Friday, May 14, 2010

On Friendships

I have been meaning to write a post about friendships for some time now, but something kept holding me back. I had felt that it was because I didn't know quite all I wanted to say, or that I wanted to make sure I got my point across. And then something happened. I think I was being held off for this reason.

As some of you know, last week, my friend Jennifer passed away.

You may remember me talking a lot about her in my previous blog, for many years. Especially the disintegration of hers and my friendship. The truth is, I only mentioned brief facts. I completely acknowledged having contributed myself to the breakup, if you will. I had not spoken to her for about 4 1/2 years, but I still thought of her often, and still loved her. And yes, part of me still considered her a friend.

Apparently, over the last few years, she had undergone two back surgeries (the second, more recent, to correct the first), and had also recently had a staph infection. According to the person who contacted me (our then-mutual friend, Russell), she was in unbelievable amounts of pain and no one seemed to be able to help (she was in between pain management doctors at the time of her passing). Her husband came home on May 3, to find her.

It's so strange to think of Jennifer as being no longer on this earth. She and I were best friends for 15 years. 15! I had met her in high school, and we had been through many things.

I went to the wake on Thursday, and the funeral on Friday. Yes, I was sad, but also glad to see that her family was glad that I was there, that Jennifer would have wanted to see me. But I didn't finally break down and have a good cry until Sunday (during church). Now, yes, there is still a small sadness, but I also know that she is in a better place, no longer in pain, with loved ones that have gone on before. I do grieve for her 5-year-old daughter, Abby, though. I only knew her as a baby. She is now almost 5. And she's gorgeous. One day, I hope to share all I remember of Jennifer with her.

Which leads me into the subject of friendships. I'll be honest, my friendship with Jennifer probably wasn't the healthiest. I was passive; she was aggressive. We almost always went where she wanted to go. The Drama of her life always affected me. She was also bipolar. And codependent. But she did have a big heart. I firmly believe that our friendship had not grown up as we had. We were still in a teenage friendship, not allowing much room for growth into adults and our own lives, while still retaining our friendship. Well, at least, Jennifer didn't. I think I tried, but always got pulled back to the way it was. And, really, that's the way it was. I didn't know any differently.

Until a few people along my way, who were able to manage their way into my life, showed me other aspects of friendship. Even if I was not always the friend I could have been.

I think that I may have been stunted on an friendship level, not knowing how to function because I had been in a certain relationship so long, that I didn't know what to do when new people entered my life. Oh, perhaps that sounds a little overdramatic, and it might be, but I wonder this because of the hard time it seems that I have at making meaningful, lasting, great friendships now.

Don't get me wrong, Brian is my best friend. Hands down. But as much as I love the fact that he gets me, and that he showed me true friendship when I really needed it, I still wish for other connections. Doesn't everybody? That need to feel accepted and loved, cherished and wanted? I want other people to get me, to truly understand me, to know who I really am.

And over the last few years, I have formed this statement to kind of indicate my feelings about this: "Everybody likes me, but no one wants to be my friend."

Oh, goodness, but that one's VERY melodramatic. But at times, I feel it's true. I get a lot of compliments about me, which indicates a level of liking, but it never goes far beyond that to truly delve into a potential friendship.

Or, there are those people that I meet that I am amazed at, that I instantly seem to have a connection with, that I seem to have SO many things in common with, that, as I try to build a friendship, getting to know them, aspects of their life and their other friends, that I realize ... this person doesn't need me. That I don't fit into any empty hole in their life that isn't already filled by someone like me. Boy, is that disconcerting! We all like to feel unique, but it's kinda hard to realize that there are others very much like you. AND, they met this person first. So what do I do? I try ... but wonder why I should do all the trying? So it slips away, and you're sad ... and you are somewhat grateful because the friendship wasn't that firmly rooted to begin with, so it's easier to kinda let go. But part of you tells yourself (to feel better, of course), that there is something unique and special about you, and BOO on that person that didn't take enough time to really delve.

*sigh* But it still makes me sad.

I wonder if part of the problem is that, as an adult, friendships with other adults, with their hectic, busy lives, is really possible? Are we doomed to only have acquaintances in this stage of our live? Granted, some can be good, but deep, lasing, adult friendships? Where there's someone that can be there for you and your family, through good and bad times, and vice versa? Are only really good friendships formed as a youth? But I can't really believe that! My mother's best friends that she talks about (one has since passed away) she made as a married adult, with children!

So then, I have to wonder: Is it me? Maybe it is. And being married doesn't seem to help the situation. Seems that now, if you want to have friends, you have to be friends with other married couples. I guess, because it's harder to become friends with singles, unless you knew them back in the day.

And I have to admit, those are the small handful of people I am really good friends with, those people that I met when I was younger.

