I know this is going to sound funny but I’ll write it anyway. There are some basics about friendship that I feel I am still learning. Two of the basic ingredients are trust and respect. But the weird thing about friendship as in most relationships, is that you have to be able to show these to yourself as well as to your friend. You need to be able to listen as well as to talk. You need to inquire about their world as well as tell them about yours, so there’s this exchange of energy which helps both of you.
Recently I find myself asking that age-old question about energy and friendship. Why am I feeling drained by one person and inspired by another? And it comes down to me, and what I accept as reasonable behaviour from friends. How do I treat myself and what does this show to other people about how I want to be treated? So I’m back to the drawing board and back to the basics of self care. I’m back to meditating daily and walking or swimming daily and doing things that feed my heart like writing. And now I’m choosing more carefully people I spend time with or interact with, who really get me and who I get.
I’m never sure how to address this imbalance when it occurs within a friendship. My preferred option is to back away until I have recharged, refocused and have my priorities in order again. Sometimes I stay in the friendship, or go back to it and it has morphed into a more healthy exchange, and sometimes, like entropy, it dissolves, and there is a void for a time. As the Buddhists say, the cup needs to be empty before it can be refilled. And so it is for the space in my heart reserved for friends. And so it is for the space reserved in my heart for partners, for pets. And possibly, in order to reform and renegotiate sibling relationships, these too have to endure times of rest and regrouping.
I know that I need to be able to trust my friends with information, with stuff that I hold close to me, with honest inquiry about how I am and what is inspiring me, and what I find frustrating. Equally, I want my friends to be able to trust that I want to know what is going on for them, what inspires them, what challenges they face and wish to share it. I want them to be able to trust me in that same, supportive, genuinely interested way. It is a remarkably fragile thing and needs care too.
Respect, as Aretha spelled out, is kind of indispensible too. The people I choose as friends have my respect usually because of who they are, not what they can do (though that is often equally awe-inspiring). It’s inspired by how they treat themselves, how they treat those around them, how curious they are about the world, and how inspired and inspiring they are. They call me on my stuff, if I am avoiding things; they suggest solutions to problems but aren’t offended when I don’t always follow it; they are honest about their struggles hand have time to share them, as well as listen to mine. They listen to my offerings because they respect me, and they know that I do care how they are, that I want to share the highs and lows and offer anything I can, that I welcome their offerings because I respect them and their experiences.
So I guess it takes quite a lot to be a friend and to find friends. Friends are often different from family in that we choose our friends, who for me have often stepped in where family hasn’t, and I refer to my close friends as family. Because they are, to me.
I have some extraordinary friends. People I have known since primary school, who I know I can go for months and sometimes years without talking with, and when we do chat again, it is like we never missed a beat. I am awed by their skills, experiences, and abilities to see me for who I am (often at times when I struggle with that), and who I can see for who they are. When this is lacking, there is a stark contrast.
I’d have to say friendship is one of those gems in life. Produced often under stress and strain, clarified over time and to me it is always precious.