Monday, December 14, 2009

Friends in Need, in Deed, and in General

This morning, one of my oldest, dearest friends is taking her daughter in for another round of surgery. Little Lia just turned one. Her diaphragm is half paralyzed, she has a compromised immune system, and yet, miracle, by miracle, day after day, she's one now. I'm staring out my back window into the gray afternoon, thinking about her.

* * *

It's on days like this that I realize how much I suck at being a friend. Yes, I'm entertaining. I can tell stories and jokes, and be interesting. Sympathy? Fail. Knowing what to say? Fail. Knowing when to shut up? Well, you get the picture.

I'm not even entirely sure how to be friends with someone. All my efforts seem to have the reverse effect — and the people I am friends with, seem to be so in spite of me. I remember Deborah asking me how one becomes friends a while back, and I really didn't have a good answer. She also told me a tale of her, back in junior high or high school, having decided to be friends with someone... by following them around until they gave in and were friends back! Sure, it's not the greatest method, but then... what is?

* * *

A number of years ago, I used to get comments on my annual reviews at work that I was "prickly." I've never completely figured this out. I'm aware of one co-worker who is utterly terrified of me. Nonsense. I'm a big teddy bear. (Who, granted, wears black, rides a motorcycle, and shaves once a week whether he needs it or not. Perhaps her mother warned her about such guys.) But it's not the first time I've gotten comments like that. One friend in high school used to tell me that all I had to do was walk into the room to weird people out. How can I be friends with you if I'm somehow broadcasting from across the room that I won't? It'd be nice to know what the heck I'm doing, so that I can stop doing it.

I count myself amazed and fortunate for the friends I do have. They're amazing people. all of them. It still leaves me wondering, though.

How do you become friends with someone?


johnsonweider said...

And yet you are my oldest friend! Perhaps it helped that we've mostly always been pen pals. :) Letter communication can be a less awkward way in which to connect with another person.

I have never been a person who has had - or felt the need to have - lots of friends. To me, a friend is someone who you can write to or talk to when you need to communicate with someone about something that has happened to you: whether it is something difficult, something profound, something sad, or something joyous. And your friend will receive the communication you have shared without judgment and with sympathetic joy.

You become friends with someone over time, by making an effort to truly hear someone else and to be kindly honest in return. Friendship is a balance - it cannot be all about one person or the other. Friendship is a fundamental human need to connect with other human beings, and yet to me, I have always found that just a few people suffice to fill that need for me. Friendship is about sharing oneself and about loving someone else regardless of whether the decisions they make are the same ones that you would have made.

And for the record, I've always considered you to be a very good friend. :)

Carolina Kerr said...

johnsonweider said it all.

Carolina Kerr said...

So tell us how little Lia came out of surgery.

Andy said...

The surgery was successful, but the recovery is still a battle, apparently, and it's certainly not over. You can follow Lia's updates here:


amy frances said...

I haven't quite figured this out either; and I've been called prickly before too. I've discovered that Deborah's approach isn't the best. But what is? ?????

For me, friendship has always just randomly happened. I find someone and it's like "By Jove, we're the same!!" And people like me are drawn pretty powerfully to people who get us because they're like us. (Is it that way with everyone?) So that always works in my favor. Maybe it's like that book Are You My Mother? Or maybe not.

Deborah said...

Amy, that was my approach in sixth grade. Even then it was someone else's idea. If you want, though, I could try randomly hanging out with you and seeing if it works...