I can’t tell you but I know it’s mine.

Jen wrote, ‘I am now struggling with the term Friend. “Who is”, and “What is a Friend?” I am curious of your thoughts.

Bono sang, ‘It’s no secret that a friend is someone who lets you help’, which is a way to look at it. But the reality of human relationships is far more complicated than pithy rock stars can hope to contain in a song or bloggers in a post, for that matter. When people ask me this question I find that they’re really asking ‘what are the limits of friendship?’ or ‘when is it ok  to stop caring?’ or something along those lines. We don’t really think about basic concepts like friendship until they’re tested.

Speaking as somebody who has a soft spot for hard luck cases I can tell you that you should never get in the water with a drowning person because they will drag you down with them. By all means, throw them a lifeline, call for help, or even just shout their name as they sink into the blackness but do not get in the water with them. We cannot ‘save’ anyone who does not wish to be saved. Of course, it’s very difficult to determine who wants to be saved; a lot of people say they do but what they really mean is that they want you to get into the water with them. It’s very important to be able to tell the difference.

Friendship is not always so dramatic; much of it comes down to companionship and the key to good companionship is manners; the key to manners is not remembering to hold your pinky aloft when sipping tea but rather by making sure everyone else in the room is comfortable. Remember that listening is more than hearing, watching is more than seeing, and feeling is more than touching; attentiveness is more than being conscious. All too often we are oblivious of the offenses we give while we are all to finely tuned into the offenses we perceive from others.

But even beyond this is the capacity to forgive the actual wrongs done to each other, because as humans we all inevitably err. All of my close friends are people that I have disappointed somewhere along the way, and they have forgiven me my many shortcomings. None of my friends are perfect; some of them are spectacular fuckups, fuckups who have, in fact, brought the art of fucking up to levels of sophistication so refined that they will be wondered at for generations; many of them have hurt me in some way at some time or another. I have hurt, disappointed, and taken advantage of all of them in some way or another at some time or another. My love for them makes me want to be a better person than that.

That’s something good friends do. They make us want to be better people than we are right now. They make us want to deserve them. Many people tell me that I am a strong individual but I do not know what that means. Part of who I am is 21 year old girl who was killed by a drunk driver twenty years ago. Part of who I am lives in a desert, another across the sea,  and on the East Coast, the West Coast, and scattered across all points between. I look in the mirror and see my grandfather, my uncle, my father, my brothers, my nephews all surrounding my mother’s eyes. There’s a few people down at the Clown Factory that it’s like being in a band with; I couldn’t imagine performing my job without them. I work hard to be worthy of being on their team, but more importantly, the friendships I have with them help to make my work feel like the most natural way to spend my time imaginable.

It’s important to think about things like friendship because it’s the sort of thing that define who we are. I don’t know if this gives you any clarity, but I’m not exactly ‘Dear Abby’. It would actually be kind of weird fun to be ‘Dear Abby’ for a day or two, wouldn’t it?

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