When December 1st hit, our mailbox was inundated with holiday cards. I won’t ever complain about that because I love, love, love getting mail!
I, in turn, am very meticulous in sending out our holiday cards. We send out cards to a moderate list that we’ve honed over our time together. If we tried to send out cards to all our family (particularly my Chicago Polish family – see humongous in the dictionary and there is a photo of us, split into multiples of course because we can’t all fit in one picture) or to everyone that sends us cards, we’d end up taking out a small mortgage, thus the list. We’re not trying to be exclusive in any way, we’re just being realistic.
One thing I am always acutely aware of is how our cards are addressed. I take time to double-check names and how people like to be addressed. I always hope for the same respect but as I learned this year, other people just don’t see things the way I do.
After retrieving the mail one day, I noticed a card addressed solely to me. That happens from time to time, people who haven’t yet met my life hostage (see family note above), people who don’t realize we live together or may not know his name (we do get many with just first names), and then there is the group that knows better. This particular card fell into that group. And I got angry, abnormally pissed, peppered with a special blend of sheer disappointment.
Honestly, I don’t think I even told my life hostage about this because he would tell me it isn’t worth my time. And he’s probably right. He’d tell me something along the lines of I’m letting this take up space in my mind without charging it rent. Okay, I get it. And I did let it go without incident. But obviously, it’s still plagued me.
Why? Because this person is a friend and friends are supposed to know better. Friends have your back. But lately, I’ve been taking a closer look and evaluating, what really makes a friendship?
The New York Times recently re-ran an article from 2012 about friendships. They felt that the topic is timeless and I tend to agree. One of the prominent facts in the article that struck me was the idea of the three conditions of making close friends; proximity, repeated unplanned interactions, and a setting encouraging people to let their guard down and confide in each other. Apparently, these ideas have swirled around sociologist circles since the 1950s but it was the first time I had heard them in this manner.
The card bandit and I used to meet all these criteria but as life moved on, so did some of these factors. The external conditions changed, as the article states. Schedules compress, priorities change, coupling up and children happen. The bar is much higher for having a martini than it used to be for visiting the shot fairy until 2:00 a.m.
Does this mean we’ll never go back to the way we were? I’m afraid so. But I’m not entirely sure that’s a bad thing.
I go through many ebbs and flows with my writing. I think most writers will echo that sentiment. Sometimes I have so many prompts and ideas that I can’t type fast enough. Other times I think about writing an ode to navel lint. Don’t be puzzled, like you don’t know what I’m referring to. Everyone gets navel lint.
I know my relationship with my life hostage is the same way, a variable river of ebbs and flows. Maybe friendships go through that too. Some friends are meant to ride out all the curves, rapids, and boulders along the way. I have a small group of truly exceptional friends who fall into that category. Some come into your life during a second act, but just because they haven’t been there the whole time doesn’t make them any less valuable to you. And then there’s the group like the card bandit. They’ll stay with you through the calm waters but avoid any choppy seas. You’ll still meet from time to time, chat about life, but it will be all on the surface, no depth of field.
Does that make me sad? Yes. I always hope investments in friendship will pay you triple dividends in life. But they don’t always. I guess there is a time and place for every friendship. Even those that know better.