I spent most of yesterday working on our photo album. It’s a bittersweet activity.
I came across the wedding picture of friends we’re no longer in touch with. I don’t really remember clearly what happened, but I remember we felt out of touch with them for a while before we stopped seeing one another. I seem to have a vague memory of conducting the “breakup” badly. I miss these folks, or at least I miss the wonderful friendship we had with them before things fizzled. Why do friendships fizzle? Is it because they had kids and we didn’t? Is it because their spiritual ideas were going in an opposite direction? Is it because of some things we were going through at the time that made us too demanding, too scared, too easily disappointed, too selfish? You would think a good friendship could survive all that. I’m really sad that this one didn’t. Part of me wants to look them up and apologize and try to reconnect. Part of me warns that whatever made this friendship fizzle would still be there, and that the geographical distance would make it difficult to really reconnect.
This got me started on the whole friendship thing again. We still don’t have any real friends here. (It’s been three years.) Maybe we haven’t tried hard enough. Maybe people here are just too busy and have enough friends and don’t want new ones. Maybe there isn’t anyone likeminded or likesouled enough to be suitable deep close friends with us. I miss the friendships I used to have. I hate fizzling. If I had known that making friends as an adult would be so hard, would I have worked so much harder not to let friendships fizzle? Could I really have prevented any of them from fizzling? Meanwhile I’m being careful and creative with this photo album in order to share it with — myself?
Matthew Boedy wrote the other day about Henri Nouwen’s Intimacy, including Nouwen’s statement that boredom can arise from risklessness. I’ve been bored for a long time. I’ve also learned over the years to take fewer risks. I think in some ways I have learned some wisdom: just because it’s a risk doesn’t mean it should be taken. I was too quick to be vulnerable with people who did not handle my trust well, for a variety of reasons, some my fault and some theirs. But now perhaps one reason I have no friends here is that I’m too terrified of myself, God, and other people to take the risks necessary to form new friendships.
Matthew’s post today is about Nouwen again, but this time from Nouwen’s journal. The post includes the word “raw” — reminds me of my recurring self-image as sharp-edged — like a rock with lots of bits jutting out at hard and pointy angles, not soft, cuddly, or warm. And lo and behold, it was a fizzled friendship that started Nouwen down that road of anguish, an anguish of insatiable thirst for intimacy.
…soon I discovered that the enormous space that had been opened for me could not be filled by the one who had opened it.
The enormous space feels empty now, when we have no friends here and only occasional contact with friends elsewhere. But if I’m honest, even when we’ve been in the same location as our friends, and seen them often, it’s not enough. I’d like to think I’ve learned better how to appreciate our friends for who and what they are, and not idolize them or otherwise demand too much. But I shouldn’t allow myself to think everything would be wonderful if we moved back to where we used to live, or if we found close friends here. Better. But not perfect, not full, not yet satisfied.
Did you know Psalm 88 is the only complaining psalm that doesn’t have any “pull-myself-up-by-the-bootstraps” statements of praise? It’s also interesting that in the psalmist’s case, he thinks God’s the one who has taken away his friends and made him repulsive to them, and he seems to think it’s a flood of God’s wrath against him.