Friendship (Congrats Nath)

“Two may talk together under the same roof for many years, yet never really meet; and two others at first speech are old friends.”
– Mary Catherwood

Friendship really seems to have no rules. Two people who you would never place together can be kindred spirits, while people with endless amounts in common can get on each others nerves from first meeting. But I do believe there are a few rules of real friendship.

Honesty is key to any relationship, and with a true friend, you hope there is nothing that you have to censor yourself from saying or hold back. Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “A friend is a person with whom I may be sincere. Before him I may think aloud”. Loyalty, where you can trust the other person to believe your word and stand by you when things are hard as well as during the great times. Understanding, a good listening ear and a real want to see things from the others point of view. And the way they can make anything both fun and funny, simply enjoying sharing time together.

Over the last decade, I have made and lost many friends. Some where I would have sworn the friendship unshakeable, I now barely speak to, or only on the awkwardest of terms. Some are just less in my lives than they were, through time and circumstance.

But I just wanted to [awkwardly ;)] dedicate this blog to one of my best friends in the world, who was the first person to subscribe to this blog in the first place. If true friendship can’t be defined by the following amazing memories, I don’t know how it can be. And certainly in our case, the sad circumstance of being oceans apart, and the annoying time differences or life changes havent even approached making a dent in our closeness.

  • Foreign movie nights even though the whole world thinks we’re dorky.
  • Calling me up at the hardest of times, even though you had no idea what to say.
  • Making me a mixed tape including my very own song juxtaposed with a John Lennon cover even he would be proud of.
  • Never ever saying out loud how difficult it must have been, being at such different stages of our lives at one time.
  • Turning up at each others houses with 10 minutes notice and rucksacks, not clarifying how long we were staying or why, regardless of husbands or parents, leading to u having your own room (complete with sign) at our flat, until R usurped you.
  • Making me the coolest (ONE of the coolest-calm down Abi) Sheva Brachot ever, and sharing my final unmarried shabbat making me feel uber special.
  • Forgiving me for weeks of silence, whether by surprising me with an hours travelling to see me in Israel, or just bugging me on skype until I apologize and reply, and not even needing a reason.
  • Cluedo and Sloppy Joes and all manner of other activities the world has given up on, but we keep alive.
  • Driving allllll the way to my mums house, to get me and pick me up, back when no one else would, thereby adding to my social life outside school by 100%.
  • Remember how I stopped being vegetarian at your house and how proud you were?

And now you have a daughter. And I am so jealous of her already, cause she has the coolest mOm ever, and she gets to see you all the time. And she doesnt even know how lucky she is to have you. But she will.

I’m so proud and happy for you, and you are so much my family in all the best definitions of the word, and I can’t wait to get out there and see you all very very soon, 🙂

x

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Struggling into the light

Hardship. Some of us seem to have so many problems and worries, while others swim through life avoiding any simple misfortune. It hardly seems fair.

Robert Frost once said “Depression occurs when one looks back with no pride, and looks forward with no hope.” I think this is so poignant and true. If we can isolate an event, or even several events, to certain times in our life, it becomes much easier to deal with. If we can say, “I have so much in my past to be happy about, so much up until now that is good” it makes it much easier not to dwell on an unfortunate circumstance. The same is true about the future. Looking ahead, if we can say “Wow, there is so much to be excited about and look forward to” no matter what age we are or stage of our lives, it makes it simpler to believe that this too shall pass.

We all know people who seem to be permenantly upset. Things are always going wrong for them, they always have something to moan about. Conversely, we all have neighbours and friends with constant sunny dispositions, happy-go-lucky types who never complain. It can’t be true that everything in the happy persons life is always great. Similarly, it would take an extreme situation to have absolutely nothing to be glad about at all. I believe that how we show ourselves to friends and acquaintances is key to our own mood.

Dont get me wrong, when it comes to close family and friends, there is nothing better than a good cry and a vent, both of which can be surprisingly therapuetic. Letting yourself say how unfair things seem and expressing your misery is a valid step in the process of getting through any upsetting event in your life. But then what? However many times life knocks you down, there isnt an opt out button. A quote from an excellent film while discussing a characters wife’s death expresses this more succinctly than i ever could. Forgive my paraphrasing.

“I don’t think i could continue living”
“That’s the worst part of all, you do.”

And so we search our lives for the pride and the hope which Frost is referring to, and we try as hard as we can to rebuild whatever is broken and where that is impossible, just clear away the shattered pieces of ourselves and start again. And it’s difficult, and painful, that cant be denied. But at the same time, it is growing, and changing, and learning more about yourself and your life and the people in it during the stormy parts than you could in a lifetime of calm waters. Some people find it harder than others to pick themselves up again, and some people undoubtably have to do it more times in their life than others, but for everyone, it is possible.

