. . .1144 words and 2 songs; picking friends, for all the world to see
Saturday Feb. 8, 2014
I encounter people who seem to ‘not know how’ to make friends for keeps. I feel far more like wandering in wilderness student than I do teacher – but I’ll offer these thoughts:
I have acquaintances.
Some, but not many, are very close.
Really close friends are really rare.
Rarified, fantastic, superlative, treasured.
Through publishing this daily column I’ve become somewhat connected with people all over this earth. Africa, Asia, Europe, South America .. and many much closer to home.
I easily call them my ‘musing friends’, that’s 6,500+ connections I value.
Most, I’ve never met. Or talked to. I know perhaps thousands more, through life in this city and Edmonton going back so many years. We all do. We bump into people on streets, at work, at functions. Sometimes we miss them until we find them on an obituary page, or somebody says “what ever happened to so-and-so?” and we answer lamely that we don’t know, because we’ve not kept in touch.
I have several clusters of friends who don’t know each other but I try to cross-pollinate sometimes (hmmm … maybe time to host a gathering), closer-folks from different parts of my life (Toastmasters, colleagues) I connect with or see often – but we aren’t very close status.
I have a small cadre I’ll label ‘very close’ friends. Not close always in proximity, or contact frequency.
I hesitate in saying intimate friends because that word tends to imply more – but they are, intimate friends. Close. Family close. I can count them on one hand. I can count on them. And they on me. Day or night, 24/7.
Driving home the other day from a meeting – I had a thought I’ve had so many times on similar days – “I’ll call Gary and catch up”. Maybe it was just to have someone to tell about my day. There I was, for a minute, stopped at a red light, out of habit scrolling my iPhone to find his number, to speed-dial. That number isn’t there in my phone any longer. He doesn’t answer anymore. Yet his number remains in my head, as does he.
Many years ago I saw a not very successful film, Friends(1971) – young-love story set in south of France. Plot and characters long lost but essence of it, and that tune, stuck in my mind, warms me each time I hear – Elton John, Friends
I met Gary 40 years ago. I don’t think either of us ever imagined we would pick the other as friends. Our commonality – having worked together for a while and special connection with his wife Pia who I’d also worked with, that blossomed when my daughter Krista was admitted to hospital where Pia worked. First ever asthma-attack at age 2½. Our connection took another turn a few years later when Pia died leaving Gary to raise a 1 yr. old. From that point, he grew to become someone I was so proud to call friend – and our friendship grew.
No way to forecast or know how – to predict or orchestrate them, but there must be magic in it.
Politically correct to say ‘don’t judge’, but when picking people to be close to, to bring as close as your closest friends or family, we have the right to judge who we will or won’t risk with, who we will or won’t open our mind to, who we will or won’t open our arms to.
Sometimes – don’t give up, give it time.
Sometimes, judge them – and run away, as far and fast as you can.
And, sometimes, set that judgment aside. Take some time to see if they grow on you – maybe like a fungus, maybe like a best friend ever.
I used to think it was trusting ‘gut feelings’.
If I’d done that, I’d never have become Gary’s friend.
It/he made no sense. For 20 years we were ‘hi how are you?’ in the street acquaintances.
You know those police line-ups?
In movies or TV dramas, a witness picks evil doer out of a lineup.
Imagine all the people you meet, all your acquaintances, in a line up. Could you pick your best friends for life from that lineup? And of the ones you pick, would any of them pick you? OK, now try that with complete strangers. [anyone wishing to make a correlation between those statements and internet dating these days will absolutely know what I mean].
A number of years ago – she was mid 20’s then – Krista asked for some love advice. The questions related to someone she liked, wondering if she was liked in return. My answer was something like “we don’t choose who we love, and we don’t know if love, or that person will choose us”.
It wouldn’t, as she soon learned, be that difficult to find out – sometimes we just need to extend our hand in friendship and it takes care of itself. Sometimes we fail. Sometimes we succeed for a while.
Aren’t we all, bursting? Stories to tell. Points to make. Like child coming home from school, only to find nobody home. Nobody to tell them to. Or a young man or woman coming home to find the same thing. Sure, there might be someone there, but no one to tell those stories to. Some stories, but not all stories. Those are reserved for friends, buddies, pals. For brothers, for sisters. I don’t have brothers. No sisters either. Never did.
For friends, I wasn’t that good at making them.
Some, but few.
I wasn’t popular, wasn’t warm, wasn’t kind, wasn’t the buddy anyone wanted.
I could assign blame or responsibility for that – and there is no shortage of excuses. Child of an alcoholic. No siblings. A mother who didn’t know how to make childhood fun. A father who was physically present but otherwise absent from my formation. So friends would have to do, and I didn’t have many. I had a few, but compared to my perception of how many everyone else had, I felt short changed, felt under-friend-ed.
Looking back, I was probably average because I get the sense more and more that I wasn’t alone in those feelings. Lots of us grew up with peculiar family structures, insecurities and social-skill deficiencies.
Those phases of life shape us. I’m probably as good at forming new friendships now as I was growing up – clumsy, awkward and not everyone’s cuppa.
Still, it seems I make a few.
Where very close friends are concerned, a few can be plenty. Plenty good.
I’ve lost a few.
Some ‘gone away’ both metaphorically and by distance – they are missed.
Some gone into the dead file, literally.
Different kind of hurt, letting go that comes so easily in theory. Not so in practice.
morning walk: -16C / 4F, light breeze, skimpy snow blanket overnight, still falling – overcast of course, crunch of snow under-boots is unmistakable in the quiet, unlike any other sound I’ve ever heard. Gusta sniffing debris but the bus stop with great excitement because a discarded coffee cup smells like something edible. I’m amused, we walked the well sanded big hill by the cemetery