Friends

It’s an early winter evening in Connecticut, dark and cold.  I’m walking from my college dorm to a lecture hall where Sebastian Junger and many of those featured in The Perfect Storm will speak.  As usual, I’m walking with my best friend and his girlfriend.  We do just about everything together and will one day be family.  However, this night, something inside pushes me to ditch them and catch up with another group ahead.  

I’ve come to realize that I’m terrible at “relationships of mutual affection.”  My wife maintains a close, small circle of friends, whereas I’ve always been comfortable with the acquaintances that come and go with each place we live.  This article finally made me realize that I’ve conflated real friends with deal friends, watering down the value of each.

“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art…. It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.” 

C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

I am blessed to have married a friend, someone I spent significant time getting to know before our love evolved.  When our daughter was diagnosed with cancer, a wise parent warned that we would learn who our real friends were, and they showed up.  Several of my real friends surrounded me at my lowest, wanting nothing more than time.

I’ve been focused inwardly since May 2019, and writing this blog has undoubtedly helped process my thoughts.  I now feel the urge to turn that focus outward. The benefits of friendships have long been known.  The Greeks had at least six words to describe love.  Aristotle further broke philia into its underlying motivations: utility, pleasure, and good.  

I, of course, used what I know (workflow) to manage what I do not (relationships).  I conducted a friendship inventory to which I applied Theory of Constraint techniques and customer relationship management software.  You read that right, and no surprise, it failed.  Management is for deal friendships, not real.  Transactions, not love. Me, not them.

With Brian Johnson as my guide, I’m stepping into new territory in 2022.  I will be vulnerable and have already been hurt three times while writing this post.  However, I now see the pain as feedback (from this course in perfectionism).  Feedback on both my past wrongs and my motivation for those relationships.  I can’t fix the past or control how others love me, only how I love others going forward.  

I didn’t sit with my best friend that night.  I spent the next few months focusing on my “new best friend,” visiting his family for New Year’s.  Over the last two decades, my focus has drifted from friend to friend as we moved around the United States.  I now find myself craving more time with my best friend, my best man, my brother-in-law, and regret leaving him that night.

I wish you all love – in whatever Greek form you seek – in 2022.

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