Yesterday two of my neighbors came over for a pre-surgery tea party. We had a really nice time.
I’ve been thinking about friendship a lot since I moved to Monte Vista where I did not know anyone. It’s kind of a “different” thing to do (as I was told repeatedly). I did it knowing that if I never met anyone I’d still be OK. I’m nothing if not internally resourceful. But I did meet people — quite a few and most of them I like.
Friendship changes throughout our lives, I think. I remember as a kid wanting playmates, mostly, and that one BEST friend. Both of those things were hard for me to make. First, I was a little kid. Second, I was very sensitive and, since I was a little kid, I didn’t know that other people might be just as sensitive — or more! — than I was. I didn’t know then that people react differently to things than I might. It’s not that little kids think they’re the center of the universe. They’re figuring out who THEY are through the ecolocation of childhood. It’s pretty hard to figure out who OTHER people are when you don’t know who YOU are. I had a friend who sulked when she was mad. I didn’t understand that at ALL. I lived in a family where you threw tantrums and got it off your chest. I was always trying to go to Debbie to get her to talk to me. I always felt her silence was forever. My mom said, over and over, “Just leave her alone. She has to sulk. She’ll come back.”
Mom, of course, was right.
I discovered playmates through team sports (baseball, softball, kick ball, kill the man with the ball) and I found a best friend (finally!) in sixth grade. I looked her up a few years ago and we still like each other.
In high school I remember wanting a (male) soulmate (was I really thinking of my “soul”?) and girl friends to do stuff with. It was important that we UNDERSTAND each other in some ineffably deep way. In adolescence we don’t understands ourselves very well. Maybe that’s why we seek understanding from others. Any little bit of help, right?
In my working years, friendship was often transactional and transitory. It depended on the people with whom I worked, but I did, in my 20s, discover the second best friend of my life.
An we still like each other.
All this to say at this point in my life my understanding of friendship is completely different. By now I’ve known tens of thousands of people (many of whom wandered in and out of my classrooms). Friendship now is not about all the things we have in common, or shared memories, shared goals, as much as it’s about the actual PERSON inside the physical carapace. All of our lives are so different from each other, our experiences, our responses and reactions to those experiences, the disappointments we’ve had, the hopes we still hold, our responses to any given moment, that once you know who you are, you don’t expect to have all that much ‘in common’ with others. I know I am like an iceberg in the Atlantic — there’s a bit up on the surface, but most of it is below) and everyone else is an iceberg, too.
It takes a lifetime to learn who we are, I think, or maybe I’m just a slow learner.
Listening to my friends talking yesterday (I mostly listened) I thought about all this. I don’t have a lot in common (superficially) with my friends in Monte Vista, but on other levels that don’t come into the conversation over a pretty table with cookies on it, I do. The biggest thing is we are all survivors and we want to share the good we have with others. I think it’s one of the perks of being old(er).
As the party was breaking up, they asked, “When exactly is your surgery?” We knew why we were all there. I wanted to spend time with them before I go up for my “procedure.” Why? Because once in a while, people die in surgery. I know it, they know it. We know people who have died that way. You don’t talk about it, it’s nothing to be spoken of (though I am) but it’s there. You also don’t talk about being afraid, but you (and your friends) know you are afraid. I told them all the basic information when they asked, and the subject went back to dogs or something else.
There are the rare friends who know your heart, though. And I’ve been amazed — blessed — in my little town to have found that.