I have friends now that I’ve known for most of my life….since I was five years of age. Even younger than that. True, we have gone through periods of time where we’ve fallen out of touch, but then picked up again where we left off some time later, and it’s as if not a moment has passed. That is the way I feel about most of my friendships; that they go through cycles of contact and the ‘down time’ is not an indication that the friendship is suffering or any less meaningful, it just means, to me, that a fork in the road cropped up, we parted company, and the road will lead us to intersect once again down the line.
One of my favorite ‘resurgence of friendship’ stories involves my buddy Scott. I had plans for dinner with another friend who asked if he could bring a buddy along, and of course I agreed. As we sat and laughed and joked and talked, this friend, Scott, made a reference to Little Falls School. I said, ‘That was my elementary school…you went there as well?’ – Ten seconds later we realized we’d attended at the same time, in the same class….and known each other as children. It was an amazing moment to reconnect with someone I’d not seen for 20 years….and to realize that despite the passage of time we were still just as compatible as friends as we’d ever been, even as adults. We are still friends to this day, even after another period of lapse in contact, but now, via the miracle of social media, are in regular contact or at least know what’s going on with the other one.
Scott is one of the people I’ve known since kindergarten and still maintain a friendship with. There are several others. Certainly we are all older…some have kids, some not, some are married, some divorced….but despite the highs and lows we’ve experienced in life, we still have common ground, common interests, and plenty to talk about. We’ve had months and months of no contact, and then chatter away as if no time had passed at all. It’s comforting, to me, to still maintain friendships with people who have known me for most of my life, and still wish to be friends. People who have changed and grown and transformed and reinvented themselves time and time again, and yet at their very core they are still people who I am happy and honored to say are my friends.
I’ve worked very hard over time to shed certain baggage and character traits that I no longer wish to have in my life. In ways I’ve wanted to rid myself of a me that I used to be and didn’t wish to be any longer. I’m fortunate that I’ve been able to maintain certain friendships over time that after seeing me at both my best and at my worst they are still a fixture in my life.
I’ve also worked very hard to even be able to “let” my friends see me at my worst. To drop my guard even 50% and be my often-times cranky, unreasonable, wounded self and be okay with putting that out there. To say the difficult things and be open and honest and not cap off the story with some pithy, sarcasm laced punch line. Sometimes there is no punch line. Not everything’s a joke. Sometimes nothing at all is and it’s so hard to say it and put yourself in a circle of people who can either support you or stone you. Sometimes it just feels easier to find an empty chair in an empty room and just sit there and keep your burdens to yourself. It may feel easier, or even just ‘safer’. It rarely accomplishes anything other than keeping you stuck under your own dark cloud.
Sharing my burdens with others has not been easy for me to do, for a variety of reasons. It’s a work in progress, and I am a complete novice at it. It has more to do with me not being comfortable with it than a lack of faith in my friends and my friendships. I am truly blessed to know the people I know, and from those people be able to say that I know others who, without a doubt, would have my back day and night, and always will. Those are the kinds of friendships you hold the closest and the dearest…and the ones you need to give to as well as take from. That doesn’t mean just give the good, either…..you have to give them the bad too, and trust that they are still going to be there for you, right or wrong, light or dark. These are the best friends to have. Not those who have the most or look the best. Friends that you can, even if you don’t usually, say anything to…the ones that you can be yourself with, whomever that is, and they are still your friend. Those are the most valuable and the most important friends of all.
I keep telling myself that a shared burden weighs less upon a troubled soul. I keep working to believe in it more fully and apply it to my life. I keep seeking other souls that I can share burdens with, and know that they will help me carry the load. I know how important it is to be grateful, every day, that I have friends like this.
I only hope that I am a friend like this, too……and that other troubled souls feel comfortable sharing their burdens with me.