What is True Friendship?

I grew up as a homeschool kid in New Jersey, under the wings of two very conservative Evangelical Christians. For 18 years, I had a singular primary social context for how the world worked, and how I interacted with others. The idea of a “friend” or “best friend” was not often discussed, because we were all “brothers” and “sisters” based on our relationship with God and Jesus. We were all part of a flock that supposedly believed in a few basic tenets about relational love for others. These “rules” about how to treat a sister or brother-in-Christ were often broken, in my own household growing up, and at church.

This left me confused about relationships in general. I found it hard to relate to people in college, as I strove to mimic my parents’ behaviors out of habit, and ignorance. I began to deceive my friends as my parents deceived people; I downplayed my emotions until they either became a drama volcano or a breakup. Sometimes it was both. Everyone around me in college had to deal with this, and as a result many of them don’t speak to me. I would be sad to hear what they had to say about my behavior almost 10 years ago now, but I would accept it. I was not a good friend. I did not know how to be a friend.

This decade-old quest to understand how to interact with others and how to relate to them, plagues me. It dogs the steps of every friendship I have. So lately there’s this big question on my mind.

What is a True Friendship?

From Gilgamesh the King, by Ludmila Zeman

First, I have many mythical or literary comparisons to answer this question. There are countless examples of True Friendship* in fiction. The story of Gilgamesh and Enkidu is a great example of true friends. Enkidu dies for his best friend and adventure companion, so that Gilgamesh can seek eternal life. Another favorite example of True Friendship are the March sisters in Little Women. Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy are some of the sweetest and most honest young women I’ve ever had the pleasure to read about. They sacrifice themselves for one another daily out of real, gritty love, in a time of darkness and death.

Of course, I could go on for quite some time about great literary and mythological True Friendships. Eustace and Jill, from The Silver Chair. Sam and Frodo, or Legolas and Gimli, or Gandalf and everyone, from The Lord of the Rings. Hermione, Ron, Neville, Luna, Sirius, Remus, Tonks, the Weasley family, and countless others from the Harry Potter series. These are people who fight and die for each other. They are honest with one another, and when they are not honest they regret it. There are no hidden agendas, no unspoken feelings. These people, fictional though they may be, have given me something to aspire to. They have shown me what True Friendship really is.

Friends

Nora and I hanging out in Maine

Some of my friends have shown me what a True Friendship is. A few people have lasted decades with me, despite all of the struggle, change, grief, and joy we have both gone through. I have best friends, newly made in the last seven years, somehow glad to put up with me and I with them. A True Friendship gives me a place to stand that makes me feel true to myself. These folks make me a better person, and I hope I improve their lives, too. The freedom to be ourselves tugs at our souls, and emerges within that open bond between two people.

This also highlights the consideration of relational connections that are not True Friendships. These humans are still friendly, and I will still support them. Perhaps we are even acquaintances. I enjoy their company, and enjoy hearing their stories or following their interesting lives. When I have the emotional capacity, I try to be sincere, and kind. I try to be honest. Sometimes, they need that kind of love from me, the same way I need it from others. Other times, my friendly advances are met with a closed door. That is OK. Everyone cannot be True Friends with everyone else. That is something special.

I wonder, what is an individual’s responsibility in a friendship? I think I have more responsibility towards a True Friendship than a basic, relational connection with someone. What do you think about friendship, and friends? What has your experience been with your fellow humans?


Glossary

True Friendship – A term used to describe an intimate mutual, relational respect and candor between two creatures.

Ridiculous, curious, most likely delirious.

I love a great story, whether it comes in the form of words or visual stimuli. I believe everyone has a story to tell, and I love to share mine.

Please feel free to read along, comment, share your own stories, or send me a message via the contact page. Thanks for your time reading my words.

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House Hunting

By Corissa Haury

Yesterday morning my husband and I got out of bed at 7:15am. We were going to hunt for a house, a difficult task for any person. When it is cold, it is hard to rise from your warm cocoon of blankets. Those who live in the North have a formidable drive before them the day after a heavy snow. The roads are not all plowed. Yet as true Mainers have taught us, we kept going. You haul your ass out of bed early and you take what you need to take.

