Wednesday, August 25, 2010
The Evolution of Friendship
As I come to the end of my fourth full month of blogging, I couldn't remember when I started using the salutation, "Greetings Friends". It was my third entry, from one of the neighbourhood Starbucks I was "posing" in; before my firewall was adjusted to stop blocking the Blogger software, thus enabling me to write from home.
The concept of a "friend" has changed a lot over time. We've begun to compartmentalize our friendships in ways that are indicative of how life itself has become compartmentalized. A plain old friend has morphed into a "work" friend, a "school" friend, a "Facebook" friend...there are so many categories of friends now, it's impossible to keep track. What has happened to that one, true-blue friend who stays with you through all of life's ups and downs, the good, the bad, the ugly, the happy and the sad? If you don't already have one, chances are, you're not going to find one. Assigning friends to specific categories won't make it any easier.
There is infinite commentary about friendships, especially female friendships, out there in the zeitgeist. What does it all mean? All the stereotypical definitions about what a friendship should be, the inevitable Sex and the City comparisons, and how women always manage to screw up their friendships, accomplishes nothing, except to make us feel lacking because of our seemingly inept social skills. Don't misunderstand me; friendships require work; but how much work is too much when it comes to making a friendship work (that's so Sex and the City rhetorical, isn't it)?
When you get on in years, your tolerance for crap deteriorates to the point where you're willing to put up with less and less of it. When you're a kid or a teenager, you're willing to forgive the most inane trespasses in order to hang on to your precious friendships. As you age, the more labour intensive a relationship becomes, the more likely you'll be to say, "the hell with it" and move on. Your radar is tuned to a different frequency, and your willingness to tolerate questionable behaviour decreases. I find myself in a position comparable to that; as my life evolves, so do my relationships, and my tolerance meter isn't capable of much these days. That sounds pretty ruthless, but I prefer to think of it as preservation of my sanity. If we want to speak in astrological terms, I was born under the sign of Taurus, and can be one of the most staunchly loyal people you'll ever encounter. At some point, loyal people like me can turn into schmucks, and you get to that point in life where you need to take stock of who's deserving of your loyalty and who needs to be excised from your life, because they've made you feel luck a schmuck. This is no easy feat, but when you do manage to figure it out, you want to jettison the offenders as quickly and completely as possible. Think of it as cleaning out your closet, attic, basement; whichever cluttered space weighs most heavily on your mind. Sometimes, you find long forgotten gems, and sometimes you unearth useless memorabilia that is better off getting trashed, or donated to a charitable organization, in the hope it will benefit a soul less fortunate than yours. The key here is to be ruthless; there's no sense being a pack rat or a slave to your emotions. They are yours exclusively, and you have every right to dictate what role they play in your life.
Once all the clutter is gone, you feel weightless; the encumbrances of friendship can be similar to that metaphorical safe or piano hanging over your head, but once you can look up and see only blue sky, the feeling is incredible. You are now the proud owner of your feelings and you are free to evolve and grow, without anything to hold you back or weigh you down.
I realize that last paragraph sounds a bit new age-y and self help-y in a way I completely detest. Think of it as a small pot of Tomato Sauce for Your Ass, as opposed to "Chicken Soup for Your Soul". Dip a nice, crusty piece of bread in, chew and savour. What you're left with is what gives you solace; what you've discarded can now be someone else's problem. I do not give this advice arbitrarily; it is borne of experience, a lot of laughter, and an equal amount of tears shed. And you men better not think you've got it all figured out; you don't.