I've been in New York visiting family for the past week. It's been about eight years since I was last here. Tabitha and I are staying in the home of a family member who passed away in January of this year. Everything about the house reminds me of her. We've been helping my aunt, whose mother owned this house, to clean closets, box up dishes, sort through clothing... It's difficult watching my aunt deal with the onslaught of emotions as we prepare her mother's home for a renter.
Usually we stay with my aunt when we come here. Having this house to ourselves, however, has given Tabitha and me a great deal of alone time--which I needed. It also means that my brain can't stop thinking, though, which is not always a good thing. Tonight Tabitha is ill. I'm guessing she has a touch of food poisoning, based on the symptoms, but she's adamantly opposed to going to the ER, so at 2 a.m., I'm watching her for signs that we might need to get some help for her.
And I'm still thinking.
I have a friend from high school that I talk to occasionally. Mostly we chat back and forth on Facebook. He's had a lot of sadness in his life, but he's positive and optimistic when many would give up. He's taught me a lot in the past few years about being happy in difficult circumstances. Recently he posted a meme on Facebook that resonates with me: "Pay attention to the ones who care instead of trying to get the attention of those who don't."
Naturally there are flaws in a pat statement such as this. It assumes that we know how people feel about us, when really, we don't. But I think there is merit in being present for the people who clearly wish to take time for us. I'm not suggesting that I stop extending my social circle or including other people, but I'm thinking it's time to let go of those whose lives have changed to the point that my involvement is no longer a vital thing for them.
I've written many posts where I've lamented the feeling that I was a convenience or that I cared more than another person. I believe all those posts were leading to the point I now have reached. It's a process, after all. And the embarrassment of allowing any blog readers to see my vulnerability and to know of the sensitivity and tenderness I may feel toward people who do not return the feelings, is worth the reward of finally coming to an understanding with myself through the process of raw blogging.
I've been told my feelings were going through a maturity process. I don't believe that. I've been told that my insistence that people are fickle--that they become bored with friendships and leave to find more exciting ones--my belief that in the end, everyone disconnects from people who are not bound to them by marriage and/or blood--all these beliefs are fueled by my inability to think, emotionally, like an adult.
There might be validity in that statement if the things I believed never happened, but the truth is, they do. Most of the adults I speak with do not have lifelong friends who have been involved in their lives on a regular basis. The friends enter and exit frequently, taking time out to deal with their own lives when those become busy or complicated, and meeting up every few years to "catch up" or spend a bit of time together. This is adult friendship.
I'm still on the fence as to whether or not this is a positive thing. It's a natural thing--perhaps even a necessary thing. People need time and space to live their lives and friends, as far as I can tell, fill a need that seems to be capricious, at best. People become rather incensed when I suggest this. They cling to their belief that they have the "best" friends. They tell me of trips they've shared with friends, going out weekly, getting back together after a long absence and feeling that no time has passed and they're as close as ever.
But when I ask them, "Do your friends like cilantro? What television shows do they like? Do you know what they'll order when you go out for dinner? Do they have allergies? What are they afraid of? What will they be doing this weekend? When did you last say, 'I love you'? Could you knock on the door right now and be invited to stay for dinner? Would your friend give you a ride to the hospital if you were ill? Would he or she call while you were there? Would there be follow-up to make certain you were doing okay when you came home? What is your friend afraid of? Can you call anytime you want? What happens if you call more than once in a day?" All those questions seem to be met with silence and confusion--especially if the person I'm speaking with is married. And in the end, their answer is: Why would any of those things matter?
They matter. To me, they will always matter. They say that I'm connected with the person--really connected. I care if they have a sniffle or a success. And that person really connects with me. They know what pens I like to write with and if I have nightmares at night and whether I prefer to buy shoes or chocolate. They know what makes me laugh and cry. They want to hear the sound of my voice or feel me sitting next to them sometimes.
This is immaturity?
I think it's called love. Genuine Love. It means I'm involved with those I care about. They're not a convenience, they're a necessity. It also means that I understand my way of friendship is not what I will encounter through most of my life and I'm going to be okay with that. It means that I will stop clamoring for the attention of those who have moved beyond me, those for whom I am a whim or a passing thought, and remain involved with those whose lives include space for me. It also means that I will return to being fairly solitary--but this time it will be by choice.
I choose to be sociable with those who call me "friend", who care about me a few times a year, and who might not contact me often. I choose to stop feeling slighted as they move away from me and into the lives of those they have bound to them by blood or marriage. I choose to view the process as natural and good. I choose to step back and allow it to happen.
Go ahead. Call my choices immature. Call my feelings immature. But those who remain, those who reconnect again and again, who visit, and talk with me on the phone or in person, who chat with me frequently and wish to spend time with me will understand that sometimes the people who care the most are not spouse or family, and they care not because of attraction or blood relation or law, but simply because they choose to.