This blog post was written by Barbara Palmer, a member of the Campowerment community for many years, about her friendship with Dr. Juliana Hauser.
I collect friends (in the best possible way): maintaining friendships from a cross section of my life, from around the world, in really meaningful and fulfilling ways. I feel like it is a superpower and something I am really good at.
I usually think I don’t need more friends. At 56, my friend bucket is overflowing – how could I possibly find time?
Luckily, I have a boundary issue in this area and don’t follow my own rules.
In June 2021, I attended Campowerment’s Fancy Camp in Asheville, NC. Smaller and more intimate than Classic Camp, it was a chance to really get close with campers, Campower Rangers and experts alike. I was immediately enamored with Dr. Juliana Hauser. Her content [centered around sexuality] pushed me outside of my comfort zone, yet her demeanor had the opposite effect: warm and familiar, approachable and friendly. At the end of camp, Juliana asked me to be her Bliss Buddy (Expert Anne “Sussy” Sussman’s magical program where you share a daily moment of bliss). I was so honored that she had chosen me – and we agreed to try the ‘Bliss Buddy’ thing for the next 30 days.*
16 months later, and every day in between, we still share our bliss daily.
A quick text or audio message, sometimes a Zoom or phone call. We share the small and large moments that offer perspective and gratitude; a shared moment of lightness between two virtual strangers.
And that is the funny part. Those quick texts have made us anything BUT strangers. There are days we are bliss-challenged and we encourage the other to find one thing that brings us joy. There are large moments of family or professional success that we have cheered for and supported. In these brief but consistent interactions, I have found a sister and supporter as dear and ingrained in my life as some of my lifelong friends.
The question was whether this relationship could transcend IRL (in real life). After September 2022’s Classic Camp in the Poconos, Juliana and I had a plan to meet in Palm Springs for a ‘working’ vacation. We were both stepping away from our day-to-day (she, with an elementary school child at home, more than me), to work remotely, and to enjoy a location she had never been and I loved.
I picked her up at 4:30 pm on Thursday afternoon and we literally did not stop talking until I dropped her back at the airport at 8:30 pm on Tuesday. In that time, we caught up, went deep, stayed light, told stories, made up stories, created nicknames, enjoyed nature – and truly enjoyed our time together. There was something magical about this new friendship. We had so much to tell and so many gaps to fill in – and all of it came naturally, easily, and without hesitation. And the laughter – full, hearty, tear-drawing and authentic.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. What words do you see in this one?
Photo: Madge & Babs Take on Palm Springs (vintage 1950s)
This picture is overflowing. There is of course a backstory (one of the games we played on our work-cation) and the words include: drag show, bottomless mimosas, vintage, stylist, nicknames, joy, trust, friendship, sisterhood, laughter, confidence… This picture could cause me to be self-conscious, but instead it makes me giggle and reminds me that no matter what my day-to-day may look like, there is still a silly fun woman inside that loves to show herself.
Campowerment says you don’t necessarily get what you want at camp, but you do get what you need. I needed a new friend. I needed someone who reminded me of the excitement of starting a new friendship and sharing your true and authentic self. I needed someone to share moments of bliss and gratitude with, and to hold space for their joy in return. I needed a friend to say ‘yes’ to and with. Welcome to the collection, Juliana. You are one of a kind.
. . . . . . .
To all of us finding more friends to add to our collection in this community of Campowerment.
From the campfire & beyond,
The Campowerment Crew
*More on The Bliss Buddy Project in Anne Sussman’s book, which is available for purchase HERE