Monday, June 05, 2006

Deepening connections with those you might take for granted

My friend Vinnie is always including me in family events and gatherings. She lives in Oakland and I live in San Francisco. So close and yet at times so far apart.

Last Saturday, her daughter, who has just graduated from UC Berkeley, invited me to an afternoon celebration. It was a perfect day. It was a lovely party. I know these people so well I can actually relax and know I don’t have to smile and be “nice” every single minute. I’ve been fighting a cold (or maybe allergies) and part of me wasn’t sure I had the energy to get to Orinda where the party was being held.

But, I went. I took BART and Vinnie came and picked me up. The party was being held at her brother’s home, which was their family home growing up. And just so you can understand how complex all our lives really are when we look closely, I’ll go deeper into the existing relationships. Her mother and my mother were sorority sisters at Berkeley in the ‘30s. I found out this weekend that she believes my mother was her mother’s “Big Sister” at Alpha Delta Pi. They were bridesmaids in each other’s weddings. Her mother was my godmother.

And now, Vinnie and I are friends, more than friends, almost family. With all our parents now gone, our connections and our extended families are more important than ever. I am deeply honored (and flattered) her daughter would continue this tradition and invite me to this party.

Over the years I had met other members of this extended family. Vinnie, to my eyes, is a person who builds community every day - with phone calls, parties, emails. With making the time to spend time with those she cares about. As we would sit on her deck and chat lazily on a Sunday afternoon, we’d talk about everything and anything -- she kept me abreast of their lives – albeit at some distance.

So, I go to this party, expecting to have an okay time, spend little bits of time with “the family,” and do some small talking (which I am not good at,) and leave at a reasonable hour. Essentially I expected to make my appearance, acknowledge her daughter’s graduation, share a few hugs, and go home.

Instead, I connected personally with others, artists, in ways I had not done before. Vinnie has been attracted to artists, as was her mother. I think she includes me in her artist friend category, as did her mother (which is another story entirely.) She has introduced me to her other artist friends over the years, but it never seemed to click, to get personal. Yesterday it all clicked.

So, what does this have to do with networking? I think it has to do with being authentic, with taking baby steps, and letting things happen. One of the artists said, “You know, the more you show who you really are, the lonelier you think you’re going to be. And it’s so not that way. By being authentic, you attract others… in droves.” Later, she offered to drive me to BART when I was ready to leave so we could chat some more.

And this wasn’t the only deeper connection made. One introduced me to her daughter who was struggling to be a writer. Another invited me to come visit and see where she lives and her small spaces. And from a third, I was told about a book he was reading that he thought I’d be interested in because of the typography. I was asked several times for my email address or my phone number. That had not happened before. We had always been cordial and friendly, but somehow distant.

I said out loud what I do and how right it is for me – book publishing services; what I am interested in – typography, writing, book design, small spaces, labyrinths. I took steps; got myself out there; spoke out loud. I let it all flow at its own pace. I didn’t push anything. But I didn’t hem and haw either. I’m looking around at what I already think I know and seeing new possibilities.

I was delighted, quietly content. Do I know where this will lead? No, of course not. Do I feel that I’ve taken steps to build my own artistic community? Definitely. Was this a day when I was in alignment? Yes. And all of this was possible because of friendship: mine; Vinnie’s; our mothers’. Thanks Vinnie.