A Friend Indeed

I will be the first to admit that I have  not always had the easiest time making friends, even as a child.  I’ve always been a bit of an introvert and it takes me quite a while to feel comfortable with someone and even longer to open up and share things with someone. Also, I have a very low tolerance for self-centeredness, cruelty, snobbish behavior, closed-mindedness, and self righteousness.

As an adult, I haven’t always made friendship a priority…I was very busy raising four kids and doing all that “fun” grown-up stuff and it just didn’t seem like I had the time or energy for friends and honestly, it didn’t feel like something that was missing from my life.  I had a couple friends that had children who were friends with my children, but after the children’s friendships ran their course, I found that ours did as well.

What I found in the past few years, since my children have gotten older and my husband and I don’t spend as much time together as we used to, is that I do need friends.  I enjoy spending time with other women and find that it is an important part of my week, like exercise and a good dose of the outdoors.  The problem I have had is this: When I have a serious and sensitive problem within my marriage or family and I really need someone to talk to, I go through the list and feel that I can’t get what I need from any of them.  This is the part where I get a lump in my throat while typing this out…it’s a very sad truth for me.

First is the “Uncomfortable Friend”.  Her face and body language makes me feel instantly regretful that I thought I could share something with her. She gets noticeably uncomfortable and even tries to change the subject as soon as possible.  It also makes me feel insecure…like we weren’t as close as I thought we were.

Next is the “Judgmental Friend”.  I have heard her say unpleasant things about our mutual acquaintances, so why would I have any reason to believe that she doesn’t do the same with me?  I do tend to tell her more personal things than anyone else, though, because she is such an open person and she makes you feel as though you’re so close you can share anything.  Yet, it’s impossible to not keep a guard up.

Third is the “Schadenfreude”.  Don’t be too impressed…I just discovered this phrase right now!  I love it and think that I will use it often.  Schadenfreude: Pleasure derived from the misfortune of others.  Sadly, this person is the person that I have known the longest and at one point felt as close as sisters with her.  But, as long as I’ve known her she has suffered from low self-esteem and her jealousy has always been a problem in our friendship.  We have grown apart over the years, but still stay in touch.  She is the second person (Mom is the first) that I think about reaching out to, but I don’t because I just imagine her happiness in discovering that I am not perfect and neither is my family.  I realize this concern is equally my problem.  I’m working on it.

Then there is the “Comparer”.  This friend wants to take every circumstance or problem and try and relate it to herself and her experiences.  I’ve realized that I do this a lot myself and it is really annoying.  Listen: If someone is confiding in you, give them your full attention…when you turn things around to compare to yourself it feels as though you’re not paying attention and not giving your friend the compassion she is looking for.  I have sympathy for this behavior and understand the reasoning behind it, since I’m guilty of it. The Comparer just wants you to know that they understand and can relate to your problem in some way.

Lastly, is the mother…as in my mother.  I love my mom very much, but the last thing I want to do is worry her with my problems.  We also have a very emotional relationship, which sometimes keeps me from picking up the phone to call her when I really want to.  I know the instant that I hear her voice the tears will come and I won’t be able to get any words out.  And, what’s worse, as soon as she hears my tears coming, hers will come and there’s nothing worse than hearing my mother cry over the phone from 2,000 miles away.

I have one friend, though…this friend has been my friend for about 20 years.  We sometimes will go for a year or two without talking at all and she, unlike me, is not on social media, so I don’t know what she is up to or what is going on in her life for very long periods of time.  But, when we do connect, it is as if we talked a week ago.  I love her children and she loves mine.  I love her mom and dad and her husband.  She loves mine. She is a kind and intelligent person and I have never doubted that if I called her and said I needed her right now, she would be here as soon as humanly possible.  Is the key to my affection in the fact that we don’t see or talk to each other very often and it’s a case of “absence makes the heart grow fonder”?  Maybe a little.  There were certain little things that would get on my nerves about her when we spent a lot of time together, but the fact is that she has never made me feel judged, never let any type of jealousy interfere in our friendship, and always is a good and compassionate listener.  I called her last night to tell her about something very serious going on in my family and I got exactly what I needed from her.  She is a very good one, indeed, and I will be more conscious of nurturing this beautiful friendship and take the others with a grain of salt.