Wednesday, May 09, 2012

You've Got a Friend in Me

In the current book-in-progress, I have some characters who get into big trouble and who are in dire need of help. Fortunately for them, they have friends who are willing to step up and risk their own asses to bring it. 

In the sorting out of the whys and wheretofores of explaining such a relationship succinctly, I found myself reëxamining the subject. This is necessary for a writer. The biggest truths are all found in fiction and you can't convey them if you don't on some level understand them.

I like to do that now and again; take some old toy out of the box, dust it off, and look at it closely, seeing how it's made. Sometimes, when you haven't played with it for a while, you forget how it works ...

Friends come in various weights. There are work-friends, school-friends, drinking buddies, gym-partners. People who are into the same philosophy or avocation–that woman you met at the yoga and meditation class; the guys at the model railroad club; the gang down at the dojo. Soccer moms and the PTA. 

Politics can make for strange bedfellows, too.

The heavyweight friends–the ones who will come if called to help you bury a body and wait to ask questions afterward? Those are apt to be few and far between. 

I've had some like that over the years, though most of those folks aren't in my life these days. I'm not overly-disturbed by this; the dynamics of relationships are fluid. Set-in-stone philosophy tends to crack and fall apart more often than not when it comes to the give-and-take of day-to-day living. Form follows function. That wonderful theory of absolutes will, as often as not, undergo some Whoa, there! alterations when the rubber hits the road.

If you don't have children but have theories on how to raise them? That's always fun to watch when the real baby comes along.

The map is not the territory.

For me, there have been disappointments in the friend-front, and the worst were because I made some bad assumptions. People weren't what I thought they were–I was their friend, but it turned out, they weren't mine. Probably lot of you have been there, and it's something of a shock when you come to realize that you had, uh, missed a big clue.

The Homer Simpson "Doh!" moment when you wonder, What the fuck was I thinking? Did I leave my brain in my other hat?

I have pretty high standards, I admit. Nobody is perfect, we all have our flaws, and you factor that in, but there's is a line below which you aren't the game for me. People who claim to have dozens or scores of friends aren't talking about the same thing I'm talking about when I say the word. 

Some of the friend-not-friend equations are because things change. You were best buddies, you ran close and parallel for a while, then looked up one day to notice that one or both of you have veered from the side-by-side path. Life throws up a roadblock, your buddy goes around it, but it changes his direction a hair. A half-degree different, the path isn't parallel any more; it's only a matter of time until the divergence grows wider.

Sometimes, you catch it and make the decision to adjust your course. (Marriage is like this, I believe. You have to pay constant attention, you can't let too much time elapse before you take stock and check on each other. You have to be willing to swing back onto a common road. As long as you are, the marriage can flourish. If you  or your spouse aren't willing to do that? Eventually, it stops working.)

To have a friend, you have to be one, and you have to pay attention, keep the lines open. Sometimes, it's not that you've burned bridges, it's that you have diverged so far when you finally look up that you can't see each other any more. 

And if the paths are too different, you or they can't–or won't–make the adjustment.

Things change, worlds move you need not wonder why ...

Part of a song lyric written by one of my best old ex-friends.

Um. All of this is to say that if you are lucky enough to have a real friend, one for whom you will move mountains and who is willing to do the same for you, treasure them. They are worth more than a boxcar full of diamonds.


Anonymous said...

"People who claim to have dozens or scores of friends aren't talking about the same thing I'm talking about when I say the word."

Possibly. However, I believe that there are people who have dozens of people in their lives for whom they'd move mountains and bury bodies under them, and who would do the same for them. I don't know if any of your readers are among them - I'm certainly not, although I aspire to that state :<).

Joe said...

Lost my best friend because of his divorce. I'd known his wife almost as long as I'd known him, and my wife was her best friend.

When they split I tried not to take sides, since these things are rarely one persons fault and my wife was still going to see her friend. He blew a gasket - I walked away.

Incidentally, she left him because of his "anger management" issues.

Steve Perry said...

Anon --

In the realm of anything-is-possible, I have to allow there might be folks out there with that many BFF relationships. I've never met any of them, nor do I know anybody who allows that they have.

I don't think by the nature of time and energy they can exist as such.

True, there are a lot of folks who are adored by many -- teachers with loyal students, celebrities, spiritual gurus, but I don't consider that the same thing as a reciprocal friendship between two adults.

A single focus of adoration and love doesn't have the time to meet the needs of a hundred people individually.

And yeah, I learned early on not to get into somebody else's relationship. Always the question in a divorce -- who gets the dog, who gets the friends ...