“How often we find ourselves turning our backs on our actual friends, that we may go and meet their ideal cousins.” – Henry David Thoreau
I wish it weren’t true, but when I look back on the friendships of my youth I see stepping stones. While some friendships were deep and strong and carried me through very difficult parts of my maturation, others were brief and fleeting, dipping quickly below the surface of the rapidly moving current of adolescence. More than once I was on the giving end of the hurt and pain caused by unexpected disconnect and there were some very poignant times I was on the receiving end as well.
I exited my college years by falling in love with a woman who I tried to believe was my best friend, while my relationship with my true best friend began to dry and wither. Throughout that subsequent 10 year relationship, I completely lost touch with who I was and what was even important to me and as such, lost touch with people who once were important to me.
I transitioned into being a mother, a mother of an autistic child, a mother of a child I did not grow inside me, a mother surviving depression and an anxiety disorder. I struggled through these huge life changes feeling so alone, not knowing how to reach in, not knowing how to reach out, constantly working to keep my head above water. And then finally I found myself as a mother who was single. Only then could I look back and see clearly all the things I had lost, squandered, in that relationship. Only then did I begin to regain my footing as a whole person. And by the time I did, my true best friend, the woman who I once felt was a sister to me, she was adrift in her own life. We were, and remain, miles apart (figuratively and literally). I long for her, long to reconnect with her, to relate, to fill myself up with her energy that once helped me be okay with who I really was.
There is a part of me that realizes we have grown apart and that is okay. We may never find our way back to a place where we are entwined with one another again, but it doesn’t negate who we were then, what we had then, and who it has made us today. I would not be who I am today without her. No matter where we are, I know that we are each dear to the others’ heart. Our connection was real and deep and meaningful and I will always love her as if she were family.
And still there is another part of me that believes that people come into our lives when we need them. Some of those people stay longer than others, some weave in and out, some come and go quickly. Always there is an imprint, a mark left, and I don’t believe any of that is accidental.
I’m on the cusp of another transition. Through it, I’m working on being open, living my truth without fear, accepting my vulnerabilities. Things are coming in to my life rapid fire, some of them cementing themselves in sets of three, assuring me they are the right thing for here, for now. I feel a pull to have the relationships I’m a part of right now to be something different than those of my past. Instead of thoughtless superficiality, I am drawn to the depths of connection, to observing my feelings, to sitting with those feelings and allowing them to be without judgment. I want to feel the peace of being in the moment because what is here right now is exactly how it should be, exactly what it needs to be.
I will always be drawn to that which feels safer because that is my nature. But I can challenge that by dipping my toe into riskier, more vulnerable waters, setting compassionate boundaries, digging deeper and accepting my feelings as they are. It may be idealistic, but it seems as though that’s the only way to tap into what friendships can really bring into our lives if we are brave enough to choose it. And if we are brave enough to be in it, we will have no need to look for anything more ideal than that.
photo credit: meredith farmer