This was the fourth time we looked at houses. Four more houses today, we said to each other as we got ready to dig the car out of the snow. My husband was skeptical about this search. We had already seen other houses, and my heart was tied to one. That one house you’re not supposed to want. The house you’re not supposed to put all your emotional needs into. But it is a magnificent house, with practical answers to some of our current needs. Best of all it has the feel of an old house. There is an old kindness in the walls, some invitation to return in the framework. We weren’t sure if that was the house we should try to get, though. So we got in the car, turned up the heat, and cranked the Beastie Boys while we watched the snowy landscape whip by.

We drove along the highway up through the foothills wedged below the Central Maine mountains and above the White Mountains. We arrived 45 minutes early in the suburban town where the first house resided. Our rumbling bellies told us this would be a good time to find a diner and have some affordable, homemade breakfast. Our every wish was granted at $9 a plate. We ate our blueberry pancakes under Maine maple syrup and sipped our coffee under Elvis Presley’s blessed boulevard. His face was everywhere, the phrase The King of Rock & Roll emblazoned upon the walls of this beckoning shrine.

Breakfast

We finished breakfast and paid for the check and used the quaint bathrooms before we were on our way again. We went to the wrong address first, but found our way soon after we realized we should add another 100 to the number. We arrived to meet our agent a few minutes late. It was not long before we were examining the innards of a new house, a cute house with warm radiators and updated paint. It was nice, but small. There were possibilities here, we agreed, but fewer of them.

The second house we looked at was kept by an old man who lives in Florida. The whole place felt like an old man’s residence. There were pictures of Jean-Paul the Pope, along the walls. His blessing overshadowed a dark kitchen. The microwave had been ripped from the wall. The carpets felt old and thin. The backyard was expansive and flat, beautiful in the snow. It sloped down through the neighbor’s yard to a slow river, where we could see ice floating south in the sluggish current. The snow covered banks on either side looked picturesque. It was pretty, but impractical. We moved on.
Driving

The next place was 40 minutes southwest of our location, so we turned on the heat and headed down a series of Maine highways. One of them is a logging truck highway. We saw many trucks rocket by on the slick roads, their heavy cargo pushing them forward. During our ride the quiet snow fell and our voices were muted in the small space while we contemplated different ideas for each house. Every house has potential, but we understand each other by now. Sometimes we can tell when we walk into a house that the other person will say, “No, thank you.”

The third house was interesting. It had been a halfway house, owned by the state. It had the feel of a parsonage, with various rooms shaped like offices and a welcoming kitchen with a large hearth. The fireplace had been bricked off. The exposed wooden beams gave the ceiling a cabin-like feel. There were multiple doors into the home. It had two bathrooms, each with its own tub, and a washer and dryer. Leftover board games, furniture, and lockboxes were littered about. There was a foosball table in the dining room. The basement was dry, showing no sign of precipitation inside despite the recent intense weather. The house emanated a spirit of friendliness and hope.

It was a good house, but as my husband stopped our agent and I on the porch to talk to us, I knew what he would say. He still wanted the house I wanted more than anything we had seen so far. The house that makes the most sense, even if it isn’t 100% the kind of house we wanted at the outset. He began sharing with our agent what his thought process had been. We did not make it to the fourth house, but we did not need to. While I listened, I realized that this day was for reassuring ourselves that we knew what we wanted. There is work to do, there are chances to be taken. Nothing is certain in the house purchase process.

When you are house shopping, you are life shopping.

We did not go into the home buying process believing that we would do a lot of frustrating planning, and paperwork. We did not realize what it meant to  think practically, about what we will do in the next 10 years, and what our real long term goals are. We did not see, somehow, that it would mean a lot of compromise on both our parts. We did not know one another as well then as we do now, simply through house shopping. When you are house shopping, you are life shopping. You are setting yourself up for something different than a mere apartment or rental. You must grow, you must grapple with what you truly want for yourself.

We made some more plans for moving forward to have the place inspected and putting an offer in a few weeks down the road. Then we scrambled for the cars, which were still warm inside with residual heat.

