Of all the things I’ve lost in my forties, apart from what gravity and the years took away, lost friends have been the one thing that have saddened me the most. And trust me, I’ve lost quite a few. I’ve missed them terribly, but I’ve never gone back the path to find them again. But then that’s me. I was never the one who made friends easily even back when making friends was supposed to be easy. I was always the one in the corner, sitting with my nose in a book, doing my thing, hoping no one tried to penetrate the carapace that my book provided. There were few who did. Some became friends for life.
My friendships have changed over the years. Perhaps I have changed too. My barriers are up more, they have spikes and an electric fence now. Perhaps there’s a watchtower and a sweeping searchlight somewhere too. I don’t let my guard down easily. That perhaps is life and life situation. Paradoxically, it is easier to make friendships now, physical restrictions of location and opportunity no longer apply. All you need is a social media account and the willingness to engage in online conversations with people who might be anyone behind a smiling face profile. There’s so much mistrust we suspend when it comes to the online world. Some of my most longstanding friendships have come from the online, where the bloggerverse is now my strongest sisterhood.
Some of my most longstanding friendships have come from the online, where the bloggerverse is now my strongest sisterhood.
I find my friendships are an assorted bunch right now. There are those from back when one was a teen, finding oneself, and now having found oneself, all too keen to lose oneself back again. There are those from when one was a young intern in one’s first job, a sisterhood bonding over the terrible shock of moving into the formal workforce where one is quickly disabused of the terrible notion that one is the best thing since sliced bread that college professors have put into our rather swollen heads. There are those we’ve bonded with from the days of standing outside the school gates on the first day of school for our respective ingrate offspring and sniffling in communal misery, bonding over harridan teachers and monster PTMs. The years slip by quickly. The bonds loosen, they fray.
Sometimes you try to stitch them back together, the occasional lunch, the girls night out, the long phone calls to catch up on each other’s lives. At others, you scotch tape the friendship together and continue as it was, relying on the scotch tape to hold it together, like it does much of the universe. At others, you give up, because there are already many burdens you carry as a middle aged woman, and a friendship should not be one of those. At still others, you grow apart, and realise you couldn’t be bothered to try to bridge the distance. I read somewhere that despite being surrounded by growing children, older parents, extended families and relatives, middle aged women reported being the loneliest. Many middle aged women report being surrounded by people in their lives, their families, yet state they go for days without having a meaningful conversation. How many of us can relate to this?
Sometimes you try to stitch them back together, the occasional lunch, the girls night out, the long phone calls to catch up on each other’s lives. At others, you scotch tape the friendship together and continue as it was, relying on the scotch tape to hold it together, like it does much of the universe.
I have a handful of friends now. I treasure them. They have context to what is unfolding in my life right now, and I to theirs. That I can tell them things without fear of being judged, and that they’re there for me, 24×7, a WhatsApp message, a phone call away. They don’t need anything from me, nor me from them, except perhaps being a sounding board. They are the friends who have stayed, through the decades, through the waistline changing from taut to fraught, from the hair going from global highlights, to global colour, from the offspring going from pintsized to manling.
It is difficult making new friends when one is middle aged. For one, life is already pretty complicated. One has a career, a set pattern for the everyday, more often than not one is the sandwich generation, caretakers for the older generation and the younger generation, with the result that the little time that one does decide to carve out for oneself is precious, very precious and one is very, very careful about where and with whom one invests it in. I’ve realised that while I’ve made many more acquaintances, thanks to social media over the past few years, I’ve made very few friends. And the handful of new friends I’ve made are the ones I’ve reconnected with. Making friendships, it would seem, is not an age thing, perhaps. It is a life stage thing. And life stages often don’t quite run on parallel lines for old friendships.
I’ve realised that while I’ve made many more acquaintances, thanks to social media over the past few years, I’ve made very few friends.
There is something I read a long while ago which has stayed with me ever since, and I keep reminding myself of it periodically. There are friends of the heart and friends of the road. We all have these. The friends of the heart are those who will be with you through thick and thin, whom you may not have contact with for years, but once you reconnect, you pick up the threads like you never ever dropped them, with whom you know you are valued and you feel a connection. Friends of the road are a different species. They’re friends too, and can be good friends, but they’re with you for a while till your journey together is done, and you move on your own separate paths.
There are friends of the heart and friends of the road. We all have these.
The right kind of friendships can be the wall behind you as you go forth and conquer the world. The right kind of friendships can be your Spanx. They hold you together, they provide you support, they make you feel fabulous about yourself, and they’re there for you when you need them. Such friendships can’t be rushed. They take time and effort, from both sides. They’re a delicate dance of coming together and growing apart, of connecting and disconnecting, over months, years, decades. They’re three am calls, and hospital visits with food and cheer. They’re babysitting with no questions asked in an emergency, they’re a firm kick up your rather generous behind when you’re drowning a tad too much in self pity, they’re a bottle of wine and take out when you’re going through a life crisis. They’re the friends we all need, and the friends we all should be.
Kiran Manral is the Ideas Editor at SheThePeople.TV
Picture Credit: Levi Guzman, Unsplash