Sunday, November 21, 2010

Make new friends, but keep the old . . .

(One is silver and the other is gold.)

I’ve been thinking a lot about friendship lately.

In short: I’ve been alive for 40 years now, and I’m still not sure I know how to be a friend.

I remember how badly I wanted someone new to move into the ward when I was a kid, always sure that my best friend was the one I hadn’t met yet. Once I was at college and looked back, I saw that I was pretty blessed with a group of friends around me for most of my growing-up years. Why, then, didn’t I feel it at the time?

It wasn’t until my freshman year in college that I really started to learn how to have a more intense relationship with a friend, and it was because I was blessed with an amazing roommate who patiently stuck with me as I stumbled along (all over her feet) learning how to be a friend. I’ll be eternally grateful to and for her. I still feel her in my heart like a sister, even though we aren’t really active in each other’s lives on a daily (or even monthly) basis.

When we were away at grad school, I had similar experiences with some of the women who were in the same situation. The intensity of being poor students and young mothers living in the same complex threw us together much like a room-mate situation, and my friends from Berkeley are still some of the dearest.

But now that I am living all-independent-like in my house, I find it harder to have (keep?) friendships that influence my daily life. I can’t figure out what I’m doing wrong. Maybe it’s that I feel so shy on the phone, always, even with my own relatives. Maybe it’s because I don’t know how to call people up “for no reason.” Maybe I’ve been too judgmental of others in my life, and have pushed people away. Maybe we’re all just too busy.

Usually I don’t mind this lack too much, because I have some people in my life that I really enjoy conversing with—electronically. (And you, dear blog reader, are probably one of them.) And I am very busy with my family, who get more and more interesting and friend-like to me every day. But sometimes I just miss that real-life, Café Rio- and canning-peaches-together female bonding that women need.

Do you have a best friend, someone you talk to, on purpose, at least once a week? How did you get close to her? What can I be doing to try to turn my new (ward, blog) friends into golden old ones?


Kathleen said...

Sometimes the Lord gives us friends when we need someone, and sometimes, we don't need that in our lives, especially. At least, that's what I tell myself when I realize that I don't have what I consider by now one of those "legendary" one-on-one best friends forever kinds of friends, and I really haven't ever had one.

I try to be that kind of friend, because I'm told that's the way to find that kind of friend, but it doesn't work out, or hasn't so far.

I consider you a friend, because I have poured my heart out to you on a number of occasions. I don't know if you consider me a friend in return, though I would be honored if you did.

I've decided that you just go on as best you can, and love people, and be grateful for as much friendship as they are able to give, even if it isn't as much as I would like.

We are all busy, and we do have so many things calling for our attention. And if we are blessed with family that can also be friends, sometimes that has to be enough. Actually, it's more than enough. My heart goes out to those who don't even have that.

But just know that you are loved. And that I, for one, thank my Heavenly Father that I know you.

Anonymous said...

For school Mabel had to ask me some questions about myself and when she asked who was my best friend, I felt uncomfortably on the spot. I guess I've always loved people and been interested in people, but I have a very strong private streak and tendency to be a loner in other ways. (Some people don't believe me about this, but it's really true.) I told Mabel she could put my sisters as my best friends--although really sometimes we don't keep in as close of daily contact as I think I'd like.

I also *really* related to what you said about calling people up, because I have never, ever felt confident to call someone up unless I had some school/church reason to. (Although once I'm talking to someone, heaven help us both to get OFF the phone.) When I know of women who talk to their friends on the phone all the time, I've always wondered how they got that going and what that would be like. I figured it was women who didn't have sisters so they had to find someone else to fill that role.

Sometimes I do feel very satisfied with my friendships through family and church callings, and other times very frustrated that my various responsibilities (and, often, poor health) have kept me from spending time with other dear friends I really miss. I must admit that the internet's made a huge difference in helping me feel less isolated--sometimes.

It's such a touchy subject. I think (based on threads about friendship that I've read on Segullah or other blogs) a lot of us don't feel like we have the ideal best-friend thing going on or quite measure up socially, but if we broadened our definitions and looked around, there are plenty of people who care about us, value our company, and could (or do) greatly benefit from our influence.

