Thursday, April 12, 2007

Friendships


A photo from my 40th birthday party with friends from church: Kitty and myself


I was thinking about the idea of friendships, partially during my gardening time yesterday, and partly in response to Carrie's post about transiency in friendships (see the link to her blog under "Blogs of Interest").

I'm still in touch with my best friend from junior high, Denise; we just had a nice visit together at the end of February when our family was at Disneyland. She picked me up from our hotel, and we talked for over three hours at the California Adventure Hotel nearby.

Two of my good friends, Noko from high school and Vera from my freshman year of college, live far away: Australia and Upstate New York. It's wonderful to see each other, and we pick right back up where we left off, and we do communicate regularly via e-mail and phone calls. But long-distance friendship just isn't the same as having them in the same town, or in Vera's case, either in the upper dorm bunk or next door. Carmen, whom I met in grad school at USD, is also a long-time friend.

I'm still friends with Mr. Stan, my eighth-grade English and History teacher, as well as with several of my college professors. My favorite high school teacher, Mr. Sebastian, has passed away, but I would love to get in touch with at least one other of my high school teachers, namely, Mrs. Jordan.

I am a loyal friend and tend to keep my oldest friendships. It's the newer ones that are more difficult for me, I guess.

After being at Lake Murray for nearly 14 years, I find my closest day-to-day friendships at church. But even at church, there is the sense of transiency; twice now I've had all of my closest friends move on to other churches at once, leaving me behind with few close friendships. I still feel as though I'm in a rebuilding stage at church from the latest mass-leaving, although being part of the small and intimate Bible study on Tuesday mornings helps a great deal as I build friendships with Julie, Kim, Kitty, and Naomi.

Then there's our small town. We moved up there partially because of our friends at the Bible camp, but Shannin and family moved to Big Bear a few years ago. I made acquaintances through the library pre-school hour and then by volunteering at the elementary school when J attended there for two years. Finally out of these experiences, I made a lovely friend, Sheri, one who values the spiritual disciplines and enjoys the occasional day away in silence and contemplation. And then Kitty, a friend from church introduced me to a wonderful woman of experience here in my town, Judith, a poet and friend of the heart, someone I truly enjoy listening to and learning from and sharing with. I'm about the same age as her children, so she's a blessing to me in so many ways!

And there's always online friends. I've been a part of an amazing group of women online for eight years, frist on the Sonlight boards, then at the Trapdoor Society, and now at The Lamppost. I've met many of them face-to-face, either in my home or in theirs. I've traveled to Ohio, North and South Carolina, and Illinois in order to spend time with them, and later this month I'm returning to North Carolina for a trip to Topsail with them. These are perhaps the women who know me best, or at least know my "insides" the best. But there are the intrinsic barriers that go along with online communication: the misunderstandings, the "drama" (for lack of a better word) -- all of which are completely foreign to me in "real life" as I've don't get into disagreements with my "real life" friends. (I admit it; I hide form conflict!) It's a sometimes "squishy" thing (to steal a word from Carol) to put oneself out there online, devoid of all usual real life defenses. There have been times when I've had to leave the online community because I've felt as if I was pushed into a corner; there has been anger and tears and hurt on my part that are past describing. And there have been times of learning and understanding (which are two different things) and exuberant joy as well. I guess online friendships are much harder for an introvert like me because although I feel less vulnerable hiding behind a keyboard than I would in real life, I am also MORE vulnerable because I'm putting my emotional self on these forums, and hiding behind my shyness just isn't possible. I'm "out there," even from behind my keyboard.

Friendship is a challenge in this day and age. No one seems to have time to chat over the back fence anymore. Everyone seems to move away, either to another church or out of the area, and friendship is difficult when the friends aren't readily available. Online friendships are definitely as "real" as real life friendships, only sometimes more volatile and prone to misunderstandings with no facial expressions and body language to read. But just as valuable and sometimes of as great a comfort.

Either way, in "real life" or online, I've somehow felt like the outsider. Perhaps that's because I live 35 miles away from my church family and haven't always felt included (or have been able to include myself because of distance) in their lives. Perhaps that's because I had to leave my online community for a period of time to get healthier in mind and spirit before becoming part of what can be more "drama" at times than I can handle. Perhaps it's because the two friends closest to my heart live across the country and on the other side of the globe. Perhaps it's because I'm still a relative newcomer in my town.

Making friends has never been easy for this introvert. I can only hope it gets easier as I grow older.

3 comments:

carrie said...

I enjoyed reading about your good friends. I hope Noko is doing well. I remember you speaking of her before.

Friendships are challenging in our mobile age. But it's worth the time to think about how to cultivate friends and how to keep in touch.

Susanne B. said...

Thanks, Carrie. I do feel very challenged by friendships.

Noko is doing very well. Her ex gave her custody of the boys at last, and they're now permanent residents of Australia and are doing great! Noko remarried a little over two years ago, and her husband is a peach! I love seeing her so happy after so many years of suffering.

carrie said...

I am so happy to hear about Noko and her boys! That really makes my day.

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