If Only I’d Known. Letters to Lost Years: 1988.1

Dear X,

You will often hear it said that friends come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime. Though perhaps a bit trite, it’s a helpful way to think about friendship.

My dad has a pin that reads, “Cor ad Cor Loquitur” or “heart speaks to heart,” an apt description of how I’ve met my best friends.  In an instant, I just felt comfortable, at ease and myself.

A bit shy and introverted, it takes me time to build friendships. But with these special few, it was different. The instant I met them, whether I was 6 or 36, I knew immediately they were to be true friends.

I’ve had to start over many times: changing schools, changing jobs, changing scenery. During transitions, it’s easy to feel anchorless and lost. Our history makes us who we are, so it can be lonely and isolating when you look around and there’s no one to whom you can say, “remember when…”

But true friends will get you through the ups and downs. They will always answer the phone, write the note, or come to visit (so you can laugh together and say things like, “remember when you used to wear upside down glasses?” or “look what happened to the cook!” or “show me your interpretation of holiday!” or “olive oil ice cream with little kid smiles,” or “time for dinner without the kids.”).

This kind of love is a special part of our experience and it is invaluable. Though few in number, lifetime friends are the most important.

So what of the other people in your life?

As you go along, you’ll find some friends are with you for only a short time. They appear in your world to help you through a particular situation and then vanish again, whether you want them to or not. Maybe they’ll teach you something about yourself. Maybe they’ll give you the strength to go through with something you didn’t think you could. Maybe their example will help you understand who you do – or don’t – want to be.

Some of these “seasonal friends” have given me the courage to change my situation when I felt stuck. Some have given me support when I felt alone and afraid. I may have thought that we’d always be close, but time moved on and so did they.

It can hurt when people leave your life, almost like a breakup, but sometimes you just have to let them go and understand that their purpose has been fulfilled. You can’t hold on to everyone, much as you might like to. Life is too busy, too complicated. The best you can do is wish them well and thank them for whatever you’ve learned from knowing them.

Once in a blue moon, you may have a strange experience when someone comes into your life for an instant, almost like magic, and gives you exactly what you need in that moment.

One day, I was as low as I could possibly be. I had left my job (encouraged to do so by my boss), my boyfriend had dumped me and my dog had just died. (I was a country music cliché.)

Early Monday morning, I went to the unemployment office – not exactly a great way to cheer myself up. But there, I met a woman named Elia. We talked all morning (we had hours to fill, after all). She was a couple years older and her stories of the things she’d done inspired me.

She helped me see that on the other side of this ending, inevitably, was a beginning… and beginnings are always exciting, because anything is possible. She gave me hope that things could and would get better. She reminded me that one never knows what the day will bring – a new friend, a new job, maybe just a new book. She told me to relax and enjoy myself… the pieces I was mourning would all fall into place again one day. And she was right.

Though we exchanged numbers, I never spoke to Elia again. She was a mysterious angel with a message I needed to hear. Four hours with her had a profound influence on the person I’d become.

I met her for a reason.

I wish I’d always understood the value of friendship. There have been times when I’ve had superficial reasons for wanting to be someone’s friend – popularity, for example (more on that later). But I’d like to think I’ve learned a lot since then.

In an enclosed world, it can seem the people around you will always be there (for better or worse); but it’s amazing how even some of your closest friends will drift away.

Eventually, you’ll look at your life and see who’s stuck by you… you’ll think about when you feel best and the people you most like. You’ll realize these are the people who deserve the time and love you have to give. When you identify these people, you’ll know what friendship is all about.

When a part of someone lives in you and you in them, you’ve found a friend.

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Published in: on February 21, 2013 at 1:57 pm  Comments (7)  
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