I read once that friends are the siblings we were never given. I’ve reflected upon that thought many times over the years. I feel closer to my best friend than I ever have to my only sibling.
What intrudes upon my thoughts of late is the definition of friendship. Many times, I see social media and how it tells me how many “friends” I have. Over the years, I’ve often thought that it would be more accurate if they called these people “connections”. Friend is a word that implies intimacy, knowledge of a person, deeper than the girl you went to high school that found you on Facebook after thirty years.
This morning, I woke to a little note from Facebook announcing that my friends had liked my posts 80,000 times. It was almost like a congratulations, and I felt like Sally Field up on the stage gushing, “You like me! You REALLY like me!”. UGH. Really Facebook? Just because some random person on my friend’s list clicked a button doesn’t define anything to me. It doesn’t make me feel, loved, popular, desired, appreciated, needed (you get the picture).
Maybe the target of my post truly is Facebook and its definition of friendship. I have Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest accounts (Pinterest because a girl can dream right? LOL), but they aren’t the places I visit the most. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not bashing Facebook. I love being able to see the many things I do from those on my friend’s list and the pages I follow. But what IS friendship?
For me, it means many things, almost like there are many onion-like layers of friendship. When my mother was sick and I was trying to deal with an abusive husband, two young children with autism and very little family support, a group of friend’s, many of whom I’d never even met in person, put money together and sent me a gift card to a spa. When I realized what they had done and why, I cried happy tears of gratitude. It felt lavish to indulge in such a treat when my mother was enduring surgery for stage 4 cancer, but once I left the salon, I understood. I NEEDED some relief. I felt the friendship from many directions then. I will never forget that gesture.
When I moved here after my father’s passing and was completely overwhelmed about my front garden, friends organized a bit to show up and give me some help, including a truck for a dump run. I didn’t have the funds to hire anyone and the combination of help I received made me feel better and gave me some much-needed muscle I didn’t possess. Later on, when the back of my home was like walking onto the set of a “Welcome to the Jungle” video, a friend’s husband and sons gave me a quote that allowed me to have much work done and clearing that had again overwhelmed me.
After my husband died, there were instances of giving and help that I received that are sometimes blurry in hindsight, but not forgotten. There were mornings I opened my door and someone was standing there with a basket of muffins and bagels. Another time there was a hot casserole. Getting ready to come outside and begin shoveling, I opened my door to a completely shoveled driveway, sidewalk and brushed off car, and not one ornery soul would admit to it. Came home to a freshly mowed lawn sometimes too.
No one ever asked for a thing in return, including acknowledgement. They did it, either because they just cared, were my friend, or were just good people paying it forward. They made my life SO MUCH BETTER at the time. I’ll never forget the behind the scenes that happened that brought a fund to me so I could pay my mortgage, utility bills and buy food until I could get things straightened out with Social Security. Much time has passed since those days, but I remember it all with great fondness and appreciation.
Six months after my husband died, my father died from cancer. (I know right?) Cherished friends sent me the key to their condo near the ocean and charged me I think enough to pay the electric bill and just told me to go. I don’t know if they will ever know how much I appreciated that. Just a week after I buried the third person in my life in such a short period of time, I sat, with very dark sunglasses on, sobbing my heart out while watching my children laugh at the waves and jump with excitement. Catharsis isn’t adequate to describe that day.
There are very few people I choose to have in my very inner circle. There is only one with whom I share my deepest thoughts, my most embarrassing moments, as well as listen to theirs. I would never reveal anything told to me and vice versa. This person has put up with more crap from me than anyone, but they still love me. Living with their own stress and strife, they never cease to take the time to be there for me and I try my very best to do the same. I am treated like family and I feel at home when I am with them. You can’t buy that, be born into it (well maybe for some, just not me), you just have to find it.
Yeah, this person is ^^^ that kind of friend. So, while I believe that the definition of friendship has broadened due to our global reach and the expansive technology we are so enriched with, there will always be many layers to this thing we call friendship. I hope to continue to have experiences with all the layers; they each have meaning and depth for different reasons.