Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Thoughts on Friendship


The most beautiful discovery true friends make is that they can grow separately without growing apart.  
--Elisabeth Foley

I love people and have counted many among my friends over the years. Like "love," though, "friend" is a simple word that has complex connotations. For example, I am blessed to have friendships that have stood the test of time. I have already blogged about reconnecting with my childhood friend Peggy; I am also Facebook friends with several other girls from the old neighborhood as well as my best friends from high school. We keep up with each other's Facebook posts, exchange Christmas cards and photographs, and even meet face-to-face as circumstances allow. It is wonderful to enjoy adult relationships with these women I grew up with.

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You wanna know who your true friends are? Screw up and see who's still there.
--Unknown

Unfortunately, I have also had my share of fair-weather friends. For example, there was my friend Katrina*, a devout Christian woman, who befriended me back in my Raleigh years (1985-1993). Even after she and her family moved away we kept in touch, sending each other long newsy letters and chatting for hours on the phone. Everything was great until 2001, when I made the difficult decision to divorce my husband. Certain that she would be supportive after learning my reasons, I was devastated to discover that her religious convictions prevented her from maintaining her friendship with me. She has not spoken to me since.

Indeed, I have been thrown under the bus or abandoned more times than I like to remember by women I was certain I would play Bingo with at the senior citizens center one day. Whether for a transgression they couldn't forgive or for reasons totally beyond my comprehension, they walked out of my life without a backward glance. My head tells me I am better off without them. My heart is slow to catch up.

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Your truest friends are the ones who will stand by you in your darkest moments - because they're willing to brave the shadows with you - and in your greatest moments - because they're not afraid to let you shine. 
-- Nicole Yatsonsky

Interestingly, other of my conservative friends were among my biggest supporters as I went through my divorce. Asking no questions, demanding no explanations, they looked after my young children while I shopped for a house, met with lawyers, went to court. These women also supported me by attending my how-to-homeschool seminars and bringing their children to my home for piano lessons. Years have gone by; our children are grown and our lives have gone in different directions. Still, we manage to find opportunities to get together, to have dinner or plan an adventure. I don't know what I would have done without them.

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She is a friend of mind.  She gather me, man.  The pieces I am, she gather them and give them back to me in all the right order.  It's good, you know, when you got a woman who is a friend of your mind.  
--Toni Morrison, Beloved

Today, I am blessed to have a small circle of friends who really get me. They have seen me at my worst but challenge me to be my best. I don't have to be overly careful about my words when I am with them; they read between the lines, hearing what is left unsaid as clearly as what is stated, and help me understand my feelings when they are almost too raw to experience. They hold me when I cry, commiserate with me when I am heartbroken, encourage me in my crazy dreams but love me just the way I am. I hope they consider me to be the same kind of friend to them.

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A true friend unbosoms freely, advises justly, assists readily, adventures boldly, takes all patiently, defends courageously, and continues a friend unchangeably.  
--William Penn

These same women occasionally are put in the position of telling me something I really don't want to hear - either in gentle criticism or as a result of seeing me in a compromised situation. This kind of honesty is extremely rare and worth more than a thousand hollow flatteries.

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I get by with a little help from my friends.
--The Beatles

Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

*Name has been changed.

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