introverted. I prefer socializing one-on-one or in small groups as I am distracted at events with large numbers of people. It renders me, well, out of focus - I can't concentrate on one person in the hum of voices. 

I am speculating. I don't know why I engage in social blocking behaviours. Maybe SNS leave me engaged and tired in one regard, but dissatisfied with the lack of actual physical presence in another. I do believe we need to be actually "with" one another at times. It's why I am flying half way around the world next month. I need to be "with" my UK friends and family. I need to look into the eyes of my relations for something that cannot be gleaned through Facebook. Don't get me wrong; I am eternally grateful for the social platforms with which I engage my community but I need more. I want them to lead me to your doors, to be present, to offer you my friendship and camaraderie. I don't care what your house is like or if you have things. I want to share stories with you, laugh with you, hold you when you are sad and alone and celebrate you in your successes. I want you to hear me cheer for you and pass you a cup of tea to comfort you. 

Perhaps there are a multitude of reasons for our increasing social anxiety, depression and disengagement from physical engagement with folks. Certainly being fifty, single, gay and less wealthy than some of my peers doesn't help, but I believe there are other reasons based on our tech age at play. Fear is at play. Anxiety is at epidemic levels in our society. Cultures outside of mainstream North American society seem to be suffering less with this, what is it? Do we have so much that we have seized up like an overtaxed mule with the burden of our wealth?

I hope I see you soon to discuss it. In the meantime, open the curtains. Look outside. Smile at a stranger on the street. Go meet someone for coffee. Draw a picture. Write a poem. Let's make sure we still can reach out beyond the comfort of the keyboard and see, smell, touch, hear and taste the world outside, with love and kindness. 

-Gillian Cornwall, c. August 16, 2015

This post is dedicated to the amazing group of individuals with whom I shared the weekend on Protection Island in August of 2015, with particular props to John and Sara - y'all stretch my heart. xo

 ...or let go
Gillian Cornwall, c August 2015

Peace, halfway
Gillian Cornwall, c. August 2015

Gillian Cornwall, c August 2015

wade in the water
Gillian Cornwall, c. August 2015


Cindy said...

Is it a coincidence that Gillian is a very similar work to brilliant?? I don't think so! And I am back in my work chair for mornings and I would love to go for coffee with you. will send an invitation.

Gillian said...

Oh thank you very much Cindy. You are so kind to me. Looking forward to seeing you on campus again!