More on Friendship

I occasionally wonder if I'm a good friend. But I realize I don't really know what makes a 'good' friend - I guess everyone has a different set of standards - so it's hard to judge. As I said a few posts back, I've never managed to sustain more than 3 close friendships at a time, and have often had less than that. I have a slightly wider circle of acquaintances - usually people I work with - whose company I enjoy, but I tend to lose track of them, despite promises to keep in touch, within a few months of changing jobs. I've had slightly better luck at sustaining such relationships with the advent of email, but they never go beyond getting together for lunch on a workday and keeping up with the broad details of each others' lives. These are people I enjoyed working with, and occasionally went out with for a drink after work, but we've never been to each others' houses, or socialized on weekends.

I have a larger circle of 'family friends', mostly the children of my parents' close friends. We grew up together, attend weddings and baby showers, and stay in touch largely through our mothers. Once or twice a year, we'll get together en masse, but don't really see each other aside from these group occasions. I have similar relationships with my cousins - my mother keeps me up to date on what they're doing, and we get together at Christmas, or when a more distant relative comes to town. We're all comfortable with each other, and get along well enough, but there's no real connection beyond shared childhood experiences. It's always fun when we get together, to catch up on what everyone's been doing, but I don't miss them between-times.

My sister, who is much more extroverted than I, has at least a dozen close friends, and several dozen more that she sees on a regular basis. I don't know how she keeps track of them all, to be honest. It's a gift she and my mother share.

And despite the fact that friendships made in university are supposed to be some of the most binding, I have completely lost touch with every single person I went to school with. I didn't have a huge circle of friends at UBC, but I ran with a decent-sized crowd. We car-pooled, skipped class, crammed for finals, drank and partied together for 5 years, but within 10 years of graduating, I'd lost touch with them all. Those friendships just drifted apart, all but one for no apparent reason (and that one I encouraged to lapse because it simply demanded more from me than I was able to give at the time).

So, what do I consider qualities of a good friend? Intelligence, a slightly offbeat sense of humour, curiosity about and a willingness to discuss pretty much anything, open-mindedness, compassion, a logical and rational world view ...

I don't expect a shoulder to cry on, although I'm happy to provide one (if somewhat reticent about offering, for fear of intruding where I'm not wanted), or an ear to bend when I'm angry, although I'm a good and sympathetic listener. I have always tended to keep my problems to myself - I feel too guilty for unloading on someone else, even close family, to gain much comfort from opening up. With one exception: My Beloved, with whom I have shared my life for the past 6 years, has shown me, through his gentle, loving, and all-encompassing support, that it is better to talk about my fears and problems, and that a burden is, indeed, lighter when shared by two. I'm even, slowly, starting to open up to my friends.

It's been a slow process, but I think I am a better person and, I hope, a better friend for it.