CONGREGATING IN THE SLOW LANE

It turns out, there are a lot of variations of congregate meaning “to get together, join together, group together, party hearty.” With some fish, it also mean joining in union to make baby fish. Or is that conjugate?

But, there is no word which means “someone who congregates.” No congregator. Congregationalist? Do you have to join a group for that?Way back when, in the days when I had energy, enthusiasm, and I genuinely liked most people, I was enthusiastic about “getting together.” I was considered sociable and I almost agreed with that. I was never quite as sociable many thought. I was a party “edge person.” I would look for whoever was standing along at the edges of a party and engage them in conversation. I never like big groups of people in one place because you couldn’t have a conversation with anyone when everyone was there.

I made exceptions when I gave the party because if it was my party, I didn’t expect to engage in conversation. Party giving was more about flitting about and making sure everyone else was having a good time. I gave a few good parties through the decades (generations?), but mostly, I preferred having a friend or two or three — and a great conversation about everything.

Remember conversations that lasted until dawn? We covered philosophy, government, the meaning of life. Travel to the stars, reincarnation and the best books we’d read lately. No one got bored or left out.

Later, people got old. Died. Drifted into a world of their own, moved to senior housing “somewhere near their kids” which was always hundreds of miles from us. Others simply drifted. What we had in common — work was big — it was not relevant when we all had mostly quit working.

Those of us with functional marriages who really liked our partners have been the lucky ones. Singleness is fine when you are active enough to travel and gad about, but these days, it’s an abiding joy to have a partner whose hand you can hold while you watch old movies, cuddled by dogs with cold noses.

We’ve been talking lately about how few friends we have remaining. This isn’t unusual at our age. People leave and don’t come back. Many others don’t like traveling. Or driving any distance. More don’t like going places with which they are not familiar. Everyone like their own bed. If you have pets, it gets increasingly difficult to find someone to take care of them when you aren’t there.

We still have friends. They are old friends. Friends forever. Who knew the people we used to know and share memories of the times through which we’ve lived. Have common political and philosophical beliefs — and hopefully enjoy the same movies!

27 thoughts on “CONGREGATING IN THE SLOW LANE”

  1. Old friends are great. That is what is so nice about having moved to the Woodstock NY area, that a lot of the folks here are my generation, or a little older, or the children of these folks, so even some of the kids in their 20-30s grew up listening to the older music etc. and are actually nice kids, almost all musicians to some degree. It cheers me up.

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      1. It really is great in a way. Granted, many of the folks have clicques and friends forever and are not always open to someone new, but on theother hand, I went to hear a friend Robert Place (a famous tarot author and deck creator who lectures at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on the history of cards etc.), and the room had perhaps 15+ folks in it, and the vast majority were white-haired. Only about four of us admitted to reading cards, so the majority was there to learn about a subject new to them. The shop it was held at has a lot of spiritual materials, books, all kinds of eastern and western religions, speakers on many subjects from the cultural to the seemingly woowoo of channeling etc. It’s a great place that just celebrated 30 years in business, i thkn it was. They gave away free cake to anyone who wanted it, and gave discounts on items. On the other hand, homeless hippies in their 70s sleeping on park benches and in dumpsters due to everyone buying up places to use as airbnbs has ruined the affordablility of the place, and it is a tough situation for more than one person.

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          1. Hmm, I thought that in many churches, they have fellowship things. It’s too bad there is no coffeehouse, not to mention art or music–that’s a mainstay of civilisation! I hope you can at least get to someplace now and again for events–

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            1. We do. But Garry’s hearing problems make most group situations very difficult for him. What for others is discourse and conversation to him is just a racket. He can’t hear anything in large rooms with a lot of people — and if there’s background music, he is functionally completely deaf. So there are a lot of invitations we get, but we don’t go

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              1. Oh, that is so hard. I have a lot of difficulty processing sound and other stimuli, so I know how overwhelming that can be. Best wishes in figuring out what might work for him and for you–

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    1. True. We could have MORE friends if we really sought them out, but I don’t feel all that much like starting from scratch … and I also really need people who remember the stuff WE remember. Those people are formed of the same earth as we are 😀

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        1. No, it really isn’t easy. I think we are less willing to pull off our skins and show ourselves to the world. I’m more private than I was when I was young. Far less willing to explain myself to people who might not understand. It’s also difficult in a town where so few people have traveled anywhere. They have a narrow viewpoint. Not bad, mind you. Not bigoted or negative — just very narrow. They haven’t known anyone who wasn’t just like them. Makes it tricky for us to relate easily. It’s not that they don’t like us. More that they AREN’T like us.

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    1. It’s also sharing the same view of the world — and that, for me, means having lived long enough to recognize where we are coming from and how this relates to where we are. I get restless with kids because they see everything as “brand new.” I’m not brand new, and neither is the world 🙂

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  2. I have no interest in discussing anything any more. Teaching so long pretty much took that out of me AND the occupational hazard of being a teacher is you expect to be listened to, dammit, because there will be a quiz.