I don’t really think going through difficulties is the hardest part. After all, we have no choice, and unless you enjoy being miserable, we dont even really have a choice as to how we respond and whether we pick ourselves up again or not. Plus I have seen firsthand how out of some of the most painful experiences can come the most wonderful rewards.

No, going through hardship isnt the worst thing, because it’s all about your own choices and what decisions you make and when. You are in control. Harder in many ways is watching the people we care about have struggles. Helpless to do anything, impossible to take it from them, wincing at their mistakes or their lack of ability to move onwards and upwards.

All we can do is try to remind them of the pride they should feel in all their past accomplishments, the unlimited hope and faith they should have in their future, and try to keep them company until they can find a way out of the darkness on their own.

The thing about Twitter is…

You don’t know the people on it.

Twitter has taken social networking to a new level. Wheras on Facebook, Google+ and similar, you add the people you know, on Twitter, you actively search for people you don’t know.

On Facebook, you know your boundaries. Theyre the same as in real life. Easy to work out and adhere to, because you know the people in real life. Would you reply sarcastically to them in a group? Great, then it’s okay to do the same on their wall. Would you wish them happy birthday? Go ahead then. The advent of the ‘like’ on Facebook means that we can do the equivalent of smiling at something someone said, which means we interact more with acquaintances who we wouldnt normally ‘talk’ to, either online or in real.

But on Twitter, we have no social guidelines to stick to. People can talk to us, and we need not reply. People share what we say without our permission, we are suddenly allowed to pester celebrities with our every unhilarious thought, and worse than celebrities, real people. It’s kind of like entering a party in the middle, where you don’t know anyone at all. But you have to speak to people, or why are you there?

It is so easy to overstep the mark when you dont know someone and they dont know you. Recently, I made a flippant comment to a new follower, which evidently not only upset but also offended. I apologized, and was forgiven, but was then basically made fun of by them and a friend of theirs for about 2 hours. 2 hours on Twitter, unlike in life, is like 2 hours at a party. I tried to ignore, but when a conversation is sent directly to your Activity tab, it is much like two bullies following you round the party throwing mini sausage rolls at your head. It was horrible. Now I don’t think they meant much harm, and to be honest I started the problem myself, and I’ve seen at least one of them to be lovely, (in the Twitterverse at least) but I was thrown back to the geekiest version of myself. Nervous that everyone was watching and laughing, in the equivalent of a room full of strangers.

Up until now, I’ve only seen the benefits of using Twitter. For my business, it drives traffic to my website, tells people succinctly what I do, and helps me find potential authors and businesses to work with. Personally, it’s a fun way to network with new people, be introduced to great books and blogs, and as all internet resources, an invaluable procrastination tool.

But beware. When people dont know you, they can’t hear your voice when reading your comments. They don’t see your facial expressions, and someone seriously needs to invent a sarcasm font. Twitter forces you to be fun, flippant and quick, as you only have those all important 140c. But at the end of the day, you’re talking to strangers, and I don’t know about you, but introducing myself generally needs more than that.

Don’t keep my baby waiting

Taking kids to public places is really really hard. And not to sound condescending, but it really is one of those situations where, if you don’t have kids, you just have no idea.

Lateness is my personal pet peeve. I promised myself that just because I became a mother, I would not become someone who keeps others waiting. It’s disrespectful and rude, and in most cases unecessary. Where is is unavoidable, there is absolutely no reason why you cant let the person know as soon as you know, or if you don’t have a definite ETA, keep them posted. In this age of skype on our phones, free texts, and public mobile charging points, there really arent many excuses left for keeping someone waiting without explanation.

Before R, I was happy to turn up half an hour early (armed with a novel) rather than risk being 5 minutes late. The same was true when I had my newborn. He would sleep, or eat, or sit in the sling, and I would read my book, or gaze at his tiny face, and time would pass. This newborn phase is also known affectionately by me as ‘Starbucks age.’ The few months where your baby is happy to follow you around everywhere, fit in with your plans, and be generally unobtrusive to your social life.

Warning to those of you who are currently enjoying this honeymoon period… It passes. From about 11 months (7 for most kids) it became impossible to take R to a public place without some serious pre-thought and planning.

If we meet at 11.30.. I can amuse him for 15 minutes, and then feed him at 11.45… and hopefully if I shake the buggy enough he could sleep until 1.30… and that gives us two hours, at least one of which i can concentrate fully on what you’re saying during.

Meeting at 10.. Ok.. I can take with this pot and lid, which will keep him entertained for a half hour possibly, and then take some snacks for midmorning in case he starts grizzling, and hopefully he will find being in a public place entertaining and he could rip up some napklins for a few minutes at some point.. and I suppose if worse comes to worst we’l have to have our drinks to take away and walk around the mall?

I’m sorry. Can we just meet in the library?

Such is life. I want to see my friends, and I appreciate that the ones without kids arent interested in meeting me at baby yoga or riding up and down the train line all day, (to make him as happy as he is below) so I try my hardest to make it work. I am blessed with a cheerful baby, who doesnt mind me snatching the odd hour of social life which doesnt involve soft play, and most importantly, I am always armed with a bag of cheerios.

