The phrase, “Just friends” always puzzled me, as if friendship were minimal and/or easy. Friendship has never been easy for me and it is certainly NOT minimal. I’ve had a few good friends in my life and I regard each friendship as kind of a miracle.
“To have a friend, you have to be a friend.” That’s what my mom said whenever the relationship between me and another little girl ended in a fight.
“Leave Debbie alone for now. She’s sulking and she’ll come around when she’s done.”
“You can’t be the boss all the time, honey. You have to let other little girls pick the games sometimes.”
“It’s OK if Barbara has other friends. You have other friends.”
“Do unto others, honey, do unto others.”
Most of what my mom said was right, but to a five year old? Cryptic beyond any possibility of understanding AND the list is long. This is only a small part of her instructions about how to be and not to be a friend. Sometimes it was just too complicated to bother, so I read a book instead or went to the woods. And there was always my brother who was more fun than most of the little girls I knew.
As a grown woman, I understand why friendship didn’t come easily to me as a kid. Partly it was because I’ve always had a very rich internal life, and, as a kid, I didn’t understand that the other people in the world weren’t participating. 🙂 And then, I’m an introvert. Being around people too much, too long, makes me very tired. Tiredness in children quickly translates to anger. I know this now, but as a little girl, friendship was kind of a nightmare. I wanted friends but, on some level, I didn’t need them. Interaction with my family was probably all I could handle.
When I was in sixth grade, and my parents sent me to a private school, I met a girl with whom I could really be friends. I learned from that how great friendship is, and how it doesn’t need all those rules when there is true sympathy between people, even little girls. Our friendship survived all kinds of trauma including me puking on her and her horse falling on me. A few years back I thought of her and wondered what had happened to her, so I found her. I’m a decent internet sleuth, but she’d hidden her tracks well so, when I popped up in an email she was both surprised and wary (paranoid?).
We got reacquainted and caught up with each other. The conversation was fun; as two older women we’d probably be friends again if we lived nearer each other, but as that is not the case, we both quietly let the conversation go knowing that the connection was still there.
My friend, L, is very good at friendship. Although she may not know it, it’s something I’ve consciously observed. She is far more out-going than I am, more comfortable with people, has a higher need for interpersonal connection and entertainment — but she also knows how to protect her space — and to respect the space of others. I admire her for these things very much. She’s also very good at being a friend to me — as I hope I am to her.
As for me, now, a lifetime of forming relationships with crowds of post-adolescents in order to make a class work has been good training. I’ve learned that I have a powerful and reliable intuition about people and can quickly “get their number.” I know that I’m not going to like everyone and plenty of people are not going to like me. I’ve learned to hold my ground when necessary, but also that “going along” is a way to experience more of the world. I now know that NO ONE else lives in my internal world. It’s where stories come from.
I moved to Monte Vista knowing no one. I have had to apply all the “friendship lessons” of my life. Though five year old Martha would not believe it, 64 year old Martha has found it fun to meet new people and form new friendships. It’s one thing that’s made “Heaven” Heaven.