The Delights of Distraction No.74: The Joys of Old Friendships

Old friends are the best, aren’t they? Like an oft-worn pair of shoes, they fit comfortably around your knobbly bits. There’s a familiar groove. You don’t have to explain yourself, your moods and undulations.They know the what, how, and wherefore. 

On the 14th of this month is one of the retail industry's fulcrum from which we inventory all things heart-shaped, red, pink and lovey dovey. Valentine’s day is a hyper-celebrated excuse for cheesy romance for those that are coupled - and yet, though we welcome any push for displays of love (especially when they translate into sales) - we are partial to the day being appropriated by the celebration of friendship - ‘Gal’entine’s as it’s recently been christened. The origin story of our company, The Wishing Chair, and of course Viv & Ami is one based on friendship. We met over 20 years ago through a common friend, who insisted that, since we were so close to him, it behooves us that we be close to each other too, and gave us no choice in the matter. 

We often think of how incomprehensible it is that we are friends. Ami is early to bed, early to rise, loves routine and ticking off lists. Viv sleeps at 2 am, snoozes her morning alarm approximately 5-10 times and spends the rest of the day winging it. Ami likes to tackle a problem head on, guns blazing, to confront and talk it through. Viv would rather be dragged backwards through broken glass than engage in any sort of confrontation. But because we share a friend group, and serendipitously started a business together, we have often seen each other through the vagaries of starting up and keeping hope. We have learned the value of connection brought on by vulnerability, the love required to go by the same stopwatch while moving, sometimes, at different speeds, each of us with wholly different needs. And yet we have both come together, creating something greater than the sum of its parts, the fruit of our collaboration emerging directly from the friendship itself. 

In the book ‘Consolations’, David Whyte writes that a friendship can be sustained only through continued mutual forgiveness (“without forgiveness, all friendships die”) Indeed, the beauty of friends is that you become beholden to their fragility and waywardness, just as they are beholden to you. Viv knows this especially on days when it’s been particularly hard to get out of bed, and Ami has driven across town, to cajole her out of her Pjs, get in the shower and dress, and accompany her to work. An act of inconvenience for Ami, to make Viv feel a little less lonely in the world. “Saint friend,” Carl Adamshick writes in the opening poem of his book Saint Friend, “carry me when I am tired and carry yourself.” 

Because there is no societally-fabricated structure for female friendship, there is no guidebook on how to do it right. But at its best, a friendship is the act of radiating and reflecting each other’s light. Even when sorrow and shame may obstruct the light from our own view, we still have a friend’s clear-eyed, supportive love to beam that light back at us. 

Good friends are like old shoes and hammocks. When the sunrays hit just right and you’re cradled in a hug of belonging. It’s slow, easy swings. Home.
To check out how we are celebrating Galentine’s at The Wishing Chair, here are some of our favourite things 

To joy scroll: The Instragram feed of Charles Mackesy contains a series of vignettes from his book The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse that have brought moments of joy and calm. In the book, a lonely boy befriends a horse and a couple of other critters. Together they learn who they are and who they want to become and, in doing so, impart some of life’s simplest and greatest lessons through elegant illustrations and calligraphy, they speak a universal language of kindness, friendship, and love. 
Surrendering to the book’s simple wisdom has been an elixir. For example, in the wake of her dad’s passing, Viv has been going through a fog of overwhelm, unable to understand where to begin in handling the formalities and complexities of the aftermath of death and an estate. Ami’s sound advice echoes one of the pages the horse brings to the boy mired in confusion and hopelessness: 
“I can’t see a way through”, said the boy. 
“Can you see your next step?” 
“Just take that”, said the horse. “This storm will pass.” 

To read: Do read this long excerpt on friendship - taken from the poet David Whyte's singular book, Consolations: 

“But no matter the medicinal virtues of being a true friend or sustaining a long, close relationship with another, the ultimate touchstone of friendship is not improvement, neither of the other nor of the self: the ultimate touchstone is witness, the privilege of having been seen by someone and the equal privilege of being granted the sight of the essence of another, to have walked with them and to have believed in them, and sometimes just to have accompanied them for however brief a span, on a journey impossible to accomplish alone.” 

To long read: One of our favorite sites for book recommendations has detailed five books on friendship for enchanting reading.

We would also recommend My Brilliant Friend, by Elena Ferrante 

and A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara, 
“Friendship was witnessing another’s slow drip of miseries, and long bouts of boredom, and occasional triumphs. It was feeling honored by the privilege of getting to be present for another person’s most dismal moments, and knowing that you could be dismal around him in return.” ― Hanya Yanagihara, A Little Life 

To lexicon: 
Suffonsified: from a Canadian dialect-it’s a way of saying satisfied or satiated. It’s a great concept, because learning what “enough” looks like is an essential act of both self-care and resistance in the world we’re living in. 

To ponder: Singer, songwriter, poet and overall rockstar Nick Cave, writes a series of reflections and meditations in response to fan questions on his website, Red Hand Files. In response to fans’ questions of whether it’s important to have friends and how to define friendship, he writes: 

“There seems to me to be three levels of friendship. 

First there is the friend who you go out and eat with, or get pissed with, who you go with to the cinema or a gig — you know, have a shared experience with. 

The second kind of friend is one who you can ask a favour of, who will look after you in a jam, will lend you money, or drive you to the hospital in the middle of the night, someone who has your back — that kind of friend. 

The third level of friendship is one where your friend brings out the best in you, who amplifies the righteous aspects of your nature, who loves you enough to be honest with you, who challenges you, and who makes you a better person.None of these levels are mutually exclusive and sometimes you find someone who fulfils all of these categories. If you find a friend like that, hang on to him or her. They are rare.” 

To end: 

Your Catfish Friend 
- Richard Brautigan - 1935-1984 

If I were to live my life 
in catfish forms 
in scaffolds of skin and whiskers 
at the bottom of a pond 
and you were to come by 
one evening 
when the moon was shining 
down into my dark home 
and stand there at the edge 
of my affection 
and think, "It's beautiful 
here by this pond. I wish 
somebody loved me," 
I'd love you and be your catfish 
friend and drive such lonely 
thoughts from your mind 
and suddenly you would be 
at peace, 
and ask yourself, "I wonder 
if there are any catfish 
in this pond? It seems like 
a perfect place for them." 

To share the love: 
We’d love to help the friends around you feel extra special this Gal-entines, and have put together some our favourite things from The Wishing Chair to gift to the people you love most in the world, whatever form that may take! 

Thanks for reading, and we hope you celebrate this week, the next, and of course every week, with those people in your life who carry themselves while they carry you.

Viv & Ami

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