Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Of Friendship and the Cadence of Life

Some years ago, a new friend of mine surprised me one day by announcing that she had determined I was "above the fold." Laughing a bit at herself, she explained a philosophy that sounds arrogant at first but holds significant wisdom. The gist of the "above the fold" philosophy of friendship, as I have come to understand it, is this. Most of us meet a great many people in the span of our lives. Sheer logistics dictate that we cannot count them all among our bosom buddies, nor can we spend equal time and emotional energy on each and every relationship. Just as newspaper editors place key stories above the physical fold of the paper, we sometimes need to determine which friendships are key relationships in our lives.

For me, these are the friends I deliberately choose to spend time with, those whose advice I seek and value, the companions I would invite to my vacation home...if I had one. I dare say some of these people would be surprised to find themselves above the fold on my list of friends. I avoid talking on the phone, value my time alone, and have proven terrible at maintaining long distance relationships. Still, when I pick up the phone to find an unexpected voice from long ago on the other end, the years melt away, and I relax into the familiar cadence of an interrupted conversation.

A recent birthday call took me back to Memorial Day weekend, 1992. April had flown into town from Houston for a visit. In our fifteen years of friendship, I had often played the wise big sister role. This time, however, April sensed my need for perspective and dragged me up the canyon for a quick camping trip. We left my toddler son and terminally ill husband in the care of my in-laws.

Finding all the official campgrounds full for the holiday weekend, we set up camp in a quiet spot near the “gnome caves.” Long after dark, we built a roaring campfire and talked of life and death in the philosophical way of twenty-somethings coming face to face with mortality. We laughed over the pages of Robert Fulghum’s “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten,” and I returned home the next day buoyed up enough to carry on for another week or so.

More recently, I sat with friends over lunch, chatting casually about the momentous and the inconsequential in our lives. I have known these three women for barely a year, and we spend little time together. Occasionally, we day trip to St. Louis or catch up with one another at book group. Still, the conversation was easy, comfortable. I trust these women, know instinctively that I could safely cry with them, serve with them, or celebrate with them. Their association gives me strength.
Even Jesus, though he was the Savior of all mankind and associated with lepers and noblemen alike, found refuge in a few close friendships. Though the crowds followed him, and though he took the time to bless and heal, to seek out the lost sheep, when the Savior of the world craved solace himself, he went fishing with Peter or dined with Lazarus and his sisters.

Over a period of decades, I have gradually internalized this concept of the need for friendships that nourish the soul. Not until my 30s did I begin to truly understand the value of close girl friends, not just women to hang out with, but confidantes. Through a number of years of early morning walks and monthly foodfests over a Scrabble board, I came to depend upon those confidantes. I also learned, through trial and sometimes painful error, to trust my own rhythms when it comes to relationships. Those rhythms bring music to my life.


  1. I didn't appreciate it at the time, but my years in Chicago were the only ones so far in my life when I had friends that were like this for me. It just seemed to happen, so I didn't realize how special it was. In VT you and a few others were people I knew would fill that role if I needed someone, but distance was a barrier, and depression and other struggles were repellant. Not fun to be tight with a needy, insecure, downer of a friend!

    Here, I am happy. I have good people around me. But I generally have to make an effort to have those kinds of interactions. People are all"set up" with their families and friends; they don't necessarily need another person in their lives. So If I don't initiate time together, it just doesn't seem to happen.

    It's good that I've gotten comfortable with family all went off to school every day and I had hours to fill. Making peace with myself and my life has been a long time coming. It's nice to finally be there.

  2. I'm going to try one more time to post this. My own blog won't let me comment! I actually thought about you when I wrote this, Blue. You've always been above the fold for me and have been an inspiration in many respects. I'm so glad to hear you've made peace with yourself.