on seeing, and being seen

As I headed into the tail end of my week in Sydney, I dropped into the group chat after getting back from my final scheduled catch up, before I was due to pick the children up. I hadn’t been sleeping, and I’d spent the week feeling unsettled and out of place – a feeling that doesn’t sit well with me at the best of times. I’ve never really been one to fit in easily, and feeling “out of place” is a sensation I know all too well. To have a week of it, it was tiring.

Yet even in the busyness and exhaustion, there were moments that made my heart so happy. I drove across the city, battling traffic and roadworks and rain and being so far out of my comfort zone. Arriving late and harried, I breezed into the shop where we were meeting…if a cyclone of stress and apologies can be considered a breeze. This friend scooped me up in a tight hug, and then passed me some pretty yarn with a beaming smile. It was the second time I had met this friend in person, the last time I saw her was back in 2018, and yet we wandered around the shop, chatting projects and families and life like we had a weekly knitting date.

From there, I bounced a few suburbs over, and met a different friend at a different shop. This friend I hadn’t seen since 2013. Almost a decade, and a whole lot of life, between hugs, and yet we laughed along to our in jokes, we swapped project ideas, we encouraged each other into fabric purchases.

The next day, I was saved from a trip in the car, when another friend came to meet me for “coffee”. The coffee turned into lunch as we bounced from family to finance to theology to politics to creativity to work. This friend doesn’t come from my crafty circles, but from in real life circles. She & her husband are godparents to our eldest. We are godparents to their youngest. We’ve had games afternoons and beach weekends with these friends. And yet in the way of life, we haven’t caught up in person for far too long. Sitting down together though, it was like that distance had never existing.

The final day of my stay, I was back in the car, to meet a long time friend – someone I have know since we were in kindergarten. School wasn’t always the easiest experience for me, and it’s not a time I look back on gladly. I cringe, when I hear people tell teenagers “this is the best time of your life”, because for me, it wasn’t. And yet, once we have grown and left the school yard rubbish behind, there is a core group of school friends who remain some of my dearest friends.

In all four instances, there was the joy of spending time in the company of someone who sees me, and loves me. Whether its from bonding over shared interests, or the solidarity of sharing a common perspective, or the depth of “knowing”, that comes with 35 years of shared history.

It’s easy to relax into laughing at yourself, when you are having lunch with someone who seen you forget you were wearing a long school uniform skirt when you attempted to kick a football, and promptly landed on your backside in the middle of the oval with the whole school watching. It’s easy to breathe, when you discuss a concept you’ve been mulling over, and your friend offers up a perspective that makes you go “YES! Exactly!”. It’s easy to be buoyed by creative energy when you are surrounded by people who listen to you think out loud, starting a sentence with “maybe I could…” and reply excitedly with “you totally could and have you seen this pattern”.

There is such peaceful contentment in being seen, and loved.

Quilt camp is a space where I feel that contentment acutely. An entire weekend to be with people who love me, not despite my quirks, but because of them. People who embrace and encourage creativity in its ebbs and flows. Friends so easy to chat with, the clock strikes 2am before we realise we should be getting some sleep. During the year, they have become my village, the kind of friends you can shoot the breeze with, but rely on for the big stuff too. For the third year in a row, we won’t be meeting in person, but we will do what we do best – blowing up the group chat, making the best of a bad situation, and sharing our projects and plenty of laughs along the way.

Next month, I will mark the end of my fourth decade on this earth, and with such a milestone, comes a lot of reflection. I am very thankful to have had this month in particular, filled with moments of friendships worth celebrating. For someone who has been the perpetual outsider, it’s a true blessing, to have my life filled by wonderful people who know me in all different ways.

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