Relationships. They're what give the turning of this planet meaning. So much more than sunshine and water; humanity's soul has taken thousands of years of mornings and afternoons and breath-taking moments--and made them matter. As we birth and raise and laugh, as we weep and bury and mourn--we create. Music, poetry, paintings......roses that bloom in the dead of winter. We have altered the world, built and destroyed civilizations.....and tangled within it all, we have loved.
Sometimes it's romance that shakes the soul; it burns with an igneous passion composed of shared breath and melded flesh. Sometimes it's the wonder of new life and a protectiveness that would fight to the death against any odds. Sometimes it's friendship so deep--founded on experiences be them of pain or joy--that bind two hearts together. Regardless, it's the life that is shared, that shines in the darkness.
I have traveled. I have loved and married; divorced and learned, and loved more deeply the second time. True friends have been few and treasured, but neighbors and acquaintances have flowed through my life in a river of color bringing laughter and frustration depending on the day. In one thing I have been careful....to draw distinction. Intimacy makes one vulnerable. Knowing who has your back and who doesn't is vital.
With the invention of Facebook, we have taken the cherished noun "friend" and morphed it into a verb. An action. Something done with strangers. Now I completely understand that this fabulous land of "like" has a million uses. Publicity, causes, networking, real estate and recipe clubs. But I wonder as we are changing the very meaning of that word....will it be replaced? Or will we just forever alter what a "friend" is?
I found myself before the bright screen of my laptop late one night.....contemplating my "friends." I scrolled through the list...ticking off in my mind, "college, high school, neighbor...." And my own distortion, my own...corruption, reared its loathsome head into view. For the very plastic nature of fb had absorbed me. Why indeed is it merely a shiny promenade of new pictures and proud announcements? Why does it feel so shallow and flimsy.....because it's not made for true friends. It was created for strangers. And most of us are about 176 degrees from real on it.
We friend co-workers and fourteenth cousins and people we went to third grade with--curiosity gripping us in its wiry talons. "I wonder if they married? Do their kids have red hair too? Did he get fat?" And once on this slippery slope we careen down an avalanche that leaves us buried beneath a mountain of "friends." You awake upon a stage. Do you know your cue? Don't mess up your lines...
I did the unthinkable. I "unfriended" 48 people. Do you know, not a single one contacted me as to why....except one. My sister.
WHAT?? You unfriended family?!? Is that legal? (will there be umbilical whiplash from your parents??) But as I told my sister in a letter the next day, "We may be sisters, but we are not friends."
I am done. I am over. I am rejecting connections by obligation. Yes--obligation. The actions taken to avoid offense. The checks cashed on guilt or shame or duty. Contracts with conditions and penalties if not fulfilled. Obligation.
With this new year I have been....examining. My heart, my time....my sense of worth. I have asked difficult questions. Why do I maintain contact? What do we offer each other? Does good....kindness....something healthy come from our relationship? Dear Lord, do we even communicate on a regular basis or is it just me putting my day, my heart-aches, my triumphs, my tears out there....and them watching? Critiquing?
Am I strong enough? Can I withstand obligation? Can I face neighbors and co-workers....my family? Can I say that their relationship with me is one of unrequited vulnerability? I want more authenticity....I want a return on my investment.
No family is perfect. History is difficult to overcome and childhood can be cruel. However, I've decided that I want today--which is all we really have--to matter. No waste. No counterfeits or masquerades. No pretending to agree when I don't or that we are something we are not.
Family is family, and co-workers are co-workers and dammit, friends are friends! Blessings to you if you can overlap some of those, my mother is absolutely one of my closest friends. But in this world of cheap imitation everything....friendship needs preservation.