On Friendship

I made the calculated decision to sacrifice blog time last night and spend the evening instead with my very best friend who came into town for the weekend. So here I am, a mere 12 hours late, hoping that my cavalier dismissal of the letter of the law will be forgiven in favor of my dedication to its spirit. Also full of the warm cheerfulness that follows a really good night out, and excited about bracketing this day with a pair of posts.

Two ideas are battling for primacy in my brain this morning. One is the amazement and gratitude of being part of a friendship that spans a lifetime without missing a beat. The other is the sense of freedom and hope that enter a relationship when both parties acknowledge that they have a lot to learn. Before anyone gets a brain cramp, let me hasten to point out that these notions spring from two very different relationships that happen to be crucial in my world right now.

The first idea is not a new one. I have been blessed with many dear and loyal friends who have hung in there with me during the adventures and mistakes of a very eventful life. The dearest of these lives far away and has a life packed to capacity with children, family and the busy rhythms of a productive and active life.  Whenever we see each other, I hold my breath in fear that it somehow won’t be the same, that the differences in our lives and temperaments will somehow have diluted the bond we share. Yet every time, like last night, my fears turn out to be utterly unfounded. The older I get, and the more aware of the progress I still need to make towards being a better human being, the more grateful I am for my friend, and for the strength and flexibility of the bond that binds us. After four husbands, a long list of homes and jobs and other waxings and wanings in my life, it turns out that this friendship, along with a small handful of others that are similarly deep and strong, may be the most real and functional anchor I have. With my friends there is absolute trust, absolute honor. I would gladly walk through fire for them, and I know they would do the same for me. Halfway through our lives, we have parents and children and jobs and spouses to juggle, which can be exhausting and thrilling and hopeful and despairing all at once. Together we buoy each other up, share our joys and our trials, help each other to find balance and perspective.

Another relationship in my life is just beginning to morph from simple affection to a deeper,  more engaged level.  As often happens when two people meet and find each other’s company enjoyable, we initially assumed a deeper level of mutual understanding than actually existed, and experienced discomfort and disappointment when that assumption turned out to be wrong. What intrigues me in this case is that we’ve been able to talk about the situation, and have decided to own the differences between us and our mutual ignorance and to pursue a deeper intimacy anyway. This means that we have to lay down our individual egos to a radical extent and devote ourselves to a degree of listening and non-judgmental curiosity that is far beyond the normal scope of what I’m used to, particularly in new friendships. The payoff? An illuminating glimpse and hopefully a deeper understanding of a very different worldview, an opportunity for an authentic and rewarding connection with a person who might otherwise tax my patience, and over time the potential to unearth and then celebrate common ground that is currently hidden. This would never have occurred to me 10 years ago, or even 5. Am I seeing the tip of a new iceberg here? Am I entering a chapter of my life where relationships are less about mutual admiration and more about intentional, mindful exploration and learning?  I could get really excited about that– relationship as adventure, as experiment, as pioneering.

So today is starting off with a couple of Big Ideas to ponder: the first about the joys of a friendship so deep and established that it flows of its own accord, and the second about one chosen deliberately because of a shared conviction that the challenges signify an opportunity for growth and then for joy.  I am very grateful for both–the universe has a way of ensuring that I am stretched and refined when and how I need it most, and I’m certain this is meant to lead me further along that path.

©Mary Braden 2013

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