I started to write a paragraph about whether or not I think our culture (American culture, Mormon culture) is very conducive to intimate friendships, but for everything I started to say I could think of a counter-example, and it turns out I just have too many thoughts on this subject for an already much-too-long blog post. I guess at the most basic I'd say that I think American culture and Mormon culture are great for friendship in some ways, and in other ways not at all.

Oh, here's one more thought. The scripture that says "Seek ye first the kingdom of God . . . and all these things shall be added unto you" is one I've often applied to my concerns about seeming friendlessness or loneliness. One thing I'm counting on and hoping for is that at the other end of the very, very, time-and-resource-consuming project of raising my kids, I'll still have friends left (or will find new ones). And I'm also really looking forward to and counting on life on the other side of the veil to allow for much more satisfying relationships of all sorts.

Ang said...

I do have a really good friend in my life. Somebody I've spent many a wonderful lunch at Cafe Rio with, somebody who I have no problem calling on the phone for no reason and chatting for an hour. I'm lucky to have her.

Her name is Darlene. :-)

Jennifer B. said...

WARNING: this is long!

Outside of my sisters, there isn’t any one friend that I talk to once a week--unless you count carpool arranging. When I have gotten close to people, it is usually a natural extension of whatever I am involved in at the moment (church callings, school volunteering, walking group--even raising toddlers!) Although I still care about these people, when the activity is over, our contact usually drops off. I wonder if I am too preoccupied with everyday tasks and scheduled activities to keep up other friendships.

It seems like a lot of women around me have close friendships--they are women I know and enjoy, and although they are friendly toward me, I am not the one they call to chat with or have lunch with, In other words, I sometimes feel like I am back in middle-school and that I have many acquaintances, but no really close friends. I am surprised that at 40 I can still feel like the outsider looking in.

At any rate, I am grateful for friends that I have had the blessing of growing close to and although we may not be currently as active in each others lives because of distance, or releases from callings, or new phases of life, I still cherish and care about.

Especially my first college roommate who had a lot to put up with. I will always be grateful for the way we could talk about the mundane or the sacred. I treasure moments when hearts opened, exposed and vulnerable, to share tender feelings and of shared discovery (think jazz concerts!).

To develop friendships, I suppose I would look for someone who had something in common with me--a calling, a child the same age as my own, someone with a similar ambition (exercise, writing, reading, cooking???) and find a way to connect (working on a project together, arranging playdates, going to an activity we both enjoy, hosting book club?) Frankly, I’ve been so submerged with raising a family that I can’t see myself maintaining many friendships that weren’t already a part of what I was doing in church or school.

A woman I know said recently that whenever she has needed friendship and prayed for it, someone came into her life. Perhaps that is a good place to start.

Sister Hinckley was right--women need each other. I hope you find a way to get more of what you need.

Darlene Young said...

Yes, Kathleen, I DO consider you a friend, and I treasure the times we have been able to open up with each other.

I love all four of you girls who have commented, and am glad you're in my life, however rarely we get to talk. Thanks for visiting me here.

Barbara Bakes said...

I have many of the same feelings and am not very good at the whole friendship thing. I do know you've always been a sweet friend to me.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Darlene! I value your friendship too and wish it were easier to see you more often. I *almost* said we should plan something soon, but I hate to say something like that when I don't have a clear idea of how it could actually happen--I'm still feeling snowed in with family life so much these days. But I enjoy seeing you at the occasional Berkeley gatherings.

(But not snowed in with SNOW at the moment--for now, Orem/Provo seem to have escaped the blizzard.)

Cheri said...

Darlene, even though we don't have nearly as much time together as I'd like, I feel so blessed by your friendship in my life. Your thoughtful, focused questions always open conversations that are insightful, heartfelt, and honest--right down to the bones of people, ideas, and feelings. To me, that's the definition of close friendship.

Keeping friendships active has always been important to me. But I'm not very good at just calling to chat either. I don't even call my own parents or siblings unless I have a reason.

What I have done to make friends a regular part of my life is put things on the calendar--book groups, writers' groups, regular outings (like going to institute in Berkeley, or our annual birthday lunch with Margaret). I don't always initiate the calendaring, but I always make time for it. I'd love to have you on my calendar more often :).

Laura said...

Wow! This post is just what I've been feeling right now ... it's an odd thing to feel lonely when surrounded by people....