You know, I am finding a great deal harder to believe that the baby of the family (the 6'4" one) is 24 today than I had accepting that the older two were in their 30s. In my oldest son's case, approaching the dark side of the 30s. Isn't it strange how the brain, coupled with emotion, works? 24. How did that happen? Nearly a quarter of a century, as he cheerfully announced on Skype this morning.
We were going to go down to the coast to visit him today, armed with a birthday cake, but while the spirit is very willing, the body sort of ground to a halt. So we skyped instead, and will see him as soon as the world returns to an even keel, and more to the point, his brother brings back his shoes from Switzerland, and Diana is back and can do the driving instead of me. David needs his posh shoes for his professional practice which starts in May, I think. This MSc in Forensic Osteology has been a fascinating year for him. Bones. Old bones. He is loving every minute. And I am so proud of him too. Happy Birthday, David!
Fortunately, Glynis and Peter are going down to Poole to visit their son this weekend, and, as he lives 5 minutes walk from David, they will take the cake, cards etc with them. I need to bake a cake. Friday night, probably. Our visitors arrive tomorrow evening. Granny has the dentist on Friday and everything is very likely to be chaotic.
I am used to chaos. It is my second name.
So, for an update on the weather: sunny with howling (freezing) gale. The hair is standing on end. It is still useless to try and get out there in the garden and do anything remotely garden-like. The frustration mounts. Shifting the toppling piles of seeds around the kitchen as I do things, is also frustrating, irritating and a reminder of how far behind I am. I am sure seeds will start sprouting from the floor tiles any day now. They are so small.
You know, there are an awful lot of posts out there today from women - possibly all a lot younger than me - asking if and how to become friends/have close female friendships. About how workplace friendships are both risky professionally and also just not the same. About how finding friends with whom one could become close enough to share the vulnerable sides of our souls is so very difficult.
I am so glad I reached adulthood, moved countries and started all over, before the Internet exploded into our lives. I am glad I was a stay at home Mum. I am also glad that, when we moved, my children were young enough for me to make friends at the school gates. Back then, there was time to go for coffee. Explore interests. Find common ground. And back then, we had nothing to compare ourselves to, other than TV stars and celebrities who graced the pages of papers and magazines. And I was never in the slightest bit interested in any of them, anyway.
The advent of the Internet, Facebook, Pinterest, fascinating blogs, posts about all the successes and not so much of the failures, has perhaps, given people unrealistic expectations of both life and friendships, fostering feelings of inadequacies. The other thing to bear in mind is that blogs, by their very nature, are about stories, sharing the details of our lives. That can be threatening to those who don't understand the urge to write. The subject matter could be a barrier.
I have always found making friends easy. That first step is not a problem, because I talk a lot. But close friends, the ones who you can expose your vulnerabilities to, who actually get to see the real you under the protective layers, those are the friends you have to grow. Slowly. Steadily.
Being a part of a church body makes that a little easier. Joining in at house-groups/small groups is also good, because, by definition, what is said there stays between the people there. Trust. And church, hopefully, is full of caring people. I say hopefully, because sometimes it doesn't work quite like that. Remember, no judgement, just acceptance, and love.
The closest friends I have are those I have had since a child or a student. They are the ones I turn to, and distance is not a barrier, although sharing a coffee in the kitchen would be lovely, now and then. We use the very same Internet which may serve to keep us shut inside our homes, and not out there making social contact with people, to stay close. It is wonderful to be in instant contact with those close friends, and these are the ones I run to, because they understand ALL of me, and have known and loved me and watched my life from childhood. A shared history. We laugh, you know, about being really old, and sitting in our rocking chairs reminiscing about our school days together one day. That might be all we can remember by then!
But there are so many other ways of making friends. You cannot tell from first meetings, whether you will become close. That is something that evolves, and you will know when the time is right, or the friend is the right one, to trust enough to unburden your heart. Desperation, or loneliness sometimes make us want to rush in and skip the first few steps of friendship, and this is a real mistake. Signing up for evening classes, the knit and natter sessions at the pub or library. The walking groups. Choirs. Gym. Sports clubs. Anything. All these things offer opportunities for friendships to take root and flourish.
Cross generational friendships are also a real blessing. I have older friends, and much younger ones as well. And yes, they all have different degrees of closeness. You do not have to be confessional friends with everyone to have close friendships. Different friends for different areas of your lives.
There is no glib solution to the problem of finding friends who could become close. I have some local friends who I absolutely love, and to whom I would entrust my life. These are not childhood friends, but rather those made in the past 23 years. And then, I have friends, who moved from being acquaintances to good friends with the discovery of common interests over the years, and then on to close trusted friends, when church became another common delight. Friends made over papier-mache monsters in a class of 10 year olds. (Mums helping in the art class one afternoon, and so a friendship of 23 years was born.)
But now, most mothers have to be out there in the work place, or at home in front of the computer working. Social contact IRL is not as easy as it once was. While I am the first to say I love the Internet and all the friendships I have made, it is also a real hindrance to face to face chatting. And no, Facetime doesn't count either.
And in a real moment of delight, the phone rang this evening as I was cooking, and it was my dear friend from Cape Town. One of David's godmothers, and we talked and talked as if it were just a day since we last spoke. That ease and familiarity has taken 33 years to evolve, and it will always be there. How blessed I am with my friends, and how dearly I cherish them. Given the lifestyle I have had, with Geoff being away 9 months of each year, I needed friends. I knew that I would be needing back up and they have been there. But, and here is the big but, it is a two way street. They are there for me. I am there for them. It has to work both ways for friendship to bloom. Like a see-saw.
There is no easy answer, is there. No quick fix. Friendship takes time, it means maybe stepping out of our comfort zone. It means letting go of rigid self-containment. It means daring to trust. It means stepping forward to help. Propping up. It means stepping back when it is none of your business. It means holding on to confidences. It means trust. It means "I have your back".
It also means laughter, tears, painted toe nails, rescuing culinary disasters, sharing rotary cutters and fabric. Head massages, dog walks, sitting in on medical appointments.
And, as one very very dear friend has just done for me, it means the surprise delivery of an "Easter Egg". 3 huge bags of compost.
As I said. I am very blessed.