Monday, August 24, 2009

You and your "Superfriends"

I have been thinking lately about friendship. How do we make friends or strengthen the relationships we already have? This was prompted by two seemingly unrelated discussions.

One discussion was about the effect of technology on relationships. A sister at church talked about how easy it was to text someone or email and "skip the niceties". She suggested that we make the extra effort to actually speak to each other from time to time.

The other discussion came a few weeks later, also at church, as we discussed Provident Living. (Provident Living is term that encompasses a number of topics such as emergency preparedness and living within your means.) One sister talked about how much she loved to shop, especially if she was having a bad day. She said that she was trying to curb that need to spend and would go to the store without her wallet so she wouldn't spend. As I thought about this I remembered the comments from a few weeks ago. I realized that shopping was just another way of replacing real relationships with pretend ones.

Let me explain further. My husband used to tell me that I needed to "get out" more. I argued that I got out a few times a week, going to the grocery store, running errands, going to various appointments, etc. He said that didn't count. He was right, of course. I was interacting with cashiers and secretaries but I rarely had a meaningful visit with someone. It wasn't that I didn't have friends, I just didn't hang out with them.

I have a friend who is an amazing example of the very skill I don't have. I will call her M. When we first met, M was a stay-at-home-mom-to-be of her first child. She would call me up and say "I was wondering if I could come over for a while." Of course I said yes. I wasn't doing anything special. Other times she would call and ask "Would you like to come over for lunch tomorrow? I want to try out a new recipe." She might invite two or three other friends and we would spend the afternoon talking while our children played.

She seemed gifted in her ability to come up with things to do that were fun, simple, and (most importantly) cost free. She had found a new park she wanted to try. There was a free cooking demonstration on post. The library was starting a new program. Once she called to say that a mutual friend had discovered ripe Blackberries along the edge of her property. Would I like to go berry picking?

M seemed to awaken in us a happiness and curiosity that had, for some reason, become dormant. It wasn't what we did that mattered. It was doing it together. I wish I could say that when she moved away we all continued to follow her example. We didn't. Not that we didn't have moments of social connections. But it wasn't the same.

Although I have not yet been able to emulate this wonderful social skill, I know that it is a valuable one. I have said on more than one occasion "I am just not like that." While this may be true, it is no excuse. In fact, when I told my husband that it was hard for me he said "Well, maybe it's hard for her, too." Was it possible?

A few years ago, I decided I needed to broaden my literary expereince. I started listening to classic novels on CD while performing my daily activities. One of my choices was Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin. I had seen the BBC movie version several times. (Okay, so I practically have it memorized. I know you do, too. Don't deny it!)

One part of the book struck me in a way that the movie did not. When Mr. Darcy makes excuses for his behavior and Elizabeth chastises him, he takes it to heart. He makes an effort to change his ways and succeeds.

For some reason this left me feeling ashamed of myself. I realized that I often make those same excuses and expect others to just accept me the way I am. I know that I could change. I could learn to be more friendly and sociable. But it is scary. Why? What is the worst that can happen? I might have to be around other women who are fun and smart and help me be a better person. Oh, the horror!

I would like to say that I have learned my lessons and changed my ways but I haven't. Not completely anyway. That doesn't mean that I can't start now. The ability to change is one of my greatest superpowers!


Diann R. said...

We are all too similar. No wonder we became such good friends in college. Oh, and I think I need the address to your other blog. I lost it. Sorry!

Jenni said...

You're awesome! Wanna come over for lunch?

Unknown said...

I would love to come over for lunch, Jenni. Let me just fuel up my private jet and I will be there in a few hours!