Cactus Friends

Cactus Friends

In my ‘before times’ life, I was a member of different communities and social groups that circled around festivals and events. There were many people that I could recognise and not name. My daily circuits of dog walkers, pram pushers, shop-keepers and local characters number many more familiar but anonymous faces.

My Face Book ‘friends’ include people I may have shared a brief, intense experience with (like a workshop), as well as people I would encounter regularly, but not know well (like on a dance floor). I can name many of these, but may misplace the origin of our connection. If we don’t meet for some time, they may be relegated to the bigger pool of un-nameable people from my circles of interaction.

‘Dunbar’s number’ is an orbit of around 150 people that roughly equates to the size of a village. Repeated research findings indicate that this is the average number of people that our brains are designed to handle in terms of useful communication and connection. Above this 150 meaningful connections might be about 500 acquaintances. Then there are 1500 faces, which might be recognisable. Below are smaller average units of 50 friends, 15 close friends and 5 beloveds.

I notice that in my own life there is a constant game of Snakes and Ladders between these circles of connections. Although the numbers maintain a rough equilibrium, people move up a ladder into the category of ‘Want to know you better as we are currently on the same wave length’, and slide down with ‘If it is always me who phones, are you more engaged with people who have more in common with you right now?’

This week, a person whose company I enjoy, but don’t know well introduced me to the concept of ‘Cactus Friends’. These are people who do not require regular maintenance, but when you feed them with the water of your attention, they respond with delight, as though becoming vivid green. I like the light touch this understanding can bring to a friendship.

I have moved in and out of communities, as I become more or less aligned with different interest groups. After this year of minimal social interaction, I wonder what the current Venn Diagram of my relationships looks like. I am reflecting on the friendships that have gone deeper, and those, which have got lost. Who inspires me? Who do I feel moved to reach out to? Who supports me, and who do I support? I no longer seem to have the capacity for the many micro stitches of attention and repair needed to foster healthy connections with all the people I used to see socially. I hope some of these will flourish from time to time as Cacti friends.

No Comments

Post A Comment