Diapers and Dragons

Friday, January 15, 2010

On Friendship, New and Old

Living a life of international transience as I did for so many years plays its toll on one's friend-making and -keeping. I am what is called a "Third Culture Kid," or TCK, and we have our own special little set of issues and challenges, just like every other fun little group. Different TCKs react differently to the kinds of experiences we've had.

My sister, for example, rather enjoys moving about from city to city, from state to state, and seems to get itchy feet when she's been in one place for more than a couple of years. She views moving as an exciting challenge, an opportunity to meet new people and explore new places. She can also walk into a room full of strangers and walk out with a half-dozen lifelong friends.

I, on the other hand, hate the idea of moving much at all. It's hard enough to think about moving as much as an hour away from people with whom I am close, much less to a whole different state. My roots are set pretty deeply in my area, even if it's not in a particular house. I do love to travel--but I need that stable home base to which I can return. I also struggled for much of my life to both make and keep friends.

I've mentioned before that I have a hard time connecting completely with anyone in my life, whether friends or family or significant other. Trust me, it's something that's been coming up a lot in conversations with my therapist and some loved ones. One result of this issue for me is that when I feel like a relationship is slipping away or becoming difficult, or if someone is phsyically leaving/moving, I start disconnecting emotionally, sort of a pre-emptive way of dealing with the pain. I know, not all that healthy of a move.

But when one says goodbye to person after person and friend after friend and family member after family member for years on end, one develops certain coping mechanisms, and that one was mine. Is mine.

There have been some friendships that have ended over the years because of the mechanism: some with a whimper or a fading sigh, and some with a bit of a bang. I also began to withdraw more than I should have from taking risks and making friends over the last ten years, for reasons a little too complicated and sensitive to go into here. At any rate, there are too many people with whom I used to be close (or as close as I would let them be) than with whom I was close in the last decade or so.

Last year when everything fell apart and I finally started the painful process of stripping away many of the Things and Issues that were clogging my psychological pores, I started opening up to people, slowly and bit by bit, but surely. People I already counted as friends become closer and more intimate friends. I made new ones. And now I'm starting to reconnect with former friends, and in some cases, right some wrongs and heal some hurts.

Blogging opened me up to making new friends I never would have made before--I count many of you, dear readers, in that number. Some of you have become particularly close, whether or not I've physically met you (yet). In particular, Arby, Mom Zombie, and my beloved Draft Queen have become people I consider close or even intimate friends, the sort of friends with whom I can talk about difficult things and confide in and listen to and have kick my ass from time to time when necessary. There have been times when each of those three people have made a difference in a moment, an hour, a day, and I am so grateful. Other readers (and you know who you are) have also made a difference, have become people whom I can trust and to whom I can reach out. I hope you feel the same way.

I already was on Facebook (under my real name, and no I'm not linking it here) before everything fell apart, and I had well over 200 people friended there (this is also a side effect of international transience and that whole boarding school thing), but I rarely communicated much of anything there or connected to anyone. I did reconnect in a general sort of way to Kathleen, who had been a childhood friend, and we also connected through our blogs, but I kept our relationship fairly casual. I was still holding people at bay.

That started changing when I started opening up last year. I now have a closer relationship to Kathleen than I would allow before. And over on Facebook I started connecting with people from my past in a more real way. Some I had known very superficially in the past, mostly through going to the same school. It's rather bizarre to find myself in a lengthy and honest online chat with people I wasn't sure even knew I existed back then. Others had been friends, though casual. Recently, however, I have started reaching out (rather than waiting for others to reach out to me) and consciously reconnecting with certain people.

There are several friendships that had faded with distance and time that I have rekindled. I am meeting one of those friends on Monday for coffee to catch up after almost eight years of rare communication. I am very excited to see her. Even more significantly, however, I have now reconnected with two women who used to be, at different points in my college years, the women with whom I considered myself best friends. Both of those relationships ended under painful circumstances. I had refused to acknowledge how painful those wounds still were until they started to heal, at long last, by connecting with those women.

Tonight one of them is coming to see me, to have spaghetti and garlic bread with me and my children and then just sit and talk once the boys are in bed. My friendship with her was one I had actually mourned, even though I wouldn't admit how much I was still bothered, some twelve years later, by how it had ended and by her absence in my life. Two weeks ago we talked on the phone for two hours, catching up and laughing and commiserating and, yes, apologizing at long last for our parts in how things played out lo! those many years ago.

I know many people think that all the online social networking and blogs and whatnot are silly or stupid or dangerous or whatever. To an extent, they're right. One really has to be cautious, because there are far too many dangers of all sorts lurking on the Web. However, my life would be considerably poorer and emptier without the people I have met or re-met through the Internet.

So regardless of the drama or blogger's block or necessary caution regarding privacy and all that sort of fun stuff, I'll keep blogging and social networking and flinging my thoughts and words out there across the ether. It's all worth it in the end.

6 bits of love:

Arby said...

Enjoy reconnecting with an old friend. Have a good weekend.

Anonymous said...

I hope you have fun and a deep night/weekend!
- SoccerSister

mom said...

Well said, all that explanation of how different the effects of multiple transitions etc. have been on you and others like your sister. It IS strange. I'm a mixture of you two: deeply rooted, love staying in place (in spite of, maybe because of, all the necessary moves), deeply connected to people, always mourning the fact that maintaining connection doesn't mean as much to most of them as it does to me. So I guess that's my coping mechanism. Staying connected, as much as possible. I'm so glad that you are finding your way to renewed, repaired, deeper connections. I think its an excellent healthy step. Hope you have a great time tonight!

momZombie said...

Thank you for mentioning our friendship and for the friendship itself. One thing I wonder: Since we both have this issue in common with making and keeping friends, will that help or hinder our own relationship?

Pam Elmore said...

Wow, do I identify with you on this. I hope your reunion went well!

Blogger said...

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