Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Friendships: The fast and the fleeting

The New York Times ran an article last Sunday on how to end a friendship, "It's Not Me, It's You". For those thinking of letting go of friends, Richard Perry describes the range of tactics, from discreet to dramatic.

My problem though, is the opposite: how to keep connected to those I cherish after this move.

No doubt some will move to the further shores of friendship, like the old university roommates with whom I exchange cards once a year. And I can't predict who those will do so.

One of my longtime friends, Ruth, once gave me a short essay that began
People come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime.
When you figure out which it is, you know exactly what to do.


The full version is here, and while I find it syrupy, I like its observation that some relationships are time-limited, and its assertion that an end is not always a failure.

Susan's puppy with her mum

Skype has been a boon. I saw Susan's new boxer puppy and toured her country house; laughed at Marla's jokes, which she tells with her whole face. And I'm happy to have moved to Montreal: almost forty visitors have stopped by since last spring. Others send their favourite movies, songs, photos of daughters in party  dresses.

I miss, though, the shared time at our table, seeing a good play or a movie, meeting for coffee.

Everything I've read about wise aging says that the social network is essential.

The Times article mentions that the peak accumulation of friends happens in adolescence; at the other end of life, I've witnessed the slow melt as friends become too infirm to socialize or die: my mother's green address book has nearly all the names x'd out. But I also saw her make new friends in her 90s, when she moved to assisted living.

Because of her experience, I have hope that my tapestry of friends will endure, with new threads added as life moves along. I'm grateful to have met some sympatico women here, and we've reconnected with several distant relatives who are great company. 

I related to the issues described in the Times' article. Not all friendships are built to last; some are confined to "a season". But others are resilient, weathering mistakes, misunderstandings, moves. This was my sole reservation about the move, but thanks to technology and a bit of will, these need not be lost. 

I realize that chatting with a friend on Skype, in real time, at no cost, is likely the best everyday invention of my lifetime.  

I am offline for a short time, and will respond to comments on Friday.

9 comments:

helen tilston said...

Such a timely topic and one we spoke of recently. A wise Aunt once suggested that we must continue to make friends and not ever feel we have enough friends. She said the new ones will not replace the old and may not be perfect but you will find them comforting as the years progress.

Wishing you an abundance of friends

Helen x

Lorrie said...

Skype is simply wonderful! I use it almost every day to connect with my daughter in Europe.
Friends are essential, and I realize I have not put enough effort into cultivating good friendships, relying on my husband and grown children for companionship. But I'm feeling the need for more friends, just for me, not necessarily couple friends.

Lovely post. Much to think about.

Chicatanyage said...

I agree friends are so important. one of my best friends now lives in South Africa (internet connection not good) and I do miss her however I relish her every visit to the UK. I am now meeting some new interesting friends in France which is great.

Tabitha said...

My mum moved in with us for a few years after my dad died and the result was misery and depression. She needed to be out on her own even though she was almost 90.
She is now happy as a clam in an assisted living development. She does her own cleaning, make her own meals and mixes with folk her own age. I have never seen her happier. Before she went I cried and cried and cried and felt as if I had failed as a daughter.
But the social aspect was all important to her quality of life.

Jane M said...

As an early retiree (at age 49) and without children I've had to figure out ways to keep the few long term friends and also make new ones. There are disappointments, just as in dating, but also wonderful rewards as I continue to make new friends and keep the old.

Susan Tiner said...

Thank you for the link to the NY Times article. Interesting. I love all of my friends but the friendships do change as our lives change, from being single to being in a relationship (or the reverse), changing needs as we age, and so on. It can be hard to stay in touch when there are fewer points of connection.

materfamilias said...

We've moved a few times, leaving friends behind. Some of them have stayed in my life, but the relationships change considerably, fade to a distant fondness even if they can be sparked by a physical visit so that all of a sudden we're talking as if not time has elapsed.

Besides the physical moves, I've also found that switching gears by going back to school, especially grad school, and then moving into full-time work meant a big shift in friendships. And my work now leaves me free time in the summer, but it's very tough to find social time during term. Added to that our divided lifestyle spending so many weekends in the city, with family the focus, and the rest of our time on the island (which makes visiting tougher) . . . and I do worry sometimes about what friends I'll have when I retire. Like you, though, I note that new friends get added along the way. I have been trying to clear more time to nurture the good friends I have now, but I'm also going to trust to the organic process whereby friends can be made (not without effort, of course) at different stages of life -- and they will surely bring new experiences, insights, and other riches into my life.

A friend whom I never see anymore (but with whom I'll always be connected, I know) lost her very wise husband many years ago. I always remember him by the wisdom of a saying he used to quote: A wife's best dowry is her friends.

Duchesse said...

helen: Wise indeed! I have found my friends comforting all along, and even more so as time passes.

Lorrie: I'm old enough to remember when long distance calls were reserved for fairly important matters; Skype still seems unbelievable to me.

Chicatanyage: You have reminded me Skype is not always a ready option. I do love getting an old-fashioned letter but it's been ages since anyone wrote to me.

Tabitha: A welcome endorsement and one i have also seen in a good friend's father. he was (at best) "resigned" to a residence but immediately after moving in, said it was the best thing for him, and is so much happier with companionship and activities. Very happy to hear she is doing so well.

Jame M.: Yes, making friends is like dating! Sometimes I've found the beginning stages more complicated and nuanced.

Susan Tiner: I think of friendships as concentric circles, some people closer than others, but also with movement to inner or outer circles.

materfamilias: Those are all good reasons why friendships wax and wane. For me, there have also been differences in personality or values, that can take years to become evident. (Sometimes that's enjoyable and expanding,sometimes not.)

Some people are more attentive and conscientious than others- better at "friending". I'm moved by their efforts to stay in touch. The easiest period in my (adult) life to make new friends was when my children were in school.

That's Not My Age said...

I'm a late-adopter and have only just started using Skype - my brother lives in New York and I'm in London, it's fantastic! It's so difficult to keep in touch with family & friends but so very important.