--WITH ONLY A WHISPER THE MOUNTAINS SHAKE
The Thing About Friendships
Is meaningful ones can be hard to come by, and they take work if they are to remain meaningful for any extended period of time.
Me, I live in the boondocks. On a lake. There are eagles and beavers. Lots of trees. Deer. It’s beautiful here, but it’s also very rural and, for the most part, pretty redneck (My wife hates when I say that, yet as an example, for a few consecutive years there was a guy who would drive his boat around with a Confederate Flag billowing from it. True story. And our lake is a fairly small one, so that dude definitely got the attention he was craving).
What we have an uncommon amount of in these parts are trucks. Trucks the size of combines. The size of dinosaurs. Huge, black-smoke chugging things you need a ladder to get into. (I always assume it’s because the owners of said vehicles have small penises, so they’re overcompensating, but I have no proof of that claim.) One such monster truck was covered in bumper stickers. One read WELCOME TO AMERICA. NOW SPEAK ENGLISH. Right next to it was another reading YOUR PRIUS IS FAGGING UP MY OZONE. (Another true story.). I mean, where do you even get a bumper sticker like that?
I’m making a generalization about where I live. There are lots of nice, wonderful people here, some that even own cars and lap dogs instead of pitbulls. But for the most part, the men here like manly things. They love tinkering in the garage. They hunt. The know construction and automotive stuff. They can fix things. All of this is well and good, but none of it is anything that appeals to me, and none of it is anything I’m good at. I still couldn’t tell you were or what a carburetor is or where to find it if you have a million bucks. Once, after coming out of a restaurant, I found my car wouldn’t start. My son said, “Pop the hood.” I said, “Why?” He said, “That’s what you’re supposed to do.” So, I popped the hood, took a peak in and said, “You good now?” and promptly closed it.
This is all to say it’s hard to make friends with people you have little to nothing in common with. There’s nothing to talk about. It’s like an Italian speaking person trying to converse with an Egyptian. Trust me, I’ve tried. For a good year my wife arranged blind dates for me with various husbands of her various friends. If you tell me Obama is a Muslim, well, that date’s over before it even starts.
For most people, friendships are made in college where you’re surrounded by thousands of fairly like-minded people. After that, the workplace is another bastion where friendships have a reasonable potential of blooming.
But when you’re fifty-something and work from home, like moi, well you’re kind of screwed. There’s only so much you can talk to the dog about before the pooch starts looking at you like you’ve snorted too much meth.
This is not to say I don’t have friends. I do. In fact, I have some incredible friends in my life. The problem is, they all live far away. A couple of years ago, I decided to take stock of the most important friends in my life. Some who weren’t so important I decided to let go of since really we were just acquaintances any way. For the others, I decided I was going to be the best possible friend I could be. Now I drive or fly to them, or we meet somewhere in the middle of the country. We text regularly. We send photos and goofy (sometimes raunchy, though not explicit) videos. Sometimes we actually speak on the phone.
Just this last week I had dinner three nights in a row with three of my best friends. In less than a week I’ll be driving to Portland to see my best friend of forty years, who was also my Best Man, and me his. In November I’m flying to NYC for a reading, but really it’s to see three of my favorite people on the planet. This galivanting has been happening all year, and every occasion has been an absolute blast, filled with belly laughter and joy.
This is all to say that friendships require not only time and energy, but intentionality. My friends are some of the most important people in my life. Their faces have been popping up as I’ve been writing this. I’d do anything for them. Take a bullet? Maybe if I was wearing Kevlar. Everything else? You bet. That’s what friends are for.