“The surest sign of age is loneliness.”
– Anne Dillard
Let’s talk about adult friendships, shall we?
I want to show you something that I saw yesterday.
“Wish those people who talk about their recent outings or make plans in my presence realized that they never invite me. Are they insensitive? Do they assume I’m busy or disinterested?
Feeling a little hurt because I’m realizing that I invested over a year trying to build friendships that will never be more than functional, practical acquaintances.
I’ve got people who live too far away for random, everyday interactions. I’ve got people I can call in a crisis but I don’t have that circle of local girlfriends I’ve been hoping for. Guess it’s time to move on. Problem is, surrounded by so many locals, no one has an opening for an ‘everyday friend.’”
What you just read was an online post from my Facebook friend Tiffany. I saw it yesterday while scrolling through and I haven’t been able to get it off of my mind. I had a passing thought to blog about it, but then decided maybe not. Really, what could I write about? And what could I offer? Advice? Ha. Hardly. Why? Because I’m not qualified, that’s why. I’m just like Tiffany.
I feel exactly the same way.
And then today, as if the universe knew I was trying to hide from the thought, I received a message from Kim, a mutual friend of mine and Tiffany’s. This is what she had to say:
“I am sadly amazed at the responses to Tiffany’s post. Given the outpouring of understanding she received, I would love to see you blog about this. It is a widespread topic that we are reluctant to put out there. Oh, I’m whining, or pathetic, or some other dreamt up stupid adjective that is not accurate (except in our mind). You write THE best, honest, open and heartfelt pieces. For all of us who feel strangely disenfranchised, please write.”
Could I write about this? Really? What would I have to say?
So, the first thing I did was go back and read Tiffany’s post and peruse the responses. Here’s what I saw:
“Ditto. Ditto exactly.” – Veronica
“I can relate to this.” – Blakeley
“I feel the same way.” – Heidi
“Thank you for your honesty. More people than you know feel the same way here.” – Becky
“I don’t have this either.” – Cassondra
(And let me just pause here to point out that Cassondra is my next door neighbor and a friend from my community theatre. Geez.)
Now, aside from the many commenters who simply voiced their understanding of Tiffany’s statement, there were also a few who attempted to rationalize it as well.
“This makes me….wish I was less generally ‘hermity.’” – Season
Looks like Season seems to be blaming herself here. She sees it as a flaw in her own personality or is seeing it as her choice to be alone.
And on that same note:
“I don’t have it either. I think it’s harder to be close to people as I get older. I’m less trusting and more self sufficient.” – Melissa (Oh, wait, that’s me.)
Like Season (gosh I love that name), my comment fell into the same category. Somehow I feel as if I have chosen to feel like Tiffany does.
Some seemed to blame it on the small area we live in:
“Our area is a difficult place to form friendships. I had so many good friends in SC that I went out with on a regular basis. When we moved back home, I had my family but no friends.” – Andrea
“That’s the problem with small towns; they typically aren’t very welcoming to ‘outsiders’ in a deep friendship way. We really haven’t had good friends since we lived in Atlanta.” – Jill
And one mentioned the fact that we don’t make the time for these friendships:
“We are busy and allow the urgent to overtake the important, we don’t take time for girlfriend relationships.” – Cyndi
Then, one that really stood out to me and got me right in the feels:
“I struggle with this same thing. Since I’ve changed my life and try to focus on doing good I don’t have anyone that likes to come around either. It’s funny when you party and act wild you’ll have friends around but as soon as I sober up nobody calls or comes around. So I just hangout with my sweet boys all the time. But it’d def be nice to have a friend too.” – Crystal
(Oh, Crystal. Do you have any idea how strong you are, lady? I sure hope so.)
So, here we have a variety of women with a variety of reasons why they think they have lost this connection with other women. Which one is right?
Are Andrea and Jill onto something? Is it the area we live in? I can certainly relate to that if it is. As a woman who definitely did not grow up in this small town, I often feel left out when I see these female friendships that have been blooming for years.
Or, is it what Cyndi said? Is it the fact that we don’t make time for friendships? As women who are all grown up and now have jobs and kids to take care of and houses to keep clean, is it that we just don’t have the time anymore to pick up the phone and make a plan for a girls’ night? Again, I get it. It seems frivolous in a way. We are women – we take care of things. Who is going to keep things on track around here if we take the night off?
Or is Crystal the one who has it figured out? Have we just outgrown friendships? While we might not have all changed as profoundly as Crystal has (and again – you go girl!), we’ve definitely all changed. There’s no doubt about it. We get older and the things that were once important to us just aren’t anymore.
Or are Season and I the ones that have it figured out. Is it just our choice to not be close to people anymore? Some of us realize it, but maybe some of us don’t?
Sigh. Again, like I said at the beginning of this blog, I don’t really know why I’m writing this. I don’t have the ability to provide answers. Like another commenter, Conor, said, “I can’t offer advice, only empathy.” What is there to say?
Well, other than this:
Tiffany, you are obviously not alone.
“Do you know how many people feel the same way? You have opened up a conversation here that so many are afraid to even contemplate because they don’t want to recognize the hurt and rejection that comes with it. Community is SO needed!!!” – Julie
Julie, my dear, you are on to something. You see all of those suggestions of why up there? They don’t matter. They really don’t. We can sit and try to analyze it all day. Maybe there are a million different reasons it happens, but the fact is that it does happen. It has happened to so many of us.
And now, the question is this – what do we do about it?
I want to go out on a limb and hypothesize about something. I think social media plays a huge role in this conundrum. Now, hear me out here.
I have friends. Really, I do. In fact, I have about 1,045 of them. Don’t believe me? Just ask Facebook. Now, I’m not saying that I don’t cherish those friends on there. I do. In fact, I have a few that I don’t know what I’d do without. When I need a listening ear, I just type away and there they are.
But is that the same thing? Really?
How many times have I said, “I have a problem I need to talk about. Can I come over?” Or how many times have I reached out to someone else? How many times have I said, “I’m sorry you’re hurting, I’ll be right over.” I’ll tell you how many times. Zero. It’s just too easy to have a typed conversation. Or send a funny meme. Or post a facebook status and watch the empathy roll in.
But is that enough?
Tiffany’s status and the overwhelming amount of responses she received tell me that maybe it’s not.
So now what?
I’m a runner. One of the things I always tell people who are just starting out, and the thing that was always told to me when I was first starting out, is this: the first step is always the hardest. Even as an experienced runner, that never fails to be the case. Some days I just don’t feel like running. But as soon as I put forth the effort to just get into my running gear, lace up my shoes, and take those first sluggish steps out the door, it gets easier after that.
Maybe that logic is the same that needs to be applied here.
Kudos to Tiffany. She took that first step. She acknowledged the problem. And not only did she acknowledge it, she put it out there. What courage that took. And because of that courage, she received messages like this one from Christy:
“You, me, coffee? I’d love to spend time with you! I guess I always figure people already have their group of friends since I’m new to town. I always need more girlfriends, though!”
And there you have it. Will Tiffany and Christy become best friends? Who knows? Maybe, maybe not. Friendships are like relationships. Some work, some don’t. But, also like relationships, you have to try. You just have to.
It’s just way too lonely out here alone.
And as for me? Well, I guess it’s time to put my money where my mouth is. I have a neighbor that I’d like to get to know better. And how ridiculous of me that I haven’t asked sooner.
“The only way to have a friend is to be one.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson