It’s been a long time since I posted, but now’s the time to start again. I’m going to take the pressure off myself by posting only once a week – and maybe only once every two weeks. Another time I’ll explain the long gap in posts. Today is about friendship.
Tomorrow my friend Jill moves to Alabama to be closer to her family – especially her 70-something father. Jill and I have known each other since 1999, the year I moved back to Columbia. 15 years! We celebrated our 40th birthdays together with a trip to New York City. Every year for the past eight years we’ve been going to the S.C. Book Festival together, coming home laden down with new books. She is one of my oldest friends and I’m going to miss her terribly. I’ve already planned my first road trip to Alabama on the first weekend of April.
Ever since she told me she was leaving, I’ve thought long and hard about friendship – how so many of my friends have left my life, how my shyness prevents me from opening up and making friends quickly and deeply. I have so many acquaintances … and I’d like to turn them into real friends. Then I start to think, how can I show them love? How can I be a friend to them? (The best way to have a friend: be one, or so I’ve heard.) Over the years numbers of dear ones have moved away, like my friend Karen who’s now in New York with her kids. It’s been almost 8 years since I’ve seen her, but I still remember her fondly and we send each other Christmas cards. And there’s Grace, the military wife in Virginia. Now she’s one who learned to make friends quickly. I need to ask her for tips. Thank God she loves to post on Facebook and keep us all up to date. That’s the only way I know what’s going on with her and her crew.
As I look over it, I don’t think I’m too harsh in thinking I’m to blame for letting so many friendships either wither or fade for lack of care. How can I fix it? By cherishing the ones I still have and mainly by listening better. So often I find myself listening at the start of a conversation, then drifting off to think of something else. The writer Russell T. Davies once said that conversation, real conversation, isn’t so much one person taking, and the other person listening, as it is one person talking – and the other person waiting to talk. Ouch. If I listened better – I’d know so much more about the friends I have – so many more details, and be so much more a part of their lives.
But, thank God, there are new friends to make, and new friendships to deepen. In the last year I’ve started to get to know Janie, a fellow member of my Toastmasters club. She’s such a fascinating individual – and a worthy friend to have and cherish.
In our language, we speak of cultivating friendship. That makes me think of gardening. Just as it’s now time to plan for the spring planting, it’s time to get to work on friendships, to cut away the vines and dig up weeds, clear away dead pine straw and till the earth. It’s time to bring forth something beautiful.