Buddy Up!

You may not have realized it, but you have surrounded yourself with some of your best resources. I’m talking about FRIENDS. You chose them because they listen to you, validate you, support your ideas, may have common interests and, with honesty, will give you a heads up when you are getting off track.

One has only to look at our entertainment world to find examples of buddy pairs. Batman and Robin, Thelma and Louise, Lucy and Ethel, Bullwinkle and Rocky, Tom and Jerry, Bert and Ernie, Abbott and Costello are a few that come to mind. It works; bouncing ideas off each other, having an amigo for adventures or, simply, doing things together.

Many of us rely on our spouses to be our buddy. We know each other so well. But that package can come with some excess baggage, like making assumptions that fit us into boxes. “Honey,” he said, “I know you don’t like to  travel.” Or, “You know that’s not my thing.!”

This pandemic has thrust us into new territory. Our tried and true routines are getting old, or disrupted completely. It’s time to buddy up.

I recently heard from a white friend who buddied up with a woman of color. She wanted to support Black Lives Matter, but participating in marches and protests was just not possible for this woman in her late seventies. So she contacted a woman of color, that she knew in her community, and they are now communicating as buddies.

 That’s what buddying up can do. It bridges gaps of understanding.

Then there’s the story of Mark, which left me teary eyed. Mark is a precocious 12 year old who has Cerebral Palsy and is wheelchair bound. He is nonverbal, but communicates via an iPad app that converts text to speech. The process is laborious for him; searching through page after page for a word, then the next word, until he has a sentence. Yet, he has declared that he will write a book someday. Mark was introduced to a buddy last week. She is a young woman in her early twenties, who is also nonverbal. She uses augmentative communication by directing her eyes and a joystick. Quite adept, she now gives speeches and is working on an advanced degree, with concrete plans for a book in the works.

Mark’s eyes lit up to see someone facing the same challenges he faces. Someone like him. Someone successful. After she shared her story with him, this was his response, “From baby to child, to woman, she has made her mom and dad say ‘Wow!'”

That’s what buddying up can do. It inspires. 

My own stories strike a more common thread. Over the winter I made two new friends. In early March, we decided to walk together once a week at a local nature preserve. Covid-19 ended that idea before we even got started. We decided to buddy up by texting each other a gratitude list every day, naming three things we are grateful for. It’s working and has helped me to deal with my own pandemic anxiety. From what they have shared, it”s helping them too. We have expanded to comment about our daily doings and even frustrations that arise. I have nicknamed us the Three Muskateers.

That’s what buddying up can do. It forges and strengthens friendships.

Artistically, I have buddied up with another writer. We write to prompts, share feedback and whatever writing projects we are each working on. Of course, there are Zoom groups galore right now. They work great to keep you connected but, they lack the intimacy and individual feedback that having a buddy provides. 

That’s what buddying up does. It stirs the creative juices.

Even a longstanding  group of friends can benefit from buddying up. My spiritual circle has met once a month for thirty years. Through moving, deaths and illnesses, we have become a small group of seven people. Although we are like family to each other, like in families, we don’t always spend time with each member of the circle outside of our monthly meetings. Since March, we have buddied up. Each month, we set individual goals for spiritual growth and have a partner to check in with each week. Friendships are becoming deeper. It is now June and everyone loves the process.

That’s what buddying up does. It supports spiritual growth.

Some tips for buddying up :

  • Choose an area of common interest for you and your buddy.
  • Have a regular check-in time. Weekly works well, more if that suits you.
  • Be a great, not just a good, listener.
  • Ask how the other person wants to be supported. Avoid telling them what to do, rather, offer suggestions framed as “I have an idea, if you’d like to consider other options.”
  • Bring laughter into the collaboration. Lucy and Ethel were on to something.

Some things just go together. Peanut butter and jelly. Rum and Coke. Ham and eggs. Why not find a buddy to discover the wealth of resources they bring; to bridge gaps of understanding, to get inspired, to forge friendships, to stir the creative juices and to support your spiritual growth? 

Reach out. You won’t be sorry. I promise.

©2020 Gail Ouimet

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