It doesn’t mean I don’t love you

There are two big things I want and I’m not sure if I can have them both. But I want them, like a child who should be able to have its way.

Let me explain. Perhaps you can help explore this dilemma with me – and I’d love it if you can provide some insight.

These are the two things I want: to be included, and to be selective.

Let’s start with inclusion.

Sometimes we’re just like a basketful of puppies here at the Shedders homestead. Take, for example, last night. New friends Meg and Rosemary (invited by me) had come up from Sydney to spend a couple of days, enjoy new friendships, and observe a co-housing community in action. Simultaneously, old friends Peter and Bill (invited by Eve) arrived for a few nights, to enjoy the tranquillity of the country while refreshing our friendships and our gardens.

The evening got off to a potentially dodgy start when we all gathered in the kitchen at 6:00 pm for appetisers, after a day out and about with our guests – only to discover that Daniel had forgotten earlier in the day to turn on the slow cooker for Rick’s meal. Uh-oh. Four visitors and nothing for dinner. That drama was quickly resolved as some of us pondered the fridges, some laid out the cheeses and uncorked the wine, and others set about finding things in common and getting to know one another. We spent a most sociable hour or so, after which we sat around the table enjoying what turned out to be an excellent meal. We swapped stories and played games. There was much laughter and that sense of joyous exploration that happens as you come to know good people even better. I felt warmed by a powerful fire of camaraderie, and watched my friends illuminated by the light of the same blaze.

I felt included; we all did. That can be a consequence of living in a tightly-knit community.

And then there’s selectivity. You might not immediately see that as part of a dilemma, but consider this:

Our friend Desley, renowned for a certain bluntness, expressed the problem perfectly in a conversation I had with her the other day. “It’s a bit perplexing to me how I can I invite one of you without inviting all of you,” she said. “What if I don’t want all six of you for dinner?  I mean, it’s not that I don’t like you all, because I do,” she added hastily, “but sometimes it’s nice to just sit down for a meal in a small conversational group.” She gave me a look. “I hope I haven’t offended you.”

Well, there you have it. That’s another consequence of living in a tightly-knit community.

My fellow Shedders provide a strong platter of interests for me. The six of us have a lot in common, which is of course what got us into relationship in the first place. Thus it’s not a coincidence that Rick, Daniel, Eve and I, who have lived together here for over three years now, all belong to the same community choir, the same book club, the same boat club, the same men’s/women’s group. Now that Michael and Judy have arrived, they are contemplating joining some of these groups as well. Five of us are yoga enthusiasts. All of us care about food, healthy eating, weight control, longevity. We all like our big gardens. These common interests give us activities to share and things to talk about.

You might predict they also give us quite a number of friends in common.

And with these other friends, I share somewhat different interests, hobbies and concerns. Desley, her husband Ian and I all have a background in teaching that bonds us. Stella and I can talk compost for hours. Griz and I share an engaging past work life. Robyn and I’ve been through a lot of relationship-miles together. There’s nobody like Diane with whom to talk about the kids. I like speculating about the future of the world with Gordon, and the exquisiteness of life with Kerry. About music with Trish and writing with Stephen. Beautiful things with Sal. Farming with Ian. Wondrous sights with Lenore. My list is only getting started, but you get my drift.

So here’s the thing, said baldly: I want to be able to socialise with Desley and Ian, or anyone else, without the rest of my housemates in attendance. I’d like to be invited to their house, or to invite them here for a home-cooked meal. I want to sit down with them to explore life in an intimate setting.

But you can imagine that it’s difficult to say to my housemates, “We’re having So-and-So for dinner tonight, so could you please stay in your rooms for the evening?” It’s also not easy to say to So-and-So (especially when you live in the country), “Can we meet for dinner in Taree? I’m thinking of Café Mediocre, unless you’d prefer Restaurante Mucho Pricey?” *

I remember my daughter Jenn as a teenager had a strong preference for one twin sister over the other, and struggled with how to invite only Michelle for an overnighter. These are common enough issues, but not ones that most people our age have to deal with regularly at close range. I suspect that sometimes we adults try to arrange our lives so that we won’t have to encounter the feelings that come along with excluding or being excluded. But we’re not going to be able to avoid them in our communal situation.

We had a discussion about Desley’s comment among the Shedders a few weeks ago. We all agreed that the socialising thing was an issue for people, and thought about how we might start letting the world know we’re not a sextet joined at the hip. I shared how I have smelled the fetid breath of the pair of hounds called Jealousy and Left Out. Even the grown-up Heather knows what it is to feel excluded, or to be excluding people you love.

My sister-in-law’s Canadian-accented voice just echoed in my head: “Suck it up, Princess,” she’s saying. In other words, just get on with it. Learn; grow; deal with the feelings. Five years from now, the Shedders don’t want to be saying, “Funny how nobody invites us out anymore.”

Sometimes inclusiveness rules, and sometimes selectivity.

