Make New Friends, But Keep the Old
We left behind the house on Observatory, a sunny yellow Victorian, with greenery everywhere, and its olden brick patio, moss ever so slightly creeping through the cracks. The stars were out, the moon in its banana form, with a few milky white clouds in the form a mouth, preparing to consume the moon. These are the nights when friendship is meant to be consumed, in between slurps of borscht, bites of Tuna Niçoise and chucks of blue cheese.
Our small group of writers had been together for one semester of Women Writing for (a) Change, but we had shared lifetimes, in the fifteen minutes that we often aired our writing. Inga, Allsyon, Naomi and I shared our values through our feedback and our compassion through our silence, or sometimes, from Naomi, the occasional, Ooohh.
It’s no secret in middle age we all struggle with making new friends. I have never given a thought to how close we were as writers and women, just always knew we were. And yet here we sat, Inga, the Danish mother of three, Allyson, so entrenched and liberated as a modern Jewish mother, now moving to support her husband’s new work at a Jewish Center, Naomi, a sixties-ish WASP, recently remarried, after time alone or spent advocating for the environment, and me with my Italian Catholic roots, my blended family, and my love for all things Oregon, and yet we could save the world in one night.
As I drove home with Allyson and Inga in the car, Inga riding shotgun – we had to explain that one to Naomi – my thoughts drifted to Lynn, my close friend now faraway in Phoenix. I never did call her back yesterday because the car pooling was horrendous, and then I needed time to get ready and be present for this outing with my writing friends.
I have been having a friend “crisis”, possibly just reimagining, which began shortly after my training within the Feminist Leadership Academy. This crisis was caused by a few events that occurred while I was proceeding through the weeks at the academy and only after last night could I put them into words that made sense.
The first event occurred while in conversation with my neighbors. I happened to be discussing my middle step daughter, a bright child with so much hope and desires for the future to truly find a way to eradicate hunger, educate the homeless. These are no small tasks and require not only a bright mind, but a solid core. Of course, I was bragging about her, because here was a child that lost her mom when she was 11. Her mother had been ill since she was six years old. For a young woman with poise, potential and compassion, I would brag on her all day. As we continued our discussion, one woman suggested that Shannon was a show off about her grades. (Shannon has a 4.6). And I said, “Of course, she should show off. I would show off too.” But then, I also said, “I find that hard to believe because she does not do that at home, at all.” At an all girls school, there are plenty would be happy to start that rumor anyhow.
As Allyson, whose mother died when she was young, declared later when retold this incident, “I’m an uber person too, and sometimes, I think it because my mom died when I was young, when she was young, I don’t want to leave any stone unturned.”
The second event occurred while in conversation with another close friend. We were eating lunch, discussing a separation between my sister and her husband. I simply shrugged my shoulders and said, “She doesn’t feel happy and isn’t sure this is the life she wants.” To that my girlfriend replied, “It sure seems like she has everything, what’s not to be happy about?” I replied, “There’s plenty in her background that she dealt with over the years that’s not my business to share, but everybody has their stuff.”
And from this I learned something else. When those who appear to have everything begin to “crack”, confusion reigns because someone is making a choice that may not be in line with societal expectations, but may certainly bring that person happiness from within.
These two events had caused me to rethink my relationships, in particular with women. While I missed my Monday night writing class, I had found solace in the company of women from my leadership classes. But with summer approaching and both classes and the academy ending, I missed those women more. When I am feeling lonely, my writing friends are the ones I think of. They are so authentic. They own their own problems and recognize when they are having problems they are simply pulling too many outside factors into themselves and not allowing themselves to be out in the world.
At the beginning of year, I embarked upon a journey to make new friends without the knowledge that Lynn would be moving. How refreshing to tell my young girls that I am making new friends. And I want to be intentional about my friendships. After writing the above stories, I see how easy it is to be unconscious and how quickly we can cause pain with our outbursts.
So this morning, I am taking time to write this, to put down in words, my commitment to be intentional with my new relationships, as well as the old ones, recognizing they could take months, years to build and they only take seconds to dismantle. For my longtime friends, for Allyson and Lynn, for Inga and Naomi, for Leigh and my FLA sisters, wherever their life will take them, I will put my energy into growing that which can be grown or cultivated regardless of how near or far.