Fresh Living

“The buddy system is a procedure in which two people, the buddies, operate together as a single unit so that they are able to monitor and help each other. In adventurous or dangerous activities, where the buddies are often equals, the main benefit of the system is improved safety: each may be able to prevent the other becoming a casualty or rescue the other in a crisis.” Wikipedia entry

Yesterday Holly posted on Elizabeth Edwards’, who recently said her cancer struggle is mightily helped by the outpouring of encouragement and support she’s received–partially in the form of 65,000 emails! This got me thinking a bit tangentally about the role of structured support in my own cancer and life struggles. When I got chemo, a friend of mine set up a schedule with my closest friends to sit with me during treatments in four-hour shifts. And now in trying to stay healthy and forward-moving, I’ve started applying the buddy system to smaller things. I have two yoga buddies–one of whom makes it to classes with me a few times a week. And a writing partner and I are co-chugging along on our projects with weekly meetings.

Maybe it’s because I’m an only child, but this sort of specific, ongoing, mutual support has been revolutionary. During chemo it was a one-way thing–I had to suck it up and receive the love and hope that the other person wasn’t too tortured by it–and were maybe even getting something out of it. But now it’s this lovely give-and-take–you start wobbling, I’ll grab your hand by dragging us to class. I start wobbling and said writing buddy can remind me that feeling like my work is awful is part of the process, one that will pass. 

Maybe this is all just so obvious as to be dull, but I’m pretty sure that gathering like-minded people who can help us maintain our goals and attain our dreams in tiny, practical ways–might be one of the shiny golden keys to success for those of us without a built-it directional rocket. And the intersting thing is that these buddies are often not our closest friend or romantic life partner. Once we find reliable buddies with shared interests it actually can take the pressure off those primary relationships to fulfill all our needs. It’s not such a big deal if your husband hates yoga if you can find the inspiration and support to go regularly anyway–leaving you more fulfilled and bendier, things that will benefit him as well (hee).

Here are some tips for using the buddy system to support your goals and dreams.

1)    Choose a Reliable Person. Buddies hold each other up, but you shouldn’t have to regularly sling them over your shoulder, kicking and screaming. Or you should at least be able to take turns at that. Find someone who can reliably(ish) show up for appointments–who shares the particular goal you’re going for–do yoga twice a week, finish a book proposal by fall, knit a sweater by Christmas. 

2) Choose a Person You Like. The idea is to cut down on your excuses. If the person drives you batty with stories about her cats and you can’t stand cats, maybe you need a new buddy. But this person does not have to be your BFF–just someone you like enough to spend a couple hours a week or month with to do a specific activity. You can find your buddy by taking a class on the topic you want support on; putting an ad up on your local Craigslist’ or asking friends and friends of friends if they know anyone with similar interests.  

3) Pick a Regular Time and Stick To It. Someone once told me that one of the keys to a successful meditation practice is to sit at the same time every day. I’ve heard writers say the same thing. You create a groove in time, something your mind and body can rely on and look forward to. And for creative work, I’ve heard that this allows “the angels to know where to find you.”

4) Be a Reliable Person. Again, there’s room for flexibility and exhaustion and life getting in the way. But do your best to bushwhack around these buddy times so they are sacred. You’ve just doubled your ability to get something done, so take full advantage of it.

5) Structure Your Buddy Time. Make a plan. You can bring an egg-timer for concentrated creative work and then chat and snack at scheduled intervals. See what works. 

6) Set Clear Intentions. Two minds are so much more powerful than one, and if you each can help each other hold an intention (which might be slightly different for each of you), you will have a much greater chance of meeting it. These don’t have to be lofty. Buddy sessions are usually about baby steps, two people supporting each other to do the little things that can make you feel more alive, satisfied, and sustained.

Do you have a buddy for anything? How does it help? 


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