But if I am making this effort, and I have spent an hour or more making sure I am fully prepared for ‘Public Place Time’ the very least I can expect is that whoever I am meeting is on time.

Pre-R, It annoyed me. Post-R, it ruins my day, and potentially our friendship. We arrange to meet at 11. The second I walk in the door, the clock begins. We have a limited time where R is going to be happy to endure an activity which doesnt centre around his enjoyment. So I have planned appropriately, I wont arrive before 10.58, if necessary walking up and down the road outisde, maximising the time I can spend with my friend.

11.01, you are late. I am playing with my son, keeping him amused with songs and actions and silly faces. 11.05, out comes the stacking cups, and I help him build towers. Maybe I get a text from you saying you’re running late. Too late to tell me that, because I cant put him back in the buggy and take him for a walk to keep him amused, not only would we lose our seats and I’ve already got my drink, but also he would not appreciate being taken in and out like a jack in the box. 11.15, he is already trying to crawl away from our sofas, and taking things from a neighbours handbag. 11.20, you are ‘almost there’  but our twenty minutes of happy playtime are up. R is clearly frustrated, and by the time you walk in the door at 11.23, what you would call “only 20 minutes late” has taken up most of our alloted chat time. Out come the snacks, even though it’s nearly lunch time, and my son, who has picked up on my own frustration, manages another 15 minutes of fractuous conversation before we need to leave.

Your response, intimated or otherwise, “This is proof. Babies ruin social lives.” And to some extent you are right. We are never going to get that easy lazy 3 hour chat in the middle of the day, where we order more drinks and take our time flitting from subject to subject. But I’ve made it pretty easy for you to get an hour of my (almost undivided) attention. Just do me the courtesy of turning up on time.

Will you be my friend?

Lately, I’ve noticed something terrifying. I am officially a grown up. It’s not just the whole Emerging Adulthood thing. Although certainly having a husband and a son, a career, many many bills, and a place of our own helps to hammer the message home.

It’s other more worrying aspects of adulthood. I get a little nervous when I see a group of rowdy youths, and I refer to them as ‘youths’ in my head. I get really annoyed if I accidently end up out too late in the afternoon and have to share the bus with school kids of any number. I cant even picture myself going into Miss Selfridge or Top Shop, and have started to think of Dorothy Perkins as a entirely acceptable place to browse. I have less and less interest in sweets, which leads to me being even more disinterested in things like Simchat Torah and getting the bill in restaurants. And last year, I’ll even admit to having a subscription to Prima. (Gasp!)

Yep, I’m boring. I’m aware that I’m still young, dont get me wrong. I’m loving being a young mum, renting our flat, being at the beginning of my career and having a lot of fun with it all, but there are no two ways about it, the teenage years are far behind me, in age as well as mindset.

As great as this is, I have trouble working out how to relate to people in a ‘grown up’ way. Not actual grown ups, I have no problem talking to friends parents, or older colleagues in my office, or relatives and the like. It’s the people the same age as me that I’m struggling with. You know, my friends, or potential friends.

The longstanding ones are not an issue. We have been friends for so long that we have an easy relationship, strong bonds, great banter and deep chats. But new people… I’m lost. No longer can we dive straight into what my 16 year old self called “proper chats” where you can discuss everything and everyone with no holding back and very little self consciousness. We’re grown up, and as sad as it may be to lose that passion, we dont do that anymore. But similarly, there is no space in our lives for superficial chatter and fake smiles that barely break the surface of a real conversation. Who has time for that when we have shopping and carpools and meetings and cooking?

So we’re looking for something in the middle. That easy ‘come for a meal this weekend’, that friendly ‘let’s have a playdate this week’, the wave from across shul that means we have someone to sit with,  or the real conversation that makes the weekly shop and the grouchy toddler that much more enjoyable to deal with.

See? I know what the goal is. But I dont really know how to find it. Without the intimate discussions of our teenage years, is it just a matter of waiting until the on the surface words become something more real all on their own? If I keep inviting you over, will it eventually become effortless, not just for us to be couples friends, but actual friends as well?

Or perhaps those days are just behind us. And the relationships I have with my best friends and my husband are not only sufficient, but more than most people have, in their history and their simplicity, and at the same time, incredible complexity. And if I have that, and am oh so grateful for that, then the on the surface chatter, and the basic conversation which seems to fill 90% of grown up interaction, should really be enough for me. Maybe it is true, that we make our real friends in high school, and in a world where we have hundreds of online ‘friends’ and yet a mere few to open up to, the rest of our lives we just need people to spend time with.

I’d like to know the answer to this one. Maybe I’m looking for something that doesnt exist, or just going about it the wrong way.. But how does one make ‘Grown up friends’?