At a cottage by a lake on the Precambrian shield we four longtime friends spent this weekend together. Raising our children, we sometimes even lived in the same neighbourhood. Over the years, we shared many concerns, cheers and tears. Now after 32 years ‘the kids’ are grown up and gone, and we were four adults alone together in a cottage — and a new era.
Our weekend in the country reminded me of all this. As I reflect on the road our friendship has travelled, I realize it has taught me a lot. Like the fact that a good friendship can take a certain amount of injury from time to time. The relationship does occasionally acquire wounds and bruises that need to be ‘kissed better’. And good friends are more than willing to spend time working-through issues that come up – and they do — or to dab a little reassuring ointment on the bonds as well.
Another lesson worth reflecting on is the beneficial effect of trusting in time. Not as in the traditional saying, “Time heals all wounds” (because it doesn’t), but in the sense that when a friendship has endured, you can have a certain amount of faith that the opportunity will eventually arise for nursing, processing, and strengthening. That equal partners in a friendship are ultimately willing to give it what it needs.
Now this is all assuming that the friendship was worth engaging in from the start. I often doubt that, among some of the people I know. They behave as if they aren’t friends at all, but have been somehow stuck together by circumstances beyond their control – like attending the same high school. But in our case, there has been much common interest, like a belief in the need for social change, and compassion for ‘the underdog’.
Our friendship has, on rare occasions, seemed to be about to burn out or disappear. But it never did. Always one or another of us would invest in it again, with another effort, another struggle of some kind. A willingness to see what time or patience or tentativeness – or talking through — might do for it. And here we are, still (and again) willing to engage in creating meals together, creating dialogues together, accommodating and forgiving, struggling about meanings. And that pattern of struggle and accommodation is what, in a sense, gives our friendship its own meaning. Its own patina.
We are able to laugh at ourselves and appreciate the underlying nature of the relationship we have. Like the Precambrian shield millions of years old underlying the centuries of pine needles that soften the walking together and the sparkling water in the lake that appears after the early morning mist. Somehow it all speaks of the richness of enduring friendship.