But you know, now I'm thinking ... about levels of friendships. And definitions. What is a friend, really? On a basic level, it's someone that we know, or have known, on a regular basis. Sure, on that level, I have lots of friends. Some might call them acquaintances. Someone we care for? Okay, that's another level. Good friends, I suppose. How about someone with whom we share deeper connections and know aspects of our lives? I guess that would be the great friends. To me a great friend is one that you can talk to, and even though it has maybe been weeks or even months since you last talked, you can pick up right where you left off (something Jennifer had a hard time with, seeing as if I didn't call her about once every few days it meant something terrible), it's someone you can really share your feelings with and they understand or at least just listen, even if they don't feel the same way, and it's someone that wants you to be around them and their other friends, and someone who truly feels like they can pick up the phone and ask for a favor that might seem imposing, but truly, I am so grateful they feel that way about me, that they really can rely on me.

But, is it too much work, to make new ones? I have to tell you, I despise the "let's get together sometime" line, without even a hint of followup. Finding out what a schedule's like, or going ahead and planning a date for later in the future (to ensure everyone will be free)? Not long after I got married, a lot of my single friends/acquaintances stopped inviting me to things like dinner, or the movies. And then they wondered why I didn't see much of them anymore. I told them, that if they invited me, I would most likely come. I just needed that invitation. (Because, I'll be honest, after we got married, most of our going out was date nights for jut the two of us.) Very few followed up on that, and they became less and less frequent. Or, maybe it was just a good excuse to let the friendship go (such as it was).

Okay, so I think now I'm starting to ramble. But the truth is, all these things (and more) about friendships have been on my mind.

I guess it comes back to my earlier statement. If you like me, why don't you want to be my friend?

One of my goals for the year, was to try and be a better friend myself. Maybe if I was a better friend, then it would come back around? But, I don't know, I've always felt that I was a good friend. But then, maybe I don't know differently! Hah. I still am trying, though. But, like anyone else, things do get in the way of that phone call, the letter, the card to say hello. Or maybe I should try harder, without expectations.

But, while I have seen one friendship sorta slip away this year (so far), I have seen some reforged stronger and more meaningful, and for that I am grateful.

And maybe most of us are just meant to have those few great friends, that small handful that really gets us. Because maybe that's all we need. And truth is, I'd rather have that small, awesome, constant handful of friends, rather than a lot of brief, shallow, unexpectant acquaintances. I just want to make sure I don't miss any of those great ones along my path of life. There's always room for a few more. But do they have room for me?


Claudia May 14, 2010 at 2:25 PM  

Thanks for writing this. I have to admit, that since we moved a couple of years ago, I have constantly struggled with making friends. In the past, I've always found a group of friends at work or at church, or in my neighborhood, but here, it just hasn't worked. Maybe it's the lack of job, moms with kids my age, access to other people's front porches...or maybe friends are just had to come by. Here's to cyber friends!

Claudia May 14, 2010 at 2:33 PM  

.....Or, and here's a thought, maybe, just maybe, I'm so wrapped up in myself that I can read an entire post about you losing a friend of yours and comment only about myself. My deepest condolences for your loss. I hope that your memories of your friend are mostly of the fun that you shared, and that she will live in your heart as a friend for life.

stephsidestory May 14, 2010 at 2:53 PM  

Aw, Gabby. I am so sorry to hear about Jennifer. That is so heart wrenching. Awful. I am so sorry!
Friendships are not easy. They take as much work as a marriage sometimes :) And it gets harder to make friends once you have children(we barely, barely do anything anymore because of baby's schedule). I hardly doubt that people don't want to be your friend. There is a time factor, indeed. I wish I had more time to do and be more social with all these wonderful women around me, but I don't. Every time I am at church I think "I would really like to get to know her" or "let's plan something with them" and then life happens. It just does. I feel badly that I haven't been a better friend for you. Juan and I think of you guys all the time (and everyone else for that matter) but just haven't had the time we used to be the socialites we once were.*Sigh*. You are a great friend. There are few people that I know that are as loyal as you are. Truly.

Charles Gramlich May 14, 2010 at 2:56 PM  

I am sorry to hear about the loss of your friend. I think I have felt some of the things you've felt regarding the making of friends. Lana is my best friend and we have such a relaxed time around each other, but I don't have a lot of other close friends. For one, I know I'm not the type that cultivates friendships well. I'm a bit too much of a loner. I do believe the saying though, that one never has a lot of truly close friends.

Melinda May 14, 2010 at 3:11 PM  

I feel the exact same way about friendships! It's SO hard! I meet people, we click, I really want to be their friend, but they already have a "best" friend and I end up just being a back-up. I have a "group" of friends, but everyone in the group has someone that they are better friends with than me. I tend to find that if I want to be good friends with a woman, it REALLY helps if my husband is friends with her husband! Well, MY husband is anti-social, so that doesn't work for me. It sucks sometimes. It really does. I totally feel your pain. If you get it all figured out, let me know!

Rocketgirl May 15, 2010 at 4:35 PM  

I've been thinking about this for a while. I remember the Jennifer mess - and it hit home, because I had a friendship very much like it that crashed and burned. I'm still sad about it, but it was still the best thing to leave it, since it was controlling and not growing with who we were. It's so parallel, and you said so many things that have helped me understand it just a but more. I'm so sorry that she passed so young - so deeply sorry for her family. I'm sending you e-hugs, and if you don't mind, I'm going to repost some of your thoughts on my blog. This is just too insightful to not be shared.

