Friendship Gardens

10 Jun

Harsh Truth

I’ve been thinking about friendship a lot lately. In the past year several of my local friends have moved on. Moved on to new cities, new opportunities, new jobs. In each case it was for a good reason, a hopeful reason. I’m having a hard time with the loss of each of them. I found this image and it seemed to encapsulate the entire experience. I dislike change in general, but losing friends is a particularly deep wound for me.

On top of that, the post “Regrets of the Dying” went viral last week. In it, a palliative (end of life care) nurse discusses the 5 most common themes the dying mentioned when discussing regrets.  The fourth one she lists?

“I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.”

Friends are a tricky thing for me.  My common pattern is to have exactly two close friends at any given time. When one leaves a new one rotates into their place. This doesn’t take into account the awesome long-distance friendships* that I have simultaneously. The reason is entirely about accessibility and familiarity. My close friends know all my pet peeves about work, they know that I just got a haircut, that my allergies have been bothering me since Tuesday etc. I share a lot on Facebook and Twitter, but not all those little things.

I think that part of the reason I only ever have two close friends at a time is that it takes me a long time to build up a trust reservoir with someone. I have never been one to trust easily. I play my cards close to my chest. Anything that really matters to me, the big stuff, the deep stuff: I keep it all to myself. As I get to know someone better, I’ll dole out little snippets. If they react appropriately I’m more likely to share more in the future. Friendships are like gardens. You plant a little piece of yourself. If the other person nourishes it, it grows. If they continue to spend time on it, it grows larger and more encompassing.  It takes me at least a year to trust someone to the point where I would feel comfortable telling them anything. (Well, almost anything.) And in the last few years I’ve slowly started to cultivate new friendships. They get to the point where they are just starting to bloom and then-

-the gardener has to leave. The garden withers and dries up. Maybe a tiny patch of it is kept alive through email and Facebook posts, but it is just a fraction of what it once was. A glimpse of what it could have been.

I have been going through this same pattern for decades. I haven’t had anyone violate that trust in a long time. No one has come along recently and stomped on the flowers and salted the earth. And yet that is always my fear. I let my fear get in the way of developing that bond faster. I take things slow. Ration out my pieces of myself carefully: don’t dump a whole handful in there at once!

Inevitably friends have to leave. For some reason or another, people leave. Then I find myself with a handful of good memories and a pile of regrets. Why didn’t we hang out more? Why did I skip going to lunch with them? Why didn’t I ever invite them over for a silly movie night? I thought they’d be here forever!

This pattern isn’t working for me. I need to step outside my comfort zone and open up more. Come out of my introverted shell a little more. Even though staying home and watching tv is easier and sometimes it’s what I really want? Down the road I never say to myself: Gee, I wish I hadn’t spent all that time with my friends. I should have been watching tv!”

I’m making a pledge to myself to start really tending those friendship gardens. More of my time and energy. Instead of spending my evenings dicking around on Tumblr and Twitter I should be making plans to hang out with people. Not every night, but at least a few times a month. Even I can handle that. On top of that, it’s time to start sharing more of the Real Me that I keep hidden.

I expend a lot of energy trying to be “normal”. To not cry or panic or overreact to things that bother me. It takes a lot of mental energy to keep a smile on my face, or even a neutral look on my face, when things are bothering me. I keep these masks on even around my friends, people I’m supposed to trust and confide in.

We saw X-Men: First Class this weekend. Skip to 0:39-055, the scene with Mystique and Magneto. Yes, it’s relevant. Oh fine, I quote it underneath.

“If you’re using half your concentration to look normal, then you’re only half-paying attention to whatever else you’re doing.”

This scene hit me really hard. I spend a lot of time being frustrated that I have no energy, frustrated that my motivation is gone, when I’m expending a good chunk of it on keeping up appearances. Again, I could write an entire post about Being Yourself (which was regret #1 on that list from before) but that is not for today.

I don’t want to have these same regrets on my deathbed. I have plenty of time to make these big changes that I want to make in myself. But I have to make a commitment to them and then work at it.

Do you make a conscious effort to maintain your friendships? Or do you have a green thumb for friendship gardens? Is it easy for you to bare your soul to a new friend? Or does it feel like pulling teeth?

*Those are an entirely different thing, at least in my mind, so I’ll just put a pin in that for now and maybe write a post about it later. Friends in this bucket include: friends from high school, college and grad school that are now far away, friends that I ‘met’ on the internet and later met in person, my awesome WoW community, my Twitter friends, the other Divas etc.


4 Responses to “Friendship Gardens”

  1. S. Reesa Herberth June 10, 2011 at 9:50 am #

    I love that quote, and this post.

  2. Kel June 10, 2011 at 6:32 pm #

    Agreed, very thought provoking. I might have to get over my shyness and go make my own blog post. Because I can’t come up with a reply to this without making a huge Wall o’ Text. 😛

    On a side-note – New X-Men movie? Major /geekout!

    • Fallah June 11, 2011 at 6:35 pm #

      I’d love to see a reply post to this! I’m much less shy on the internet, that’s for certain 🙂

      • Kel June 11, 2011 at 8:04 pm #

        Unfortunately, I seem to be immune to the ‘internet anonomity'(sp?) thing. I’m just as shy online as I am IRL. :\

        There’s also the fact that I’m a lazy blogger. I barely keep up with the random in-game updates that I want to post about, much less coming up with stuff that I have to actually -think- about. 😦

        I probably will write something eventually, I just hope no one expects it any time soon. 😛

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