Good Friends are Hard to Find
Yesterday afternoon I picked up a card with a print of Gustav Klimt’s painting The Kiss and wrote inside, ‘May you always be as happy as you are today.’ I signed it, slipped in some money and tucked the envelope into my purse. An hour later Craig and I were on the road to Michigan where we would attend the wedding of my friend Beth’s oldest daughter.
Beth and I met when my grade school closed in 1982 under the desegregation law which sent me to a new school across town. Each child was assigned a ‘buddy’ to help him/her adjust to their new surroundings. Beth was my buddy then and she still is, thirty-one years later.
high school today
To know someone for as long as I’ve known Beth is quite amazing. I find it incredible that someone has voluntarily been in my life for over three decades. The wedding was lovely, the bride glowing, and the mother as beautiful as she was in high school.
Seeing Beth again has had me reminiscing about the many friends who’ve come and gone throughout my life. Female friendships can be such rewarding experiences; they can also be complicated, frustrating and very delicate. My older sister whom I always looked up to warned me about this shortly after graduating high school. I remember her telling me not to be surprised if I found myself without any female friends as I headed into college. “They are out there, but they won’t be easy to find; if you have even one good friend in your life, consider yourself very lucky,” she said as we talked on the phone one last time before I left for school. I didn’t quite understand what she meant but thanked her for her advice and moved on to the next chapter of my life.
The words my sister passed on that day would pop up in my mind over and over as the years passed as I realized that what she said was absolutely true.
In my twenties when all of my friends were having babies I was suddenly the odd one out and felt I had nothing to offer to these women whose lives were drastically changing. One friend that I hung out with semi-regularly sat me down during her third trimester and told me that although she liked me, she felt it was best that we transition our friendship to just being ‘work friends’ because she needed to find other Moms to help support her through the remainder of her pregnancy and beyond. I was stunned but really, could I argue? It was her choice and I had to accept it. Unfortunately, she wasn’t the last woman who ended a friendship with me due to a pregnancy, though the others just kind of faded away as the chaos and responsibility of parenthood settled in. Tracy was up front and honest with me about it, and even though it was blunt and hurt my feelings at the time, I give her credit for being direct and to the point.
Throughout my mid to late thirties I had friendships that felt as though they would last forever, but some just weren’t meant to be. I spent a bit of time trying to establish connections with like-minded individuals (i.e., other creatives) but we artists are a peculiar bunch. Many creative types are introverts and have a hard time reaching out to others which makes it even more difficult to find one another, not to mention that the majority of us work by ourselves (so much for the idea of sharpening those social skills, huh?)
Of the few artists that I was lucky enough to connect with, I found most to be distant and aloof – even a bit paranoid, as though they were afraid I might try to steal their ideas, their style of painting, their secrets to becoming a success. I was being introduced to a new strain of ‘friends’: those who don’t mind being your friend – as long as you don’t succeed in anything you attempt to do. I am truly saddened by the sheer volume of women I’ve come across in my life who feel threatened by other women, who don’t even like other women and certainly aren’t afraid to show it. I’ve experienced it first hand and have seen it over and over again in the workplace. I see this as a major problem in our society and am disappointed that it hasn’t changed much over the years.
Now that I am settling into my early forties I can honestly say that I’m beginning to culminate friendships that have meaning to me. No longer do I feel resigned to give 90% of myself in order to receive a 10% investment in my relationships and I’m not quite as guarded as I used to be. I feel more and more comfortable with and extremely lucky for those whom I call friends. We’re here for each other, respect one another and support each other.
I will be away from my blog and my Etsy shop for the next week. I’m going to California to visit one of those friends while my security guard nephew holds down the fort here at home, acting as full-time caretaker of the house and Brulee and Emmie. I’ve been working practically non-stop for a year and am looking forward to a bit of a break. I’ll be back next week with photos and stories and most likely a fresh perspective for paintings to come.
Have a great week. Hug your friends if you’ve got ‘em nearby. If they’re not, send a virtual squeeze or two and let them know they’re unique and special because as I’ve learned, they truly are.