A friend of a friend came to one of my art openings at EDGE Gallery last winter. Paul brought a bunch of his friends to the exhibit of twenty funeral urns. One of them wrote this week and asked to have dinner. We enjoyed each other’s company, found out we have the same birthday and many of the same interests and questions about life. At a lull in the conversation between the artichoke hearts wrapped in crispy bacon course and the pad thai course, we both broke the silence by asking the other if we would like to be friends.
Making friends at 50 is not as easy as it was when I was 20. My jaw is not streamline, my belly pronounced and my hair receding. I go to bed three hours earlier and wake three hours earlier. My heart however, has seen the world and suffered enough at the hands of enough evil people in the church and outside it (mostly inside, sad to say) to have had it broken many times – making it all soft, kind and wise. I am too old and tired to suffer fools lightly… or quietly… so, I don’t. But in this war-torn psyche, I am at least gentle, and I make a very fine friend to the worthy ones. So we both agreed that a new friendship would be wonderful, that we would each do the work necessary, and that we would set about to collaborate on the making of a new friendship. We shook on it and then looked at our shoes not knowing whet to do next so we burst out laughing.
It will take some hard work. We will enjoy the easy early part, and then have to navigate real knowledge. We will need to make time in calendars, imagine creative kindnesses, forgive slights and miscommunication, work to sense problems and even give ourselves away, – even after a long day.
Friendship is so easy to ignore in our culture. Insurance means we do not need the help of neighbors. Email and texts mean we can pretend we are not alone. Television counterfeits our being involved in other people’s lives when, in fact, they are actors and it is a story. Facebook pretends we are up to date with friends when in fact all we are is aware of what they have curated for us to see.
So, I am going to bank time and energy in the savings bank we call emotional energy and spend it on a new friend. And it will be a very fine friendship – carefully chosen and gratefully received. And in the end, I will spend time making what may be the most important thing we make on this planet – friendship. Making new things is hard work. But good work. Worth the effort.