Today’s prompt from #reverb10, by Martha Mihalick, touched a chord that was so forceful that it has taken all day to sort out the overtones.
Prompt: Friendship. How has a friend changed you or your perspective on the world this year? Was this change gradual, or a sudden burst?
I’ll address the question by saying every friend has added a perspective this year that is new. My sense is that since I stay in touch with change, the change was gradual. My reflections on friendship at year’s end are more interesting than the actual question. Thank you, Martha, for inspiring a deeper inquiry.
Friendship is a thorny topic. I was a geeky girl in junior high and high school — too tall, too smart, interested in music and theater and literature and poetry, history and comparative religion, and the obscure derivations of words. . . not really “mainstream.” I had a few good friends, but never rose to the top of the coolness hierarchy. In college, popularity was not such an issue .I was working too hard and studying too much to be concerned with being the talk of the campus. I felt the sting of loss as friendships from high school couldn’t bear the pressure of expansion. I felt the sting of betrayal in love.
I find in the history of my life that I have intense friendships for an intense period of time. We were united by a shared experience or trauma, working together, attending the same church, or having children around the same time, or at the same school, or perhaps we performed together. I learned that friendships are so valuable because they are part of the ephemera of life. Circumstances change. People move away or move on, and despite the best intentions, those people and relationships — disappear.
I have embraced social media and have truly enjoyed getting back in touch with people from high school. Did I push them away? Was there an ending, a protracted fizzle — or did we just get good at adapting to current conditions and the people who were nearer? I’ve renewed some friendships at a level of adult maturity, and think that I would probably enjoy these people again, now, without the pain and angst of adolescence as the soundtrack.
Along with social media, I have also met many wonderful and dynamic people in my own city, Houston. I enjoy seeing them at parties, meeting for coffee, running into them at events around town. I know that I am well-regarded, and I have a reputation for generosity with my time and attention. I have many “friends:” although I think it’s more accurate to say that I have many pleasant acquaintances. They are “entry level” friends, they with me and I with them, no doubt. They are a lot of fun. The demands are low. Have a drink, have a coffee, listen to some music. I haven’t had a crisis, thank the lord. Honestly, I don’t know who would come through in a pinch. That’s just my perception at the moment.
My dearest friends are those with whom I completed my Feldenkrais Training. We shared four years: four tumultuous, miraculous, wonderful years where we were witnesses as people transformed — physically, emotionally, cognitively, socially — before our very eyes. We shared great joys (pregnancies, births, new homes) and great tragedies. One friend was diagnosed with breast cancer during our training — she has had a full recovery. Several people lost parents or siblings to death. I was the “poster child” for change: in 2002, I got divorced, my mother died, I lost a job that I had been in for 10 years, my daughter graduated from high school, and I moved to a new city to reinvent myself. This kind of transformation, known and unknown, shared or unshared, bonds people.
Our upstairs neighbors are treasures. They are Brits, and the most generous, friendly, wonderful people you’d ever want to meet. We weathered Hurricane Ike together (in a continual party and feast atmosphere for four days until power was restored), her breast cancer diagnosis, our travels and business developments. They have grandchildren back home, and he is nearing retirement, so I know the time is coming when they will leave us. I can hardly bear the thought.
One of my very first students at the university, way back in 1991-1992, lives in Houston. He helped me to move in to my first apartment. He calls me every six weeks or so, just to check in. We rarely manage to see each other, since his job is demanding and my life is what it is. But I received a phone call from him this week, just to say hello and catch up before the holidays. I don’t express my appreciation to him nearly enough — for his steadfastness, his ease, and just for plain old caring. Who knew I would reach the point in life where a phone call from someone unrelated, saying “I was just thinking about you” would be like food for my soul?
At this point in my life, I don’t know who I would call — apart from my children and my partner — if I were really in trouble or pain. I just don’t know. Because I know how precious friendship is, I hold it lightly.
That all sounds pretty raw, as I re-read it. So be it. What would I like to create in 2011? A group of “trusties.” I welcome it.