Sunday, January 2, 2011

The changing definition of friendship...

...or maybe it should be...the changing parameters of friendship.  When we were kids, friends were the kids on your street that you played hide and seek with after dark, or the kids you played with at recess or walked home from school. Everybody had a "best" friend, the one you shared all your secrets with and  trusted beyond a doubt. There were cliques, or groups of friends that all hung out together and kept other people out of the circle.They usually centered around some common thing, like cheerleading or chess club or nerds or jocks.  

 As we got older, this changed to a select few friends, more often people you had liked to hang out with, go to movies, or just sit around gabbing and gossiping.  You spent a lot of time with them and they with you. You spent lots of time at each others' houses.  After getting married, this circle of friends began to tighten, until there were only a few people in your circle, because all the rest of the time was so taken up with family stuff. Some of us sacrificed the comfort and love of these friendships because spouses were threatened by the fact that you had another someone in your life that you told things to, or that you enjoyed spending time with.  Sometimes we have moved away, or moved several times, in the pursuit of careers and life changes, and left those friends behind. 

 The older we get, the harder it is to forge these new friendships, partly because  we don't have the time to build those histories with another person. The friends we do make are less entrenched in our lives, and they just don't know us like our old ones did.  Then, because the friendships of this sort are less satisfying to us, we don't work nearly as hard to forge new friendships.  And we are left yearning for the kind of friends we used to know...the ones who never called before they came by, because they were always welcome in our lives.  

  I have lots of friends today of an almost shallow nature...nobody's fault. Many of them I have come to know online, some I have met f2f (face to face) and some I have had long term correspondences with via emails and messenger chats. I know these people too...just in a different way than the woman who lives in town here. Maybe I even know them better sometimes, because talking with someone online is like telling your life story to the guy on a plane that you know you'll never see again, and there's a certain anonymous safety in it which allows us to be maybe more honest, more open.  I also belong to a 12 step program. I have met thousands of people that I still maintain contact with on an irregular basis. Where do they fall on the line of "friendship" ?  We have told one another things about ourselves that our own birth families don't even know about us.  We have cried and laughed and grown, both mentally and spiritually.  I honestly don't consider all these people my friends...but I have a common bond with many of them that allows us to be connected on some level.  That sounds like friendship, in a manner.

  As the world changes, and we evolve with it, I suspect we will find the old definitions changing and the new parameters stretching and flexing and moving in a cosmic dance. Because man is a social creature. We do better in a pack than we do alone. As we learn the dance that suits our particular brand of crazy, we form lasting (or short-term) connections that serve our purpose, to keep us entrenched in the family of man, and not just one frightened soul facing the darkness on his own.



Namaste.

5 comments:

DJan said...

So beautifully expressed. I was moved to consider who is a real friend these days and who is an acquaintance. I'm happy to say I'm still forging relationships that feel deep and complete. Thank you for the wonderful post.

Annette said...

Great post. I have many many people in my life, but I can think of only 2 women who are my truly very best friends, for many years now. Who know everything about me, who love me and my family despite our flaws and I love their families. I think friendships mature as we get older and we weather storms together. Thank you for a wonderful post...

Gabriella Moonlight said...

This is a spectacular post that says so much!!

I have very few close friends and I always have been that way, I am an introvert by nature, I have many shallow friendships and many online friendships with a few being those I wish to meet face to face....I would love to meet you face to face!!!

Thank you for the amazing thoughts in this as it resonates with my soul!

jozien said...

Very interesting post. it's something i often think about, and i recognize certain aspects. What is different for me, is that as a child i never felt i had a real friend, then as a teenager i suddenly knew how to make friends and be a friend, i think because i was a teenager i was more aware of how it actually works, recognizing when it clicks, etc. Now i am blessed with many very meaningful friendships, but... somehow i can still feel insecure about being the odd one out.
I have to get over that one!

Andrew said...

The world and our perceptions in it are always changing, and it all seems to be changing faster these days.