My notebook for the year has a section devoted to friendship. Although the year is young, I have hit disappointments and frustrations already on this subject, and every day I dig down and toss my thoughts and feelings up to the top.
I am not here to write about any specific friendship, but about the turn of events that have led me to question the role of friendship at this point in my life, in hopes that some of what I experience might resonate with you.
I believe it is safe to say that for those of us in our forties, friendships are not precisely what they were to us in our twenties or even thirties. I admire a person who has the ability to nourish old friendships and acquire new ones along the way. Some of us are better at this than others.
But what happens during transitions in our lives? How easily do we carry these relationships through those big-life events? Weddings are generally simple and joyous, but what about the transition to parenthood, a move, new job, new school, divorce, sickness, crisis, death? Not to mention the complication of couple and family friendship.
My twenties were about personal friends; thirties were more focused on couple and family friendship, and my forties have seen friendship neglect and upheaval.
When we learned Aaron was sick, we were new to our current neighborhood and Olivia's school. I was overwhelmed emotionally. I didn't want people coming over with muffins and coffee, and I didn't want to return phone calls. During the course of his five year illness, we stopped socializing and lost regular contact with many friends. We spoke with and saw the few who were strong and compassionate enough to handle our situation.
Most didn't understand or probably didn't really want to. Caring for a child with multiple disabilities is complicated and when we had the opportunity to go out and about, we did something special with Olivia not too far from home.
Then one horrible day a year-and-a-half ago we woke to the unimaginable and our lives were forever altered. For a while friends resurfaced and came to us. When we felt strong enough, we tried to reach out to them. It has felt how I can only guess someone my age experiences a return to dating after the end of a relationship. We have found that trying to establish friendship in your forties is hard work.
It feels vulnerable and somehow wrong that we are so openly seeking to have people we care about in our lives. The message seems to be we should have this completely established by now, fixed.
People are busy, and I mean up-to-their-eyeballs busy. Full work schedules, kids activities on the weekends, visits with extended family. While we have some of this, we are not as busy as most, and it feels bad in a lonely kind of way.
I also wonder if forty-somethings become lazy; tired from work and schedules, they are content with a few close friends, immediate and extended family. They are not actively seeking anyone new in their lives, until perhaps, their lives are shaken to the core.
I am re-connecting with some female friends and for that I am grateful. But finding families to socialize with who have a daughter Olivia's age, who she is comfortable spending time with, and whose parents we click with is rare. When we find the few families who fit the requirements, they are unavailable or we try so many times to connect our schedules, that eventually we give up.
Mr. Savory recently said he has no idea what he wants from a friendship at this point. I know what I want, but I am wrestling with what form I am willing to accept it in. Sometimes, I enjoy my online blogger or photo-group acquaintances more than friends I have grown distant from. Perhaps we live in a time where it is not about who is sitting across from you, but who you are connecting with, be it virtual or physical.
I do not accept that one cannot make lasting friendships in their forties and beyond.
I do know that we need friends who we can say Aaron's name to, and they can hear it and not want to flee in panic. I know that while it is rewarding to connect meaningfully online, nothing makes me happier than to cook for friends from what I have grown in my garden, share bread with them that I have baked, and hear our girls run off laughing upstairs to do what middle-school girls do, while we parents pour ourselves another glass of wine and get to know each other beyond the courtesies of drop-offs and pick-ups.