This past weekend, we had dinner with friends who we haven’t seen in ages. As usual, the conversation, after being a lively one between the four of us, narrowed down to the guys discussing sports with one another (with some business thrown in) and the ladies discussing…well, anything and everything.
Honestly, sometimes I think the worst of what I think is my tendency toward ADD emerges when it comes to conversations when you haven’t seen someone in a long time. We jumped manically around the subject of books, movies, kids, travel, hair (isn’t that always a big one? Especially when it’s super-humid out), clothing, parents (that subject is not one that everyone can have, since sadly, so many of our parents are gone by now)…until we realized our food was growing cold and we weren’t really that hungry anymore.
Finally, when all the chatter settled down, hubby’s friend B (whom I adore – he’s the kind of guy that I can have deep and meaningful conversations with) challenged us all with a question: “What would make you lose a friend ? I mean, how bad would they have to act?” Apparently, someone had told him that he was the nicest, most tolerant and kindest person they knew, and there was no way they’d believe that a person like him would – or could – ever lose a friend.
That question got me thinking about friendships. Friendships are like a pantry: there are a variety of things in there, all for various reasons, but sometimes the shelves get over-crowded, the cans get dented or the expiration date passes – and you have to just break down and clean it out.
Irene Levine, who is both a good friend and a friendship expert, says in her book, Best Friends Forever, “…there are some friendships that are definitely not worth saving because they are fatally flawed. It takes wisdom and insight to be able to discern the difference between those that are keepers and those that aren’t.”
And I’ll take the liberty of adding another word to the second part of the sentence: It takes wisdom, insight AND COURAGE.
I’ve found, especially as I get older, that my many friendships have taken on different shapes and meanings. Some have dwindled to the point of evaporation. I can’t really put my finger on exactly why, but I suppose if they were “important” enough, they would have stuck through, as they say, thick and thin. Nothing really “happened;”meaning there were no fall-outs or disagreements. Like plants that aren’t given enough light or attention, they just withered on the vine.
Then again, other friendships have surprised me. They’ve deepened with the years, been resurrected from the past (although in different iterations), even though these friends and I don’t see one another often. Perhaps one reason is that as time passes, we experience more upheaval in our lives: loss, illness, divorce, money problems, relocations, job issues. And when bad or challenging things happen to us, we turn to our real friends for help. It’s the people who will listen and make time for us that are the friends who are genuine and real. Those friends who care and show they care are the ones that stick.
There’s another thing about friendship that surprises and warms me as I get older – and that’s how I’ve been able to form new, close friendships. My (faulty) reasoning used to tell me that it’s tougher – or even impossible – to make new friends as you age. Learning all about someone’s past that I was not part of is both challenging and exciting – I have to remember the fine details of things that they share with me but at the same time, I get to know them as who they are today, without the baggage from the past. No explanations necessary.
There’s no judgement. There’s only listening.
And then there’s that undeniable feeling of joy and appreciation for those shared moments; those intense let’s-solve-the-problems-of-the-world discussions; those late-night texts and emails when you thought everyone had gone to bed and forgotten about you; those snippets of sheer elation when you know that not only you have been heard, but that you are truly loved, despite your (perceived) flaws.
Friends keep us healthy.
So to all my friends – those who are old, new, resurrected, single and coupled, I raise a virtual glass.
Thank you for caring. And thank you for being my friend.
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