March 7, 2008

The Purpose of Friendship

Last night I had a dream that I died. No, I didn't wake up in heaven or hell, but when I shook myself awake and looked at the bedside clock, it was 4:55 a.m. - and you who know me or have read my book, know the momentum the number 55 carries with me.

At first the dream was information that my sister had died and I was surprised that no one had told me. When the "knowing" of her death came over me, I wondered who was feeding her cats and why her husband looked so unkempt. Suddenly, I missed my sister very much and wanted to catch the first plane to go there. I was sure she would be there laughing to welcome me and show off her 'babies". Eventually, something told me that it wasn't her who was gone - but ME!

I'm satisfied that the dream was a flashback to this story that follows because I stayed up real late to write it and doing so created some strange thoughts!

Just so you know that I believe when I die, I'll be transported to pure love (or deep sleep) and a peaceful journey. It will be those I leave behind that much suffer the emptiness in my wake. For that reason, I hope I'm the last one out!

Anyway, here's my posting that created the haunting dream....

FRIENDSHIP - accord, acquaintanceship, affection, affinity, agreement, alliance, amiability, amicability, amity, association, attachment, attraction, benevolence, brotherhood, brotherly love, closeness, coalition, comity, company, concord, consideration, consonance, devotion, empathy, esteem, familiarity, favor, favoritism, fellow feeling, fondness, friendliness, fusion, good will, harmony, intimacy, league, love, pact, partiality, rapport, regard, sociability, society, sodality, solidarity, understanding
Roget's New Millennium™ Thesaurus, First Edition (v 1.3.1)Copyright © 2008 by Lexico Publishing Group, LLC. All rights reserved.

What if every friend we have in life was only suppose to be there for a specific purpose; for a specific amount of time, and then, according to the big book written in the sky, had to be written out?

What if the only reason we continue to keep friendships longer than intended is because we selfishly don't want to let them go? What if those people who we hold dear were only meant to show up for a reason, and then had a destiny to move on? Like the kind stranger who stopped to help fix the flat tire, or the courteous driver who let us cut in on the highway, or the nice person who loaned us the extra quarter we needed at McDonalds.

My purpose of this message is to propose that life would be accomplished much faster if we could let go of every friend when their purpose was fulfilled. We could move on to a higher level of meaning - and they could too!

Presently, our minds were developed to store every tidbit for recall anytime and sometimes at the most unexpected times! I wonder if in doing so, we are held back from moving on to our true destiny. We hold other people (our friends) responsible for our hurt feelings, lack of motivation or even depression.

"But, But", you hurl at me, "But, there would be no meaning to my life if I didn't have my friends!"

Okay, I'm not including close personal friends who continue to walk with us on life's journey every day. But, all those people who have 'touched' our lives in the past, either in a profound way or just simply in passing. These special people now reside in our memory banks, but no longer provide useful daily experiences. You know them. We gush when we encounter them along the way. They are worth the 41-cent postage stamp at Christmas time or a phone call once in a while. What if those people were 'erased' after no contact in, say, three years? Or if in any way, the Universe determines that these people are holding us in a restraint from maturing as we were designed?

I envision a life where we would continue to experience more NEW friendships than we ever imagined, but they would always be greater and grandeur as we experience different levels of relationships - always building on a more wonderful, thrilling harmonious growth in the universe!

I'm sure a few of you reading this feel slightly hurt right about now that I'd even consider not having you as a friend. Actually, I'm just like everyone else. I don't want to let go of those who mean so much to me in so many ways.

But, because I've been thinking about this subject for a few days, I've let myself think outside the box and imagine a different picture for my life.

Right now we are having the Blizzard of '08 here in Central Ohio. As I was driving home from work yesterday on extremely slippery roads with my heart beating very fast and both hands on the steel-but-unsteady steering wheel, I was listening to the local radio station taking call-ins from drivers like me trying to get home on a busy Friday evening during official "blizzard conditions".

So many callers commented about how courteous other drivers were during the stressful drive on the freeway and busy city streets. "I saw two cars bump into each other and slide off the freeway," one caller said. "They got out, shook hands and got back in their cars and drove off. I was simply amazed," he told the DJ.

To me, this is also a form of friendship. I'm sure these two will never meet again, but the magical moment affected many people (because of the phone call to the radio station). These memories should go into the "keep' box.

On the larger picture, I think of a good friend I had when I lived in Michigan. (I had many dear friends there! I refuse to let them go!) This particular 'friend" came into my life when I became the township clerk. The experience of being a public figure and elected official was absolutely new and uncharted territory for me. This women became my mentor and also a wonderful support person, listening post, unconditional friend, advisor and loyal friend when things got very difficult in my personal life.

Then, she retired and moved to another state. I got re-married and also relocated. But I missed her steady influence in my life. I thought we would be 'close' forever, but one day I realized that I hadn't head from her in a long time. Nor, had I contacted her. One year I didn't get a Christmas card from her, and although I didn't mention it to anyone, I felt saddened that our friendship might be at an end. But I said to myself, "When I needed this friend, she appeared. I didn't ask for it. I didn't know I needed this friend, but looking back, I did! And I'm thankful she was in that time and place for me.

Another "friend" in my life only contacts me when he is discouraged. He doesn't even let me talk very much, but I'm someone who will listen which always helps him feel better. He has strong religious beliefs, and sometimes his well-meaning comments cause me to me feel guilty about my spiritual life, my health habits and how I take care of my self! Why do I continue to encourage this friendship? Did the purpose for our paths crossing end decades ago? Who decides? Why?

