She was making a temporary stop in town. Big life changes were beckoning and our hometown seemed to be drawing her back. We hadn’t seen each other in about seven years, so there was much to catch up on. She was staying in a magnificent AirBnB that had minimalist aesthetics and spiritual totems. It suited where she was mentally. Our excited and enthusiastic voices echoed off the high ceilings. The conversation jumped around, back and forth in time, like kids in a bouncy house. We didn’t know where to begin. We just rushed in.
When so much time has gone by without any communication, it’s easy to let things keep going by. Inertia. Yet we picked up as if there had been no gap and neither one to blame. Old friends can do this. No pretense; all familiarity. Our lives and lifestyles have diverged greatly. Our responsibilities aren’t even comparable. Yet, we see what themes are running parallel, where the next phase of life is taking us. Intrinsically, we’ve been asking the same questions and at a similar point of growth.
People change. We are apt to outgrow them if we’ve moved from the places where we initially met. People move on. We never lose the open space for our deepest friendships to fit back in, though -wherever or whenever they may show up next. They don’t need constant reaffirming in the interim. They simply exist.
Newer friends blossom out of work, hobbies, or another social context. We can begin a new story with them. Generate new memories. I call them fresh start or clean slate people. We often don’t extend to them the same leniency or unconditionality in ways. This takes time. We’ve grown and matured, thus our expectations of how we should be treated have shifted too. A new friend can only flake out of plans so many times. Adulthood turns time into a valuable commodity, and there’s less of it. New relationships take a concerted effort, a deliberate engagement, a willingness to build up trust. They haven’t witnessed what we’ve weathered, nor shared in any historical personal pains.
I recently ran into someone who was very close to me for a solid year; the shoulder my heavy head needed to rest on. Sitting in my car afterwards, I acknowledged an emotional vacancy in myself, and recalled how people come into our lives for ‘a reason, a season, or a lifetime.’ He had been for a specific reason. We have not reached out to the other since this encounter, so I can confirm that. In the current budding of any new friendship or intimate relationship, we often don’t know which category the other person will fall into. It’s all optimistic and hopeful initially. The truth is, new additions to our adult lives aren’t baked into the cake. Perhaps because of diminishing time, there is more at stake. A reason, a season, or a lifetime?
This month is also a 25-year anniversary with my dearest and truest. After our initial summer meeting, we spent twenty-one consecutive days together. I believe this timeframe is what psychologist say builds or breaks new habits. Coincidence or not, we see the other as a soulmate. Nothing will break us other than death. I consider myself so very lucky to have at least this one person. I hope everyone has at least one person: unwavering; unconditional. Regardless, it’s our friendships that make us, define who we are. They also break us down with honesty. Then they stay around to help us rebuild. A solid friend is balm for the soul: to acknowledge; to reassure; to support; or to leave you alone.
‘The ultimate touchstone of friendship is not improvement, neither of the other nor of the self, the ultimate touchstone is witness … to have walked with them and to have believed in them, and sometimes just to have accompanied them for however brief a span, on a journey impossible to accomplish alone.’ – David Whyte
‘A good marriage is one in which each spouse secretly thinks he or she got the better deal, and this is also true of our friendships.’ – Anne Lamott