Sunday, February 19, 2006


Friends has always been a difficult word and a difficult concept for me. I'm not particularly social- I enjoy spending time with many people but I have no desire to seek out contact. I don't get lonely, in other words, and don't really understand the concept.

When I was young, 'friend' was a word limited to the one or two people you would die for without question. There was a larger circle that were fun and that I spent time with- I called them acquaintances because I didn't have a vocabulary for the nuances. Friends were special and we had literally saved each other's lives at least once.

As experience grew, the word became 'brother' and the criteria slipped a bit. I've bled with my brothers, or cried with them. We have spilled blood when we had to but in those events we risked our own and always counted on each other for safety and protection. We've preserved each other's sanity and sometimes marriages. The bond is deep, far deeper than when, as a child, I glibly decided that the friends were the people I would die for. I've risked death for people I don't even like since then. It's not the big deal I thought it was.

This is powerful and this bond is hard to explain to people who haven't shared in one, but it's not complete and it's not quite right. There are good people in the world who I will meet and enjoy who don't consider bleeding to be a normal part of life. We will never have an opportunity to share the moments that are my mileposts for friendship.

This is on my mind today. Last night Kami and I spent the evening with two great people. Nice dinner, wonderful talk. My social skills were a bit stunted, but I felt more comfortable than I have with a non-criminal or non-cop than I can remember. Learned a lot, listened a lot. Watched Kami take on the glow that she gets in social settings. Anyway, I was just awed for a few hours by the simple majesty of friendship and the lack of vocabulary that I have for such a common, profound thing.

PART 2 Separate Issue

There was a time, too, when I was drawn to the wounded bird- when the friends and lovers that came into my life were people who needed to be saved or fixed or healed. Over the years I learned that there are people who have been wounded or who have never learned to live, and you can help those... but there are far more who have taken their injury, their malfunction or their failure and taken it on as an identity. You can do nothing for them and I cut them out of my life. There are too many beautiful and useful things to do to waste the time on people who want attention with no intent to ever heal.

A friend of a friend (FOAF) is a mess. Always has been. The friend has put a lot of energy and love into the attempt to get the FOAF to turn his life around, to have a life, to DO SOMETHING. I never understood my friend's need to help this man when he so patently had no desire to help himself. I realize now that he sees himself in his friend. He struggled with many of the same issues that his friend is overwhelmed by.

I want to shake him. The qualitative difference that he struggled and kept struggling until he fixed them is a gap that overshadows any similarity of background or shared pain. The difference between the people who fix their problems and the people who wallow or deny is as vast as the difference between a plant and an animal. I believe it is almost as hard to get a wallower to take control as it is for a human to photosynthesize. Some will improve in one area to keep from losing the connection, but that is only exchanging a codependancy for another issue temporarily.

Maybe. Maybe I'm wrong. But I've wrestled with this a lot and not once have I ever truly turned someone around.


Anonymous said...

But you have the power to turn them around if you just don't try. Just be and that energy will transfer - a small light will come on and the brief moment when your paths cross will alter them forever. Will it be enough to heal a meth user, turn a veteran gang banger into a productive McNuggets cook? Who knows. Who freakin' cares, really. But no two pool balls, once they even lightly touch, can remain on their previous paths. Maybe the true still is in knowing when to leave well enough alone; when to hold 'em, when to fold 'em, when to turn and walk away.

Anonymous said...

The point is that it's up to them. Their life, their choices--and interfering with those choices can get in their way instead of helping them.

But still I offer all the help I can, all the ideas, the connections to resources, the other ways of thinking about the choices that person has to make.

I know this wasn't about me and my sister, but it could have been if I didn't know to leave her alone enough to grow herself (or not grow) instead of forcing her into the greenhouse that worked for me.

Kai Jones (friendship is a wonderful thing)