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.
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.
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.