The Something Club

Al Fresco, by the Norwegian Artist, Steve Henderson

Not that I’d compare the Norwegian Artist to Solomon or anything, but he does come up with some savvy sayings on a regular basis.

One observation he has made is that our lives come in chapters, and that no one period, with all of its attendant problems and issues, lasts forever. Like a book chapter, it comes to an end, and a new aspect begins.

You know, times and seasons and Ecclesiastes and all that. Solomon said it first; but the Norwegian Artist updated it.

For the last five years, we’ve been in this overly adventurous and underly fun chapter involving interrelational drama such that this year’s job loss for the Norwegian Artist posted as anti-climatic.

“Oh. So the sole breadwinner is out after 17 years. Are those chocolate chip cookies in the oven?”

As we have for the last five years, we draw together closer as a family, a few, very few, close friends nearby for added support, and we do the things that need to be done that day. In an earlier chapter, we had a support network from a small club that we had been a part of for many years, but at the same time that the sushi hit the fan, the club underwent upheavals of its own in the way it was run, and we found ourselves being edged out onto the shoulder of the road, at just the time that we needed a shoulder to lean on.

Marie, by the Norwegian Artist, Steve Henderson

And we went on to discover something that I’m convinced everyone learns at some point in their lives — usually a low one — and that is that the people you thought were your friends, aren’t; and that the support network that you thought you have, you don’t; and that the oddest help will come from the most unusual places.

For quite awhile we struggled to stay in the club, convinced that this was the place to get the help we needed — simply because we had been told for so long that it is within groups like this that we would find warmth and acceptance and love and care.

At weekly meetings we were pressured to join a plethora of new activities, promised that these were the way to stay connected and “real” to one another. When we balked, we were tut-tutted; when we expressed our views to club officers we were listened to with earnest expressions and wooden ears; when we found ourselves walking in the snow during a special activity time we weren’t interested in, we asked ourselves why we were staying in what was, in effect, an abusive situation.

So we left, but it took awhile to make the complete break. The Norwegian Artist, who was raised in a similar club environment, dropped out, cleanly, three years ago, but I showed up at occasional picnics and funfests with the kids, unwilling to admit that, not only was this not working, it wasn’t healthy. The final moment came at a potluck after a swim party, when, surrounded in the food line by people who had known me for a dozen years, I could find as my only conversational companion an 11-year-old girl, a friend of Tired of Being Youngest.

(She was an excellent conversationalist, by the way, being willing to discuss books and movies and favorite ice-cream cake flavors as opposed to droning on about what we was supposed to have been learned in the latest club activity.)

That picnic led to my making the final break, not so difficult after all, but different. Not one club member has asked why we no longer attend, yet when we declare that we are no longer attending, the response from each is unanimous: “You need to come to the club. That’s where you get the love and support you need.”

Maybe they do, but we don’t. And maybe they’re just satisfied with a substitute, but we’re not.

Ascension, by the Norwegian Artist, Steve Henderson

And out here, outside of this particular club, we encounter a lot of people like us, who have tried similar clubs and been hurt; and others who have never walked through the door and never felt a need to. We speak both languages.

For some reason, as a national people, we interact heavily with one another through group situations, even defining the normalcy of a person by how many organizations he is a part of: school associations, office cliques, community sports teams, and yes, churches. While interacting as a group has its engaging and energetic moments — Ghost in the Graveyard is more fun with lots of people — relying upon community interaction as our primary means of connecting to one another lulls us into a false sense that our many acquaintanceships are actual friendships, that a weekly touching of bases will translate into all of our classmates being there during the long haul of chemotherapy sessions.

As Velveteen Rabbits, we are content with our sawdust stuffing, convinced that our many and myriad activities represent warm, pulsating flesh and blood.

Close of Day -- Original Oil by the Norwegian Artist, Steve Henderson of Steve Henderson Fine Art. Close of Day is sold.

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About This Woman Writes

Carolyn Henderson is the marketing manager of Steve Henderson Fine Art. In addition to her This Woman Writes blog, Carolyn writes a regular art column for FineArtNews, an online newsletter for artists and art collectors.
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4 Responses to The Something Club

  1. The problem with such clubs is that you rarely get one-on-one interaction, rarely get to really know people and be known. And so it’s no surprise that they cannot help when you struggle…chances are, they don’t even know you’re struggling, and you don’t know them well enough to tell them. Nor do you care to rain on their parade. For this reason, I too find it hard to join certain…clubs. It actually takes much more effort to small-talk than to talk about something important. But you can’t get to the important stuff, sometimes ever, when you’re all in a group together.

    Thank you for a thoughful post.

    • So, how do you get this much needed interaction with others? The beauty of the club situation is that it’s a weekly meeting with others; without it, it has been very hard to touch bases.

      While we are relieved to be away from the obligations and expectations, we have yet to find a way to regularly interact on a limited basis, so that we can follow up on a deeper one as needed.

  2. It’s quite surprising how much deliberate effort goes into making friends. When it comes to people from church, for example, I try and invite them to our house for dinner or a BBQ, not as a group, but individually. Sometimes you click with people right away, without putting in any effort, other times, all the lunches in the world will not create that connection.

    I am often surprised by the fact that I feel more at ease with an agnostic artist, Buddhist wall-climber, or Muslim NPR fanatic than I do with a Christian anything. Perhaps we’re just not looking in the right clubs?

  3. I, too, feel more comfortable with non-club members, and here’s a thought we have had: Many proponents of Eastern mysticism and New Age offshoots (although not the extraordinarily bizarre ones) gravitate this direction because much individual thought and participation is required. You are what you make it, so to speak, but you are expected to reflect, meditate, disciipline, and reach inside yourself to find wisdom and strength in your move forward.

    This is what Christianity should be all about, with the important addition that, when we reach down inside ourselves for strength, we don’t have to tap exclusively into what we have deposited there, but can draw upon the Maker of the Universe for his strength and wisdom.

    However, U.S. Christianity is very much a groupie thing, and discourages this individual journey (I think this is what the apostle Paul means when he talks about “working out our salvation”). Instead, acolytes are directed to classes, videos, mindless mass produced feel goody books by the Sage or Sagette of the day, and discouraged from walking their individual, narrow path. Thoughts outside of prescribed, approved ones are stared down, and it doesn’t take long before a person shuts up, goes along with it, or leaves.

    Have you tried this one in a group: “Say, what about all those people in the remote regions of China that haven’t had the slightest chance of hearing about Jesus Christ? Is it truly fair that they will go to hell simply because of where and when they were born — something determined by God in the first place, incidentally?”

    That’ll get the donut ripped out of your hand.

    People outside of the Christian establishment community are free to ask questions like these, and, like many of us who have been in that community, they don’t like the pat answers they’ve been getting.

    There are a lot of questions out there that, in the history of mankind, simply haven’t received a good answer. Rabbi Gelman of the God Squad (I love this synidicated column) refers to them as “mysteries,” because frankly, that’s what they are.

    I spend a lot of my time trying to phrase things and understand them in non-Christian short cut lingo. It’s a challenge.

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