Ridiculous, curious, most likely delirious.

I love a great story, whether it comes in the form of words or visual stimuli. I believe everyone has a story to tell, and I love to share mine.

Please feel free to read along, comment, share your own stories, or send me a message via the contact page. Thanks for your time reading my words.

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It’s Easier to Hate Everyone

clouds

Lately, I have thought a lot about people and community. Last week I finished a nine week course on local history docent training. The thing that struck me the most throughout our lessons and tours was this theme: the history we share, the connection we make between archaeological artifacts and our diverse tour audiences, is not education but provocation. This comes from a variety of voices and sources, and anyone who knows about working at a historic site will recognize this. For me, a person who has grown up in a traditional Christian household, who was taught that there is only one history, there is one timeline with many voices to back it up, history is black and white… That is how I have always thought of history. I have always thought of historians as truth tellers, as educators about their time. History was this way and not that way.

Our speaker in class said we are not educators. We are not truth tellers. This makes so much sense to me, as I have come to embrace the diversity of many different angles of truth and individual stories in the world. Our audiences are there to be entertained, not necessarily educated, and history is the most impactful when it is relevant to the audience. To spark curiosity about connection the past, we help the audience feel the enchantment of that link to the past as history docents and tour guides. We share what multiple interpretations there may be, and how we may guess at the course of history up to this point. Humanity has heard from a chorus of voices over the thousands of years of recorded human history, all from different angles. They each have their own voice and their own perspective as we all do today. If there is any truth, it is that “the” truth is made up of so many facets we can never possibly know its whole. We are simple beings, for all our complexities in comparison to other beings around us. In reality we are not intelligent or intuitive enough to be omnipotent.

Each person must rely on the voices of others to interpret history, so we may find and connect its relevancy to ourselves and to our audience. We must never assume the world is full of idiots, although I feel sure my experience driving on the highway, shopping at the grocery store, or even living in an urban neighborhood and hearing the loud arguments of neighbors proves otherwise. That is part of the lesson I am learning, though, that people are flawed and that does not necessarily negate their intelligence or the impact of their story on the world. This is not an easy lesson to learn. It is so much easier to be angry and indignant when someone seems less intelligent than you in the moment, or when someone disagrees with your opinion.

For example, when I read on Twitter this morning that there is a trending hashtag, #WomenAreObjects, that enraged me. Why? I thought. Why would thousands of people be stupid enough to think that anyone who was born with the XX chromosome is just an object? Yet, there is something behind each and every one of those people’s life experience that has taught them that. Perhaps it was their awful parents. Maybe it was the culture they grew up in. I have no idea. It might be no one has had a real conversation with them about how women inherently have civil rights, too. The point is, I should cut those people some slack. One of the biggest issues in our society is hatred and loathing of others. We have created a culture where it is acceptable to shun, shame, mock, and hurt others for our own selfish purposes. (Maybe that has always been around in human behavior) In the 21st Century, we have all the information in the world available to anyone who wants it and can access it. Shouldn’t we be wise enough to turn that knowledge into kindness towards one another? The hard part about kindness is that it takes selflessness.

People matter. More than I want them to, but that is what I have learned. Being kind matters. Being polite matters. I hate this principle, but in the end I know that the best way I can get along with people, and succeed in life, is to respect them and genuinely listen to their perspective (whether they are openly sharing it or not) with wisdom, intuition, active listening, and patience. Accepting other people unconditionally is the hardest thing to do, because everyone is awful in their own way. Yet that acceptance is necessary if we are all to get along and treat each other equally, no matter how hard we may each struggle in every conversation to hear someone else out. It’s easy to hate everyone at some point, for some reason or another. It’s not healthy. Healthy is not the easy path, but it is the strongest one in the end. As I often must wish myself in this arena… Good luck.

Ridiculous, curious, most likely delirious.

I love a great story, whether it comes in the form of words or visual stimuli. I believe everyone has a story to tell, and I love to share mine.

Please feel free to read along, comment, share your own stories, or send me a message via the contact page. Thanks for your time reading my words.

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