It’s another climb on the learning curve for us Shedders.

* * *

* I confess that the comment about the Taree restaurants was a cheap shot. We have any number of perfectly acceptable eateries in the neighbourhood. (But my point remains.)


7 thoughts on “It doesn’t mean I don’t love you

  1. Have you heard me talk about the “annex”? It’s like your swimming pool. It’s an idea that will take a while to sink in, but it might just take root one day. 🙂


  2. Oh my goodness, your thoughts on inclusiveness & selectivity/exclusiveness has caused a childhood memory to bubble to the surface!

    My primary school years were set in Scotts Head, a very small sea side village in the Nambucca Valley, on the mid north coast. The school had one teacher, & around 18 children. My year with an average of 6 kids was the biggest cohort, comprising around 1/3 of the school. When I was about 10 yrs old, a class member had a birthday party.

    Normally, birthday parties in Scotts head were an all in affair with most if not all of the kids in town attending, across all age ranges. Parties were pretty simple when I was kid, no jumping castles, performers, special gifts for all the children, or themed decor: just a bunch of kids, a home made cake, loads of lollies & red cordial, followed by a game of red-rover-cross-over in the front yard, maybe a play in the park &/or every one down the beach for a swim. The only “party” games sometimes played were pass-the-parcel (loads of newspaper – and only ONE present at the end), or apple bobbing (esp in summer). Everyone had a great time & went home with a small bag of lollies, some cake (if there was any left), tummy ache, & sunburn.

    Anyway, back to the story. The mother of this particular child whose party it was (might I add the family were recent arrivals in town, with the birthday girl swelling our class to 7) made the arbitrary decision to set a limit of six, including the birthday girl, to attend the party. You can see where this is going cant you…….right, I was the only child NOT invited! It was devastating, & I can recall the awkward moment when the birthday girl confirmed that I was the one to be excluded. At the time I keenly felt that if was unfair, & just felt like a total loser, however, looking back, I recall that it was not easy for my new friend to have to to do this to me. Of course, not attending the party had a knock on effect in such a small village, as I was further excluded from the post party goss & giggles back in the class room & playground. I think I was quite happy when this family left town not long after & things settled back into the comfort zone of just us local kids.

    Not sure how this story is relevant to the present, other than serving as a reminder to take a step back & maintain awareness of the bigger picture of the context in which inclusion or selectivity play out. As you described Heather, our friendships & social connections fulfill many different needs, or express many facets of our personalities & experiences. As long as we all keep an eye on each other to ensure no one slips through the social cracks. An occasional hurt feeling or nose out of joint is not too big a deal so long a we all have our share of parties!

    * P.S. I think the manning eateries are fair game! LOL. The problem is, you have been too many places. Ya just gotta lower your expectations!

  3. Heather, your choice of words is……….now if I were you, I would think of the precise words I would use to describe how I love your writings…More, more.. please…💃🙌

    Date: Sun, 21 Apr 2013 02:22:58 +0000

  4. Dear Heather,

    In response to your dilemma, I can certainly say that I benefited from both your inclusive home mates and from the selective day out with just yourself and Rick, culminating in the brief, dramatic sunset before returning to the warm inclusive environment of the Shedders.

    How you will overcome the dinner invitations is a question I brought up with Meg. I guess that is why, amongst many other factors, we are planning independent spaces/homes with community kitchen, etc. I agree with your sister-in-law; grapple with it, practice it. Like all the other hurdles you have conquered as a group, this one will not be insurmountable. Perhaps the night that no one cooks and you go out could be the free opportunity of asking for the dining space just for your friends?

    As I prepared for bed on the Friday night, after a delightful drive home through the inland road, I felt a new and unsettling gentle sadness fall upon me. What I had felt, seen and relaxed with for the 2 days in your home reminded me of the fulfillment of being with a ‘family’, only this family was chosen for its common interests and values, and wanted to be there.

    I looked up the Stella Book prize for Women shortlist, and surprise, the book you are reading for your book club, ‘Questions of Travel’ is on it.

    I visited my local bookshop in CrowsNest(Constant Reader) to inquire about the winning novel, ‘Mateship of Birds” by Carrie Tiffany and the woman asked what the Stella Prize was. I explained its history and mentioned that Stella was the first name of Miles Franklin, and she asked was Miles a woman? Now I do not expect most people to know such information, but the front runner of a respectable, independent bookshop?

    Have you read the American writer, Barbara Kingsolver? Her latest novel ‘Flight Behaviour’, gave me the best description of the southern white poor population, along with a scientific story. (She comes from a scientifis background). Meg did not enjoy it, but I did.

    Thank you and Rick for the Grand Tour on Thursday, and thank you to all the Shedders for the warm hospitality we both received at your lovely home.


    Rosemary Engel

  5. This is a good tip especially to those new to the blogosphere.

    Short but very precise info Thank you for sharing this one.
    A must read post!

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