Have you ever noticed what perfect friends pets make? That’s because our pets can’t talk, which makes our friendships with them pretty one-sided. If our dog, or cat, or hamster could talk, they would almost certainly say something to make our relationship less…agreeable – something like, “Enough about you and your problems. I’ve got REAL problems of my own, like I’m hungry, so quit your cryin’ and fix my supper,” or “If you take me to the vet, I’m going to bite and scratch until you have to see a doctor, too – that’s only fair,” or “Great, just great – that’s exactly what I needed: ANOTHER sister. NOT.” No doubt, many older pets would complain endlessly about rheumatoid arthritis, digestive issues, and fatigue – just like many older people. But since our pets can’t voice their thoughts, feelings, opinions, or complaints, our friendships with them are pretty dern perfect.
Our friendships with other people, however, are far less than perfect. They’re afflicted with all kinds of feelings, opinions, complaints, misconceptions, idiosyncrasies, inequalities, annoyances and other maladies. And of course, none of this is ever our fault; the problems obviously lie within our friends. Or do they?
Recently, I was able to reestablish a friendship that I foolishly turned my back on nearly a decade ago, without so much as a discussion. That led me to take a really close look at my pitiful self, and my even more pitiful reasons for having done this. In doing so, what I have learned, like I learn everything else – late, and in the hardest possible way – is this:
1.) When we’re young and we have plenty of friends, we think we will always have plenty of friends. So, the loss of one doesn’t seem so huge. When we’re older, we learn to discern true friends from other friends; we realize just how rare and valuable those true friends are, and we do our best to hold onto them.
2.) When we’re young, assuming or interpreting that a friend doesn’t care about us is exactly the same as our friend saying, “I don’t care about you,” when it isn’t the same thing at all. People who care about each other often hurt each other unintentionally (“unintentionally” was the key word there), so feeling hurt never warrants ending a friendship without discussion.
3.) Feeling unlovable doesn’t mean you actually are. True friends are people who love you at your most unlovable.
4.) Our money and things – or lack thereof – doesn’t interest true friends one way or the other. A true friend doesn’t care if we can’t afford to eat out or see a movie; they’ll just come on over. When they arrive, they don’t care if we’re wearing the same shirt we wore last week, if our silverware doesn’t match, or if all our cups – and chairs, for that matter – are plastic. They’re there to see us, and we’re there, so they’re never disappointed!
5.) I now evaluate all friendships based on the answers to the following questions: Would my friend visit me in the hospital? In prison? At my funeral? If the answers are yes, then I have what I consider to be a true friend – and I’ll take a true friend over a perfect friend any day!
Finally, I just wish to say thanks to my friend, Sandy, who employed me when I was practically unemployable, who didn’t care a whit that I was a member of the working poor, who liked me when I felt unlikable, and who ultimately forgave me for allowing our friendship to float away on time and circumstance, when I was young-ish and stupid-er.
Thanks to all my other friends as well – you know who you are – and you know who to call should you find yourself in a hospital bed, a jail cell, or a casket. (Actually, should you take up residence in a casket, it’d probably be best if you didn’t call me directly – have someone else do it – because writers tend to be a little…fragile.)
P.S. To my dogs: Don’t worry, I always assume you’re thinking the snarkiest remark you could possibly think at me, so your inability to put these remarks into words doesn’t really affect our relationship – hey, if a friend doesn’t speak up for you when you can’t speak up for yourself…well, you know…they suck. I am trying not to suck. For you. You’re welcome.