I had dinner with a friend last night. For the first 90 minutes I smiled and nodded. No really, I virtually said nothing. And nothing was required of me, beyond smiling and nodding and an occasional “oh?”or “really” maybe a “Yes” or a “No”. I think I actually talked to the server, Rachel more. Not to put too fine a point on it, but I hadn’t seen this person since my Dad died (although she did give me a note saying she felt bad about that), I have been in town for over two months and I haven’t heard a peep from this person, not a call or text or email until a week ago.
Anyway, back to the dinner, I am told that she is finding her joy. She has a list of things that she is tackling that is all about making herself happy. Her therapist wants her to focus on herself and learning about what makes her happy and what doesn’t, about who her real friends are and who aren’t. But mostly she is to just focus on herself. Which I must say she was quite good at before, but now she has become a master at. I can’t get a word in edgewise, there is no derailing the conversation off of herself, she is a good student. When I finally barge into the conversation, after the check has come and been paid (split) and I get to mention my new business venture…Bam She wants in she wants to promote it, sell it, bring more people in, get involved in anyway she can and then suddenly we are back onto her and a new business idea she has and my 8 minutes of involvement in the conversation is over. As we are getting ready to stand up and leave I am told that I am the best friend she has and the only one she trusts and she hasn’t told any of what she has told me to anyone else. She asks me when my birthday is, I say “Sunday.” She says, “I am a terrible friend.” I don’t even know what to think about that. We hug good bye and I get back in my car to drive the 50 minutes back to my sisters place, thinking what the hell was that??
Has this ever happened to you? Do any of you have this friend? The one who only talks about themselves, doesn’t asks about you, doesn’t seem aware that you may be going through something. This same person didn’t call for the first three months I had cancer, when she finally called she said she didn’t know how to handle it. I told her good news, she didn’t have to handle it, she didn’t have cancer, I did. All she had to do was be a friend. Why is that so hard these days? Why is it so hard to just show up and be a friend for someone? Isn’t friendship a two-way street? A relationship built on give and take? I am finding more and more that the people I have always thought of as friends are falling more and more into the takers column and less into the equal or givers column. I feel like more people are going to this therapist that is telling them all to find their joy and focus on themselves.
Friendship in and of itself is a precious commodity, in my opinion. It should always be treated with respect, treasured and protected. It is not something that you treat carelessly and as something disposable. A true friendship is something that can last all the days of your life if you treat it right. If you nurture it, protect it, care for it. It will be there to sustain you when you need it most, it will be there to take care of you when you are low and it will be there to help you celebrate the highs in your life as well. But this strange all about me and you support me and I call you my best friend kind of friendship is a sad and hollow imitation that cannot last. I just don’t know what to make of it, and it makes me feel sad and guilty that I don’t reciprocate the feelings. But how can I?
Friendships are also built out of shared experiences, if the only experience I have with you is you talking at me about your life that is not a shared experience. It may be a shared meal or meals, but not really the same thing. For example. I have a friend that I played on a golf league and a bowling league with. Now we go to lunch together almost every time I am in town as a way to keep in touch with each other. Our friendship was built on the shared experiences of golf and bowling together and lots of drinking, our friendship is maintained and protected, nurtured and cared for but calling, texting, and meeting for lunch regularly.
I have friends that go all the way back to preschool whom I still protect, nurture and care for the friendships, I have friendships from 2nd grade, from 6th grade, etc… The point is I am running across more of these it’s all about me type friendships of late and I don’t know what to do with them. Is this what friendship looks like in the year 2019? I hope not. Because if this is the new state of friendships it is a sad state indeed.