Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Friendship


 Make new friends, but keep the old.  One is silver, the other, gold.  This was my favorite song, often song in a teary-eyed round at Girl Scout campfires as we left a wonderful weekend in the woods. I am very fortunate that I have always had both new friends and old friends.  I think it is very important to have friends who know you at different times in your life.  But it is the ones who stay with you, as you develop and change, make bad decisions and good decisions, and still love you who are the most precious of all.

This weekend I had an "old" friend visit. I've known her for 12 years. We met in Southern Oregon when I first moved back to Oregon from the east coast. This friend is someone I care for deeply, but we haven't actually seen each other face-to-face for about 4 years and, off and on during that time, there have been periods of no contact for several months at a time.  A combination of things kept us apart, health issues on her end, me moving to another state on my end. Tragedies or challenges around lost jobs, lost opportunities, lost money that we kept to ourselves for one reason or another, and certainly we both continued to have busy and challenging lives and careers.

Sometimes, when I haven't seen someone or heard from them for a long time, I wonder if that person has made a conscicous decision to let go.  I have had people tell me that I hang on too long, that all friendship is a give and take and when proximity is taken out of the equation there is nothing to take and that is why people let go. I don't buy that. I think people just go through tough things in life and, for whatever reason, they need to work it out on their own sometimes. I just need to wait patiently and see when there is an opportunity to reconnect.

I know that I have defined this crazy role for me in a friendship--it is called the make-everything-better role. Because of this definition, when I'm really busy or having a crazy time in my own life, I put off connecting because I feel I don't have anything wonderful, uplifting, amazing to offer.  I can put myself into the role of only being a friend if I'm 110% A-okay.  I'm sure I'm not the only one who does this. As much as I know friendship is about loving each other for who we are, in all our flaws, I still feel that need to be something more--the "perfect" friend. Needless to say, this perfect-friend trait I try to exhibit is also the same trait that makes some of my friends not keep in contact with me because they feel they also need to be the "perfect" friend because I'm so damn perfect. Ah, what a web of deceit I weave.


I have long term friends from various parts of my life that I rarely, if ever see, yet I know we are still close friends. Probably the longest is someone I was very close to in Junior High School. And during High School she spent some time living with me and my family. She lives in Oklahoma. I live in Oregon.  We met in Southern California. I haven't seen her for probably 40 years. We keep in contact through Facebook now, and the occasional email or year-in-review letter. Yet, I know for certain that when we come face-to-face again it will be amazing. She knows the very young and idealistic me from so long ago. I love that she remembers that person and can still bring her back to me. And I can bring the same young and idealistic person I knew back to her.  Sure we've grown a little jaded as we've gotten older, but we still have that idealism deep inside us and value it in each other.

I have another friend from 12 years ago who is my age (near retirement) and has chosen to join the Peace Corps. In June, she's leaving to serve in Swaziland. I can't imagine her being so far away for two or more years. I'm truly happy for her, but Africa is so very far away. She's one of those people who grew up in a world completely different from my own, yet we speak the same language. I'm already missing her and she hasn't even left yet.


I have friends I knew as men who are now women, and women who have married other women. I have friends who have been married and divorced many times, and others who are celebrating 30+ years of marriage. I have friends who have given up their children for a number of reasons, and others who have adopted children or fostered children, and many friends who very purposefully chose not to have children. I have friends who have made more money than I ever will, and others who are poor but still powerful. I don't always understand what my friends have done in the intervening years, or why they made particular choices.  And I'm sure there are many things we haven't shared with each other because it is still too painful to face. We don't always agree with each other's politics, religion, or life choices. Yet, I always know that person loves me, thinks about me, would move mountains to come to me if I asked (though I probably never would ask).  I know that person is a phone call away and will always take my call. And each of my friends knows the same about me.

Nothing can replace that kind of friendship, that kind of knowing who another person really is and still loving them anyway. The kind of friendship that allows you to grow and change, even if it isn't always in the same direction, and still care about you enough to be willing to listen at any time day or night. That is special and something I will always treasure.

How about you? Do you have any long term friends? What is special about those relationships for you?

8 comments:

Nisa said...

This is so true, and beautifully written. Friends come and go throughout our lives, but the friendships that are made endure.

Cindy Rueb said...

So wonderfully said and a mirror of my feelings as well! You and I should cross little pinkies and choose less than perfection and share even when the best we have to offer is to sigh. And you are the friend I can trust with both the joy and the tears and sometimes both at once! Let us take a bit of time in eternity and fly together playing connect the dots with the stars. Looking forward to time across the table with you...something to sip a bit of sweet and music from the heart to be sung!

jamie said...

Maggie, I LOVE this post. So heartfelt, insightful, thoughtful and so very TRUE. The perfect friend thing can be an affliction. We've all had it. I think I learned a lot about friendship through my husband and his best friend. Men are so different in their thinking. So just because they don't see each other for 2-3-4 years doesne't mean they;re not friends, they're just busy. Also, if they say they'll meet in a year @ BAR X for a beer, they don't reconfirm with each other, they just do it. I have two longtime friends in Canada who I see every few years. Hit the ground running every time. Except the last time, with childhood friend... that was weird.. and yet we have so much history together I could let it go, figuring she'll get over whatever issue she's not telling me about eventually. Which brings me to your other point -- why is it that we sometimes think we can only be "friends" when things are going well for us?

Jessa Slade said...

Perfect friends are too much work! How am I supposed to keep up with that? :) Seriously, my best friends are the ones willing to let me be myself -- an imperfect perfectionist -- and I hope they want to be themselves with me too.

(Also, we're writers. Imperfections are what interest us most!)

Maggie Jaimeson said...

Nisa, You know how much I love you. Thanks for stopping by.

Cindy, what are wonderful surprise to see your post here. It's hard to imagine we've been friends since Junior High. I still plan for a f-2-f before death. Just not sure yet how it will happen.

Jamie, you ask a good question. Why is it women tend to suffer this "perfect" friend affliction more than men? I know for me it's because my upbringing as a female included many, many examples of women giving up everything of themselves to make/keep others happy, or to keep the peace. That gave me a distorted view that there was no room for me to be sad, troubled, crazy, making mistakes, etc. I suspect many women have the same view of their role in the world. I know, intellectually, that's a crazy way to live. But it's really hard to let go of those habits. Fortunately, I have friends who know this about me and say things like. "Now that we've heard about your absolutely perfect, happy life tell us the truth." :)

Jessa, you're not perfect? Who knew? I thought that you were the definition of perfect imperfection.:) Something I am trying to emulate.

Cindy Rueb said...

What are you doing in August? We are looking at different dates to visit the Sacremento area.....

Melia Alexander said...

My idea of good friends are those who allow me to be me, and are okay if we're seen in public together. :-) I think I've got a couple who'd fall into that category, but, really, does anyone need more than that?

Great post, Maggie!

Maggie Jaimeson said...

Thanks Melia! I agree that few great friends is much better than zillions of acquaintances.