I tend to think of myself as somewhat friendship disordered. I have never had a big crowd of friends, and even the ones I’ve had tend to be intense relationships that burn out over time. In my younger days, when difficulties in friendships cropped up, I—ever
bullheaded straightforward—would bring up the issue and demand resolution (yeah, that works about as well as it sounds like it would, in case you were wondering), and if things weren’t resolved to my liking, that would more or less be the end of the friendship.
Why yes, I definitely AM a delight to have in your corner. Line forms to the left! No pushing or shoving!
With time, I’ve mellowed. I’ve had to. For one thing, I’ve realized that the perfect relationship, free of disagreements, doesn’t exist; and to either strive for perfection or settle for being lonely are two equally losing propositions. For another, the wisdom of age has finally taught me that other people handle things in other ways, and that doesn’t make them bad or wrong or even lousy friends. It’s like I’m growing as a person, or something.
This past weekend I was reading a book assigned to me for work purposes, and found myself blubbering over it like a jilted schoolgirl. Forty years of friendship maintained amongst a group of nearly a dozen women—it’s touching, it’s remarkable, and it makes me realize exactly how out-of-touch I am with the first half… hell, the first two-thirds, of my life to date. I don’t have ten friends from childhood. I don’t even have ten friends from college or grad school.
Well, let’s be clear: I have CONTACT with all sorts of people. Through the miracle of Facebook, sure, yes, I periodically do talk to a couple of people who were in my kindergarten class with Mrs. Hemseth. Two of my best friends from high school write on my wall occasionally, and I on theirs, but we only recently got back into touch and I wouldn’t call it a deep relationship. Facebook is kind of like a floating class reunion, and it’s a lot of fun at first, walking down memory lane, but then it sort of fades into the background. Wow, your kids are really growing up. Congrats to your husband on the new job. Hey, I like your hair like that.
Not exactly deep stuff, is my point. Not the sort of thing I was reading about, where time hadn’t eroded the bonds between these women at all.
I was jealous.
Otto and I sat and talked about it, while I tried to think who amongst my current friends has known me the longest.
[Sidebar: While it may not be true for other folks who are divorced, part of my neurosis over friendships is definitely heightened by my divorce. There was the matter of my ex spending considerable time trying to convince me of his opinion that I was simply so intolerant that I would never be able to sustain a prolonged relationship with anyone, sure, and my very real secret fear that maybe he was right, but also the fact that some people I had thought to be my friends either abandoned or downright turned on me in the wake of that particular crisis. I was already cautious when it came to relationships with others, beforehand. Six years later, I still feel like I'm navigating a minefield sometimes when it comes to interacting with others in positive ways.]
But anyway: Back to who has known me the longest, excepting family. The answer? Otto. Heh. We’ve known each other for twenty years this September. (Me: “And I’m so glad we finally figured this all out, because clearly I wouldn’t have been able to marry ANYONE ELSE, because the length of our relationship somehow assures me that you actually know me and I actually know you.” Him: “… okaaaaaaay….”)
Aside from Otto, when I recount my close friends, FEMALE friends, the tally is low. One good friend from back in New England. A few dear friends made through blogging, years ago, who remain my champion supports and hand-holders in time of extreme neurosis. And a handful of I-wish-we-were-closer-but-I’m-not-sure-how-to-go-about-it folks ’round here, women I adore and have good relationships with, but feel clumsy about strengthening those bonds in a way that doesn’t make me look needy or desperate.
(I’m okay with BEING needy and desperate, if I’m somehow able not to LOOK it. Because I’m logical that way.)
And so I sat there, wondering who I would call in a crisis; who would surround me if I needed it? Was I somehow lacking in the support I would need if push came to shove?
In relatively short order I snapped out of my little pity party, as I realized that although I don’t have a dozen friends who’ve known me my entire life, I do have just enough friends who take me as I am, and who would no doubt stand with me if I needed them to. And—perhaps more importantly—these friendships I have now are much stronger than the ones of my youth, because I no longer freak out over every little thing and then ditch anyone who’s displeased me somehow.
Which means that I’m pretty confident that in forty years, quite a few of these folks will still be around. In more than the saw-your-update-on-Facebook way. And that’s enough to make me realize that whether or not I have bosom buddies from grade school, I do have plenty, more than my share, when it comes to wonderful women in my life. And if they’re NOT around forty years from now, well, there will be others or the ones I have will be enough.
Right now is enough. Whatever comes next will be, too.
This Love Thursday, I’m grateful for my friends. I hope I’m enough for them, too.