“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent”, is what John Donne wrote. I’m hopeful that when writing this, he was using “man” in the general sense in this description of humankind, because I couldn’t agree with him more.
I will admit to being a social animal. I was a garrulous and precocious child (I suspect annoyingly so, judging by my 8 year old daughter’s modus operandi) and my father’s speech at my wedding celebration hinged on his characterisation of me as “chatty “.
It seems odd now to think that during the early days of my relationship with my future husband, we cast ourselves adrift socially in a self-imposed, inner-city version of The Blue Lagoon. We were entirely self-sufficient emotionally, although my eyebrows were never quite as striking as Brooke Shields’s and I’ve spent a vast proportion of my adult life attempting to recreate her mussed-up, just-rolled-out-of-a-hammock hairdo with limited success.
It became very obvious to me not long after our first-born arrived on the scene that this state of affairs was completely unsustainable. Not only was I marooned (albeit willingly so) in a foreign country, I was nowhere near proficient in the local lingo, making even casual chitchat an impossibility. Besides which, unpredictable hormones, extreme tiredness and an all-encompassing absorption with my new golden boy, left my husband somewhat cut adrift and marital relations a little choppy, to say the least. It is said that it takes a village to raise a child. In my experience, it takes a village to keep a family functioning. We needed our village.
Put more prosaically, we needed other people. For my husband this took the form of monthly, male-only poker games, where, presumably conversation didn’t centre around the contents of a nappy, for example. As for me, I longed to re-establish the type of connections I’d felt in my 20s; I wanted reassurance that the tumult of emotions I felt weren’t turning me into a post-natal freak. I wanted a bit of fun too. It probably took until my second and last child was weaned to fully realise this ambition, but by this point I was ready. I was BACK!
These days, I have a fine collection of friends and although our individual circumstances are different, they overlap in various ways. Obviously, there is a lot of chatter – as well as tea, coffee, food, wine and (if I can swing it it), dancing. I smilingly refer to my collection of gem-like friends as my sisterhood (although there are a few honorary male exceptions). And now our virtual world has grown bigger, even separated by huge distances, meaningful connection is literally at our fingertips. Social media isn’t all bad.
I’m no longer stranded on a desert island of my own making. I live happily alongside my Robinson Crusoe – safe in the knowledge that it’s natural, normal and needed to set sail on a personal voyage from time to time. And while my husband might jokingly refer to me as “the ball and chain”, I prefer to think of us as necessarily anchored to one another at times, but mostly maintaining balance by moving fluidly within a wider, more richly populated land mass.