In my work as a nurse over the last 40 years, I have made literally hundreds of 'friends' in co-workers, doctors, nurses, patients and their families. Why do I not have but two or three of them in my address book? So many have made an impact on my life and perhaps changed it in some way. Most have been lost in time and are but a fleeting memory that I can't quite grab and hold on to! Sometimes they show up in a dream and leave footprints that slowly fade away again. Is this really the way it's suppose to be? Or, is there something wrong with my lasting friendship ability? Could it be there's something true about people who are suppose to serve a purpose and move on? Is that why I let them go?

I think of a special couple in Michigan who have been a strong positive influence in my life just because they love me so unconditionally while always staying true to their high standards of religion and life. Never "preaching" although they could. Never "scolding" although they could. Always welcoming me with open arms when I go there to visit. I ask myself what is their purpose in my life now? They reflect what true friendship means to me. If they or I never touched again, I would feel blessed for having had them in my life. But, on the other hand, I appreciate knowing they would be there for me anytime! Thy are "keepers".

My mother called me while I was writing this. She wanted to let me know she's having cataract surgery on Monday. As I typed these words, I noticed that I took a deep, deep sigh. As most of you know, my mother and I were separated from the time I was three-years old until I was 42 years old! Our family was reunited after a long search on my part. Many have asked me about the relationship between me and my mother. Are we 'close'? Are we "friends"? My little sister supplies the best answer when she says, "It's really hard to buy a store-bought Mother's Day card."

Perhaps there's a reason why the Bible says, "Honor thy father and mother". (For those who believe in the Bible, sometimes this verse is mysterious.) But, then someone comes along and determines that the word "honor" isn't what we think it is today. And in this day and age, who IS our mother and father? For me, it is important that I 'honor' my mother, although I don't insist that anyone else has to. Maybe the word "honor" replaces the word 'friendship" here?

Before I finish, I want to mention a very short-lived friendship I think I made here in our town while I had the photography studio in New Albany. I did a photo session for a cute, rambunctious little white poodle and her owner. Our 'encounter' was very brief. But, I want to say here that this women made a lasting impression on me. Mostly, I guess because she was kind when I needed some kindness. Anyway, for reasons too long to mention here, I probably won't ever see much of her again. That moment moved on. But, I think she comes to read this website often, and that means she still much cares about my life - and I don't want to let her go. Her 'unseen' friendship means a lot to me.

Last week I got a card from a woman who used to be my boss, but one of the best (in my opinion). Until I got the card, I thought of her as a former boss who gave me a career opportunity of a lifetime. A wonderful person in life, but I always thought she was too busy and further along in her life experiences to hold much thoughts of someone like me - although we have shared some good moments along the way because we had a lot in common.

She wrote that my friendship has made a difference in her life. (I almost fainted.) Not only that, but this blog and my book mean so much to her! I thought it was the other way around! Who can predict what the touching of two lives can do for yourself - and others! Even though we have moved on to much different lifestyles than we had back when we worked together, this friendship is sacred.

I was taken back when I read something on a very long-time friend's website. It sounded like he was doubting how anyone could be his friend. I can't think of anyone who doesn't "like" this person! He would never refuse to help someone in need and carries respect for life and those around him. I responded to his posting by saying that people who thought of him the way I did would be his friend. I believe that was to say - accepting unconditionally whatever you are because I love you.

Perhaps its like a good marriage must be. We love the person in spite of the muddy boots, insideout socks, tired mornings and purring at night. And, we say good-bye when it's time because we know that our universe will reunite us again when it's the perfect time and place.

Take Care on the Journey - I love you


Clay Feet said...

Unbelievably well expressed, Linda. You have a way of translating heart language into English language that is a real gift.

While I agree with all that you have expressed here and find it very compelling, I venture to add just a small bit for what its worth. Being stimulated by such thoughtful insights I pondered along with you the tension produced by the relationships you described.

Interestingly something like this just happened to me a few days ago that has continued to cause me to think and ponder and query as to why it even stays in my attention so much when it should be a passing event that I should immediately forget. I was in a Walmart in Virginia and had just picked up my favorite kind of hand lotion for my very rough hands. I overheard a man nearby ask another stranger where the hand lotions were located and then on an impulse I decided to move over to the main isle and intercept him as he went by to recommend my favorite kind so he wouldn't spend maybe years trying all sorts of disappointing kinds. I asked him if we was looking for hand lotion and pointed him toward the spot where he could find the Neutragena and I almost opened the one I already had and let him try it. He told me he couldn't even feel his fingers anymore and was glad for my advice.
What bothered me for days afterward was my clinging feeling that I wanted to know what happened after our ways parted. I felt so selfish realizing that I was grasping for recognition and appreciation for doing something that I should have left as an impulse of kindness. When I read this post it fit perfectly my musings about this event I have been processing quietly for several days.
What I would like to add is that maybe it is not really that we need to let go of friends - ever - but that we must learn to let go of our desire for control over the relationship. I am coming to be intensely aware the past few days of the fundamental nature of the false belief that we have to be in control. That desire lies at the root of most of the terrible conditions that we see all over the world. It happens in the smallest of ways as well as in great wars. Our desire to control others instead of holding relationships in an open hand of freedom is the cause for much of our pain and disappointment. That's what I perceive from my point of view.

Linda Meikle said...

Some excellent points. The "control" experience affects so much. We see what control issues do to others all the time, but have such difficulity observing and learning how it creates an effect in our own.

Th subject is endless. From how people in power use control to gain for themselves (New York) to how we (you and I) use words to feel in control. :)