Monday, August 25, 2008

Two Kinds of Friends

Several recent events have put me in a pensive mood, lately. Or, perhaps I should say a more pensive than usual mood, since I think I am just pensive by nature. At any rate, much of my pensiveness is focused on relationships. Primarily friendships. What makes them? What makes a good friendship? And, why can't I spell friendship? (Thank you spell check.)

It seems that the last couple of months have really brought some highs and lows in the annals of me and friends. Now, I don't want to give you the impression that I am spending time on the phone engaged in some sort of I-don't-believe-he-would-do-that-how-can-I-still-be-his-friend kind of drama. It's really more of the looking back on friends I have had and friends I have in a time of change and, well, just contemplating.

Now, it seems, I have a lot of friends in a lot of places. Who doesn't? But, it wasn't long ago, I thought I would always have the same group of friends who all lived within ten miles of each other. In hindsight, that was a silly notion. And, had my life turned out that way, I most likely would have been the worse off for it.

I was not an Army brat as a child. My parents were not in a witness protection program (if such a thing even exists). My mom or dad never worked in an industry that forced them to relocate often. We stayed put. From my birth until I was thirty, Baltimore was my home. Pulling up stakes in 1999 seemed like the hardest thing I would ever have to do. I was leaving my family. I was leaving my friends. Some of these friends I had known for decades, some I had known for a few years. They all seemed like the best friends I might ever have.

Leaving family was hard, but, I knew I would always maintain my contact with them. I knew I would always come back to see them. Maybe I wouldn't be able to get back as often as I wanted, but, I'd still see them. The friends were another matter.

We all swore we'd keep in touch. We'd write. We'd phone. We'd email. For a while, we did. But, after some time had passed, after they had grown used to me being somewhere else and had busied themselves with their ongoing lives, after I had settled in to CoMo and began to grow a brand new social life, the communication trickled, trickled, and died. I still occasionally keep in contact with a person or two from back in Mobtown, but, for the most part, it's a surprise when I hear from anyone (or when they hear from me). This may seem like a story behind which some Eastern European strings should be playing, minor and slow, but, it's not. This is simply a function of life.

In Missouri, one close friend moved on, leaving a large hole in my life (and Monkey's). However, we stayed in close touch. We see each other regularly (but not often). We are, indeed, still close friends. Even after more years than I care to mention, our friendship seems to have survived a physical separation. Other friends moved on. Some I still connect with (some right here on the ol' Central Standard), while others are simply moving in other spheres, I guess. As my time in Missouri drew to a close, as people left me behind, or I prepared to move on myself, the situation seemed to repeat itself. After a year away, the number of people I stay in regular contact with is small, but, it encompasses the closest of my friends from that most central of central Missouri towns.

And, now, here in Cornopolis, the situation repeats itself, as close friends we have had the chance to meet and quickly grow to love are heading off to greater opportunity. It is a sad, sad feeling, losing friends, but, really, I realize, it is not a loss.

As this school year began, I was introduced to an essay by Jane Howard called, "Families," which appeared several years ago in The Atlantic Monthly. In her essay, Howard uses some terminology from a tribe in Cameroon which identifies two kinds of friends, friends of the road and friends of the heart. Friends of the road are people that you are with by chance: classmates and other people who are somehow in a social group in which you circulate. They are people you like, but, you come to be with them mostly through convenience. On the other hand, friends of the heart are those whom you choose to be in contact with. Those formerly friends of the road who are no longer convenient, yet still draw you to them (and you draw them, too). Reading this essay was definitely a case of the right text at the right time.

I have had many friends of the road, and I am grateful for them and the time we've spent together, but I truly treasure those friends of the heart who have come into my life and stuck there, even when far out of sight, and without the parting, as painful as it is, they don't get to make the jump from the road to the heart. So, I guess I am comforted by the revelation that good friends gone are somehow better friends. The inability to spend more time with them might make one unhappy, but the quality of the relationship grows if the connection is strong enough to transcend distance.

Thanks for listening, friends.


La Fashionista said...

It's 'cause you're pensive by nature, not 'cause I hate ya. (I couldn't resist. It's like I have a constant stream of 80's music running through my mind and just waiting for the opportune context to bust out.)

Seriously though, I've found myself having similar thoughts lately. I've made one very close and dear friend since moving here, and also nearby is a true friend who I've known for almost 20 years. For the sake of those relationships, I hate the thought of ever moving because distance necessarily affects a friendship. Other than these two relationships, I live far away from my closest friends; our awareness of each others' daily lives and spontaneous interactions are lessened significantly, and it takes particular effort to maintain a depth of connection.

I remember very clearly when your dear friend moved away from CoMO, and it reminds me of some similar experiences of my own. I used to wish that I could scoop up all my friends and live together on an island somewhere. I still have that selfish fantasy, and I find that it becomes more and more reminiscent as friends move on with time.

Even though we aren't in each others' lives the way we used to be, I'm glad for our friendship and how you keep the connection through your blog. It's probably obvious, but checking your blog is part of my daily routine. I'm glad to hear about parts of your life and to be friends with you.


sunshine said...

I’m just back to my time zone so still a bit wobbly as I make it through emails, soccer and dance schedules, playdates, etc. But- somehow I managed to have the consciousness to check the blog (what a wonderful day to catch it) and be able to respond back (relatively quickly for me at least) that your friendship (and Monkey’s) despite being a few miles away continues to make me smile and give me strength- sappy but very true. And maybe because I’m an optimist, believe that someday we will be having dinner on a regular basis again the way it’s suppose to be.

In the meantime, because I thought I would read some of the other postings, I would comment Way to Go on the cycling! I’ve been riding my bike to work at least once a week this summer (7 miles each way baby and over the crazy Columbia River Interstate Bridge) and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it (well except for when I rode home after happy hour and pulled something in my rear). Still- well worth it.

OK- better be off- as always, Q of the W

Jami said...

wow! I have a million things to tell you. I'll call you tomorrow. Speaking of moving on!