    I really appreciate my friends — most of whom are either people I could have or did know in my high school years or people I’ve met since I moved back to Colorado. I’m not very skilled at making or maintaining friendships because I’m pretty introverted, independent and solitary. I like people, but I don’t need them which is strange. My friendships are the cherry on the sundae of a mostly happy solitary life.

    You and Garry and all the people with happy marriages are truly very lucky, but it’s not the only possible happiness or good fortune out there, though many people think so. I used to think so. While I think it would be nice (in some respects) to have a functioning marriage, I don’t know anyone with whom I can imagine having such an arrangement. For one thing, there would be…discussions. I’m also quite cynical on the subject of “luv” at this point. I don’t think I have ever been with a man who authentically LIKED me. The key to a happy marriage — I think now — is that two people like and respect each other. It just didn’t happen for me that way. I know why, now, but there’s that bit about closing the barn door after the cow has gone. 🙂

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    1. I never intended to imply it was the ONLY way to go. But it is nice. I think by the time you get to where we are, most of us are not terribly sociable. I’m not unfriendly, but the idea of doing the emotional stripping down that it takes to form a new friendship is not very appealing.

      It’s good to have old friends and Garry is a very old friend. We’ve known each other through a lot of changes and stages for 55 years. We remember the same people, the same places. He is one of the very few people who remembers me before I was married. There are, in my world, probably a handful of living people that remember the world as I do and are made of the same earth as me.

      It has less to do with marriage than it has to do with coming from the same places and believing the same things. And finally, being able to say “Remember the … ” and having friends laugh before you get to the end because they remember too. Especially these day, believe the same things matters.

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      1. There’s a whole world out there that would. have women believe marriage is the only happiness and if you’re NOT married it’s because you’re, fundamentally, a loser. I have to stand up to this because I know it is one reason women stay in bad marriages, fear being alone and believe they cannot be happy without a man. I doubt any marriage is happy if the individuals in it are not happy with themselves. 🙂

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        1. A lot of women stay in bad marriages because they never got any professional training before marrying, so when the marriage goes bad, they have no idea how they can support themselves. That was my mother’s worst nightmare and as a result, it became OUR worse nightmare too.

          It isn’t merely social pressure. It’s economic pressure. How many women wind up homeless after leaving “dad”? It’s a huge number, way in excess of how many men are affected economically by divorce.

          I keep reading about all the women who “get everything.” In my experience, that’s not what really happens. It sure didn’t happen that way to me. There’s a LOT to say in this. Also, remember, I abandoned two marriages and basically got NOTHING from each before Garry and I hooked up, so I went into the relationship with him with a suitcase full of raggedy clothing and something like a career.

          When I went to Israel, I had REALLY nothing. I threw myself into the world, grabbed the kid (adopted two more), and hoped for the best. It wasn’t my self, either, but it was — in its own crazy way — a good thing — eventually. With a lot of ugly parts down the middle.

          Getting married the second time was drugs and loneliness and stupidity and not really understanding what I was doing or why. It took me a long, long time to unravel myself and a lot of depression and fear and eventually coming up for air. Talk about going from the frying pan to the fire, I really did myself in on that one. And then … I got sick. Very sick. And have stayed ill for the rest of my life.

          That Garry was more or less waiting for me when what was left of me slouched home from overseas is another issue. I never expected it.

          Jeff (first one) was a jail break. I was 18 and needed to get away from my father. Jeff was great in many ways. The wrong husband, but a fine friend. Tony was a disaster. Garry has been … great and also, a hard fought journey. Marriage — a good one — is not simple, particularly not simple if your partner is complicated too.

          Garry and I were ready to deal with it. We had a lot of history and a solid friendship. I am sure it was the friendship that made it possible. Moreover, we were both extremely tenacious, determined to MAKE it work or die trying. From MY end, I knew if this didn’t work, that would be no more relationships for me.

          While Garry had never married, that didn’t mean he hadn’t had relationships. He just didn’t MARRY them. He had the whole story, just not the papers. We had a LOT of work to do and it never ends. The friendship was the key. Being part of the same social group and getting a lot of support from friends. Shockingly, even MY family thought it was a great idea — it was HIS family that had a problem with That White Girl.

          Some girl. I was 43! And they’d known me for more than 20 years by then AND known Owen since he was born. Garry was Owen’s godfather. We were – are – complicated. But so are most people we know.

          This isn’t a comment. It’s the opening to the book I will never write.

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          1. There are a lot of reasons women stay in bad marriages, but one I encountered a lot when I was teaching was the, “I’ll be alone! What if no one else ever loves me!” Followed by, “How will I support myself!” I think people fear loneliness more than they admit. I learned in my marriages that marriage is no guarantee against loneliness.

            The good marriages I see — even the ones with huge concrete problems — are, like yours, marriages between friends. ❤ Maybe you should write the book.

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  3. Seriously, how beautiful is that? Having friends from long ago who are still close. I have one friend of 30 years plus, who now lives hundreds of miles away due to my moving, but every now and again we get on the phone and yak. It’s always good times!

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