The old line about how friends can be for a reason, a season or a lifetime is a daily fucking challenge to me. This year, I have had lots of time to reflect on friendship. My life has been scattered with many a diamond in the rough. People who make me laugh, hold me while I cry and just make the world a better more interesting place.
I also definitely had friendships that burned brightly, used up all the oxygen in the room and then disappeared without trace. Similarly, I have friends that I see rarely but know without shadow of doubt that should I call them they will be there for me no matter what I asked.
Like any relationship, friendships require effort and energy in order to survive the rampage of the seasons.With so many of my friendships now long distance, this takes on a whole new level of challenge. I am not sure I am fully rising to this challenge.
Historically, my friend making has been hit and miss. I made friends in high school, some of whom are surprisingly present in my life to this day. Mostly guys. I was always better with guys though thankfully none of their wives dislike me. One of those wives even sits at the pinnacle of my besties list. I have no idea who I would be without her influence and her love. Back in high school, we were the freaks and geeks, for the most part. Not really fitting into any other group, we hung out together almost by default. Still, we were good to each other.We are still good to each other. Those friendships in our teen years form the basis of who you will be, what you will value, what you will do. We have grown into all sorts of people, with different politics and different goals… but in common is a core decency, a determination to do good things. I am kinda happy about that.
I made friends through my first marriage, which, like all good mistakes failed spectacularly. Almost all of those “friends” vanished immediately along with that husband, teaching me an extra lesson about who to trust. I was alone at the end of it, and it took years to rebuild myself into a person who I could like again. I was pretty lucky those people left when they did, to be realistic.
Thank goodness for the stalwart few from before who had stood by my side. These were mostly church friends. I see few of them these days, but still count them among my most important, most reliable, most likely to cause me to drop everything and run people. The know that I have their backs, and I know that the have mine, even when years pass without contact. I love them.
Many of my best friendships are coincidental. Like, the lady who went to school with a girl I was fighting with (22 years ago) who agreed to drop off an olive branch to a stranger. She was in high school maybe 16 yrs old. I was a young, teen mum and had just moved into my first ever flat on my own. She arrived to drop off this little knitted doll, saw my overwhelmed state and offered to help unpack some boxes….. and stayed in my life ever since. She became a teacher and has taught all three of my children at one point or another. She remains one of the most important role models in my life.
And the girl who flatted with a good friend of mine. she used to answer the phone when my buddy wasn’t there, and we got to talking about life the universe and everything. A while later, I looked after her in pregnancy, and now she is the closest thing I have to a sister friend (I have sisters, who I love, but I had never thought of a friend as like a sister until this lady came along).
It was so easy back then. You literally met someone you liked, talked some, probably drank some and then, bam, friends for life, yo.
As life turned on its seasonal wheel, I tried to make friends through my kids. Though, to be honest, not many of those friendships took. The ones that did take were often doomed. I was never very confident and I think it showed. But I met people through work, university or boyfriends or even just randomly at bars and they would each flare briefly in my life. All were good times. All but a very few faded out as life changed, ebbing out of existence and into memory.
A scattering of friends came from, or were revitalised by, my work as a midwife. Professional friendships are going to be a future blog, so you ladies and gents can wait with bated breath for me to get round to writing that one, and see if you can pick yourselves out in it!
There were flaming friend failures and long term friendships that fizzed or exploded too. The girl I met at a bar when she was trying to get her hands on a fake ID. She was 16, I was 20. We ended up flatting together and she remained probably my best friend for nearly twenty years, till one night it became abundantly clear that we had not only drifted apart, but the drift was insurmountable. I cried, but I knew it was over. She called me Hitler. It was pretty hard to come back from. So I moved on. It probably hurt her. But, I think staying would have hurt more.
There was the girl who worked with my current husband before he was my husband, who had an unrelentingly awkward and inappropriate sense of how close we were. She seemed to like me at first, but ended up hating everything I was and everything I stood for. It was awkward, painful and uncomfortable and by the end, it was awful.
This year I moved away from my safety zone, my 1 degree of separation town, where every conversation with a stranger led to an eventual connection-with-somebody-you-aready-know home, to a whole new city. Making friends as a grown up with no connections is HARD. I went from having a huge big pool of best friends who know all my foibles and weirdness inside out, to knowing some people at work.
But the problem with making friends is that whilst I didn’t have any, the people around me were fully stocked! They had a full quota of interesting people who already knew where they keep their coffee and their super warm cuddly socks (this is essential friend knowledge as it is how you keep your feet warm while drinking wine late at night after you’ve kicked off your strappy shoes). My needy lonely friend seeking self was not exactly appealing.
There is also the small problem that I am a loud, in your face, wear everything on your sleeve person. I talk about depression, politics, suicide and my spanks on first meetings. I literally am one of the most annoying people on earth. I have zero boundaries and truly shock even myself with some of my social inappropriateness. I am capable of sending people crazy in just a few hours. AND I am horribly intolerant of people who are not honest about who they are. Judgy McJudgy pants, right here.
Making friends as a grown up is long and slow, and just as scary as it ever was. Putting your personality on the table and watching people walk away from it like it was salmon dip can be a truly traumatic experience. Seeing people look at you like you are from another planet is pretty mortifying also. Getting drunk around brand new people is a big no no as an adult. So if you are like me and get drunk on being social (like, I hardly drink, but have trained myself to feel intoxicated and lose my inhibitions as if I was drunk even when not drinking) then you end up looking like the drunkest girl at the party everywhere you go. Which does NOT win friends and influence people. You have to watch your smart ass witticisms, also.
I have some amazing friends who I miss having around all the time. and in general, I have found that their best qualities are in who they are as people, not what they do…. Most have next to nothing in common with me. So I don’t like to rule anyone out too early.
I have waded through this year, slowly forming connections with a few brave souls, whilst probably horrifying a much higher percentage of the people I have encountered. I keep people from openly hating on me with the judicious application of genuine friendliness, and cake. Lots and lots of cake.
But getting people to actively like me is a step above my skill level. So last week, when I managed to meet up with four separate people on separate days for separate social interactions, I felt like it was time to blog my thoughts on this process. I dunno. It is not my best work. But, to be honest, I never promised Good. I just promised honest. Honest, this surely is.
PS. Some people mentioned in here are gonna recognise themselves, but one lady in particular is getting a by name shout out. Lou, babe, I can’t even begin to explain all the ways that you have traveled in and out of my life for the last 24 years in a simple tidy paragraph. Suffice to say, I love you.