Sunday, July 13, 2014

Never too late to resume a friendship

I have friends that I mainly connect with through email. Sometimes one of these long distance friends will go a long time in between emails. After I've emailed a few times with no response, I call. Sometimes that doesn't get a response either. I once sent a regular snail mail to someone, making sure I'd made every attempt to reach her. I still got nothing. Years later, when I finally talked to her, I got the explanation I get every once in a while from a friend who has dropped out of my life. She said every time she heard from me she swore to herself that she'd respond, but she'd get busy and wouldn't get back to me, and then so much time went by that she felt too self-conscious to respond. She just felt stupid, so she never contacted me. I told her to never let that get in the way! I didn't care how much time had gone by. I was just happy to be back in touch.

Friends are extremely important to me and I pour attention on them. Even when I was married, the time I spent with my friends didn't shrink. I doggedly invited people to meet me for tea or dinner and invited friends over to my place regularly. When my husband ended things, I stepped back into my single life, surrounded by friends, without a pause. Many people were there to support me through my divorce because I'd stayed in close touch with them. I'm proud of this. It's an accomplishment and a survival skill.

Some friends are an integral part of my life and I'm in contact with them all the time. Many of my friends aren't as available and pop up when they can. With some, it can take months of wheedling to get them to spend some time with me. And a few feel like far flung satellites, hard to keep sight of, difficult to track, but held in my heart as I hope to welcome them back one day. If any of them are reading this, I'd like to say, "Please email or call when you can. It would be the best birthday present if I could just sit across a table with you for an hour and catch up. Don't let guilt keep you from texting. I know you're busy, but I'm ready to hang out whenever you are."

One of the deadliest forces on a friendship is ego. It would be easy to get offended by someone's apparent disinterest in my friendship, but I carefully don't allow that. If I've tried and tried to set up time with someone and she just can't do it, I tend to assume she just has too much going on and that's okay. How busy someone is and how low I rank on her To-Do List has nothing to do with me. Ego would drive me to compete for her attention and feel insulted when dinner with me isn't enough to tear her away from everything else in her life, but that's childish. I used to think that way, but now I know that even if someone decides not to make time for Regina, that's no reflection on me. I'm a great friend and if someone can't wedge me into her schedule, I'll find someone who can. And if that first person ever manages to make time for me, I'll happily be there.

It's taken me decades to learn how to do this friendship thing, and it's a skill many adult Americans don't have. Hobbled by our egos, we wait for the other person to make the first move, assume others don't want to be bothered by us, keep score of invitations given and accepted and forget that time with friends can be a much better way to spend an evening than with the TV or the Internet. Sometimes I feel like I'm part of a dying tradition of inviting friends to my place for a meal or a game night. I host people all year long and rarely receive party invitations in return, but does that matter to me? Nope. Hosting people in my home invigorates me and lets me re-connect with many people in one evening. I love when people "come play at my house." I'd rather have friends than keep score.

If you have a friend you really want in your life, but whose last email or phone call you never returned, get in touch with them now. Even if the last time you heard from them was years ago, it's worth swallowing your pride and risking looking foolish because chances are they're going to be delighted to hear from you. A real friend won't care what caused the delay, she just wants to catch up and re-connect. Believe me because I'm one of those people who lives in joyful hope that certain friends will surface from their busy lives and get back to me. When they do, I'll be here. I promise.

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