“Will you be my companion?” That was a familiar phrase in our household when I was growing up. As a farm family, my siblings and I all had daily chores that we had to do in the barn after school, and none of us wanted to do them alone. If one of us had a job we had to do alone, we’d look for someone who was willing to go out to the barn with us, just to be with us as we completed whatever task was required.
Recently I read an article about an African practice of companionship where a person who was moving away from home would always have an elder member of the community accompany them for at least the first month of their life in a new location. While they were at work or school, this companion would get to know the neighbourhood on their behalf, finding out who they could trust and who they should stay away from. In other aspects of this practice, people rarely go shopping alone and people who step onto the stage to speak at a funeral do so with a loved one by their side.
Sometimes I miss those days in my childhood when I could convince one of my three siblings to accompany me to the barn so that my chores would be, if not pleasant, at least a little less unpleasant. There are so many hard things that a grownup must face alone, especially when one is a divorced single parent. I’m capable of facing those things on my own, but a lot of them would feel less burdensome with a companion.
We’ve developed a cult of individuality in the cultures that most of us are part of. We’ve become socially conditioned to believe that we should be all be independent and that we shouldn’t admit that we need other people. Individualism has been elevated in our media and we feel like we’re revealing our weakness if we admit we like having people around when we have to do hard things.
Last year I took on a partner in this work of holding space and I can tell you wholeheartedly that companionship is worth it. In some ways, it might have been easier (and probably more lucrative) to continue to grow this work alone, plus I would have had more control and wouldn’t have had to consider another person’s opinion. But running my business alone was starting to feel lonely and I knew that there were parts of this work that were a better fit for my partner than for me. And even those parts that I needed to continue to do myself could be made less unpleasant when someone was with me. So I reached out for companionship and I’m very glad I did. (The little girl in me who didn’t want to go to the barn alone is feeling much gratitude for that decision.)
This past year I also started dating for the first time since my divorce, and though our physical companionship is limited (we live in separate cities in the middle of a pandemic), we give each other emotional companionship as best we can. I feel less alone in the world.
Relationships aren’t always easy, and some of us have been badly hurt by past ones. It might take you awhile to trust again. I get that because I’ve been there too. But when you’re ready for it, companionship is one of the best things in the world.
If you want to deepen your own relationships and strengthen your communities, you might want to consider joining us for the Holding Space Foundation Program.