Wednesday, 16 May 2012

'Friends' or shallow vessels

Who or what is a friend? Is a friend someone you simply drink coffee with and discuss the weather and what you are going to buy to wear at dinner on Saturday night and then natter about how wonderful the kids are because a) they're not junkies and b) they are brilliant? Or is a friend the one who, notwithstanding some kind of unwritten 'loyalty' to a spouse, spills the beans to you about his or her bad and dangerous behaviours or infidelity? Is a friend someone who you really don't know so well but because of a conversation, he or she can empathise with you and call you and write and worry and stand you with good advice, even though you've really had little to do with them in the past?

And the really good friends. They are the ones who share their lives with you too. There is a discourse and a meeting of histories and experiences and you feel secure in the knowledge that because they have been through adversity, then they know almost implicitly what you are feeling. In order to give solace, you have to have been through experiences, both good and bad.

I remember when 'Zach' was so sick and I had few, if any, friends who made any kind of show of compassion. One friend did call occasionally and I remember, at the beginning, going out to eat dinner with her when Zach was first in hospital. I was utterly traumatised and didn't know which way to turn but she did, at least, suggest a meal and I did over years meet up with her a couple more times to talk and try to eat something when everything else appeared to be collapsing, like the proverbial pack of cards. 'Sam' was no 'rock' for me when all was in turmoil. He buried himself in work and in his personal life and shared little with me. He was great in providing financially and occasionally physically putting himself out to share the load but I took most of it on my shoulders because I was at home and 'had the time' as he says to me.

Other 'friends' presumably didn't know just how to converse with me. The whole thing was so remote for them that they couldn't find  the words. There are those who I had hitherto considered as friends who never once called  to find out how things were. You have to wonder about the make-up of people like this. Of course if I see them now, as I do sometimes, I look at them and then look away because they are not worth the mental energy.

Then there are those doggy friends who I met up with and who were interested in asking and were not embarrassed by my sadness or anger. I very much miss a friend who I walked with for years when we both had our dogs. She and I would walk the boggy Heath in all weathers, the dogs getting muddier and muddier in the winter or dustier and leafier in the summer and autumns. We counselled each other and felt far the better for it at the end of the trek.

There are the friends who you never considered close but who are there for you now. They offer you a shoulder, a listening ear and a bed if you feel that you can't take it any more. You didn't expect it of anyone and are amazed and astounded that such people exist. But in comparison there are the friends who are all about listening to you and giving you nothing of themselves so that you are speaking into a vacuum. The 'friend' who is fearful of breaking a 'confidence' and allowing you to suffer, is not a friend. Sometimes people have to be brave and break a taboo in order to protect someone more vulnerable than the one with whom they are 'friends' with. It's then that you know who your real friends are.

1 comment:

Nicola said...

That resonates with me alright! Very insightful.