Manda May 15, 2010 at 6:56 PM  

I understand completely. I often wonder if I'm somehow not worth knowing, seeing as how no one ever seems to make much of an effort to get to know me. I try, but as you say, it feels like I'm the one who's trying and no one else really cares. Scott and I are best friends, of course, but . . . I'd like a best girl friend maybe? And all my college friends live so far away. I have a lot of skin-deep acquaintances with other parents at the kids' day care and what not, but . . . I guess it's me. There's something wrong with me. I don't fit in, and I can't be anyone other than me, so . . .

wifelady May 15, 2010 at 9:08 PM  

Gabby - so sorry to hear of your friend's passing. Glad you wrote this -- I'm not a great friend myself --when I was about 10 I met someone who I would be friends with until college. I still consider her my friend - heck she's like a sister -- but we grew apart -- I went to college and she worked and we didn't work very hard at getting together/keeping in touch. I would still do anything for her if she called me right now.....People grow apart that's for sure but that may not mean the caring went away. My hubby is also my BFF.....and I like it that way. I am busy and have my own hobbies that I'm into that I spend time doing when I guess I could be out having a girls nite out, but I don't. I have friends at work - one I'm pretty close to but we are 10 years apart and the younger generation sees and does things soooo differently that I would. Sometimes it's irritating -- I want her to grow up! But everyone has to learn and wisdom comes with age. I haven't been as close to her in the last couple of weeks and its on me because I don't feel like dealing with her personal issues......because I've already listened and offered advice but I see no progress. I am a doer type person but she seems passive. As I've become older (I'm 38) I've grown to have a low tolerance for stinks I know but I'm keeping it real. I've always been a loner type - with just a friend or 2 not a slew of them on facebook. Don't get me wrong I am very caring and thoughtful but I feel that I don't get it back in return because (maybe) people are so consumed with their own issues/drama (and I don't really have issues that consume me) that they don't reciprocate. Maybe a lot of us don't know how to be a good friend but are great acquaintances.....and most days I'm ok with that. BTW my birth sign is cancer the crab and I can tell you that there are plenty of times when I crawl into my shell when I don't want to deal with anyone .......
I'd also like to say that nowadays it's hard to trust much craziness in this world unfortunately......and this could be another factor in the equation. I only trust family really.... I have a good relationship with my sisters.
I also agree with everything in the previous comments --- see you are NOT alone!! And BTW you are an awesome creative person who is sharing her world with THE world-- we adore you!

Gabby May 15, 2010 at 11:49 PM  

Claudia: I can see where the dynamics where you are right now don't allow for deeper friendships (I get that), but hopefully, maybe another move one day, might provide that. AND, don't worry about sounding selfish, you are NOT, dear lady. Thank you for your condolences.

Steph: Thank you. It warms my heart to know we are thought of, and you're right, friendships do take a lot of work. Don't I know it. It still doesn't mean I can't be better, though. Thank you, about the loyalty. I think that is one friend thing I AM pretty good at. ^_^

Charles: I am SO glad that Lana is your best friend. It SHOULD be that way. And, I wonder if it's different for men, than women, that need to have other companionship (of the friend kind), or maybe it doesn't matter what your gender is? I'm curious as to what she would say?

Melinda: It's nice to know you feel the same way! I've never been comfortable in a large group of friends for that reason. And, hey, maybe you and I should be better friends, that might be the key. ^_^ But I'll let you know if I ever figure it out.

Reva: You are more than welcome to share what you wish. Seems we are not alone in this. And it's nice to know I wasn't the only one that had a Jennifer in my life.

Manda: There's nothing wrong with you, really! I think as mentioned, people get so caught up in their own lives and drama that, sometimes it's hard. And, it probably isn't easier now that you have three children who command so much attention. Maybe like Claudia, one day that chance will come.

Wifelady: I think it's natural for us to grow up and out of some relationships, and there's nothing wrong with you trying to be the best friend that you can be but not getting anything in return (whether it be emotional or just being a friend back). I read an article in a magazine not long ago (it was either ALL YOU or Good Housekeeping), and it talked about when it was time to let go of a friendship. Sounds like your coworker might be one of those. And, you're right, just because you don't have a slew of friends doesn't mean your a horrible person. I think you have wisdom to recognize those things about yourself and be okay with them, and I think that's where the secret may lie. It may come to the point where we all have to just be content with what we have, or make a concerted effort to change what we don't like (which, I guess, is true for many things).

And yes, it is SO nice to know, everyone, that I am not alone. But then, all of you are my friends in some way, so at least we have that. Right?

christinerains May 24, 2010 at 3:59 PM  

I'm sorry to hear about your friend. I remember you talking about her years ago.

I do agree it's much harder to form friendships when you're an adult. I don't know why that is. Less time? I call my husband my best friend, too, but it would be so nice to have a girl friend around regularly. I've met some wonderful women online - like you! - and I call them friends, but it's not quite the same as having someone there in town or within reasonable visiting distance.

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