“Friends, friends, friends, we will always be …” is one of the first songs taught when girls join a Girl Scout troop.
A friend can be a buddy, companion, acquaintance, confidante or a little bit of each. Ask ten people to give a definition of a friend and you’ll get a variety of responses. In our world today a friend is someone who can post on your Facebook page. They may not even be people you know but a friend of a friend who has entered your world without permission.
Our parents usually introduce us to our first friends. They place us in situations where we’re with their friends’ children. Without words, we manage to gravitate towards the one or two that we share some unspoken “something” with. Then comes preschool, camp, school, scouts, sports, art class, music and any combination of activities that provide a pool of possible friends. What’s amazing is as adults, we still keep in touch with some of those friends we made years ago.
Our friendship pool broadens year by year; we go off to college, start working in our chosen field and repeat the cycle with our children. Friends are important. They keep us from being isolated. They keep us grounded in the present. There are industries built on this premise; ask the card manufacturers.
Using a general definition, I have a lot of friends. Personally, I am Facebook-averse. My contact list in several email addresses however is long. Numbers in my phone are more reflective of those I talk to regularly. If I were to use my own definition of a friend, the lists would dwindle down to match the number of fingers on one hand.
My people, how I refer to my friends, fall somewhere within a series of four concentric circles. The smallest circle is closest to me, what I call my family of friends. The next circle is wider with people I share some things with and am in regular contact. The circle that follows is filled with acquaintances and people I talk with to chat about nothing important. The last circle is made up of those who were close at one time and disappeared for one reason or another.
If a friendship becomes lopsided, which happens in some relationships over time, or I find myself working harder than they do to keep in touch, it’s time to let go. It’s not so easy to move someone to the “outer circle” but it’s certainly healthier.
My friends have always been important to me. And it’s most painful to lose one whether it’s through death, mental illness issues or when shared interests change.
There’s a poem that speaks to people who come into and out of our life for a reason, a season or a lifetime. Words can be comforting, but it takes time and acceptance of feelings. We have to grieve the loss of a friendship as we do partners, spouses, children and yes, even our pets.