I saw some of my friends today. Not all of them by any means, but a few, more than I think I’ve seen all year, and these only for two hours.
They are people I’ve shared experiences with for more than 20 years and who, despite that, will still show up to slop around a muddy field playing disc golf on a December morning.
We didn’t talk about much. Afterwards my wife asked me how everyone was doing, what was happening in their lives, whether we might see so-and-so at such-and-such an event next year. I couldn’t really answer any of those questions. We didn’t really cover them.
Instead we laughed at each other, tried to put each other off our shots, cheered when the mud rose towards welly-overtopping level and, so it seemed to me, enjoyed each other’s company in the simplest possible fashion.
Just being around people for whom you need put up no sort of front at all is such a holy relief. Having people you can see for the first time in two years and pick up with as if it were last week is a blessing.
When you’re isolated from your friends, it can feel as if the wellspring of your being is being choked off. Certainly the most satisfying, nurturing and just plain pleasurable things in my life come from connections with other people. Unfortunately, making and sustaining connections is not my natural mode of operation.
I had friends at school and lost these when I went to college. I lost all but one of my college friends when I went to university. Through a combination of circumstances, I also managed to lose all my university friends over the five years after graduation, the space being taken by friends I made through ultimate frisbee. Now I don’t play ultimate frisbee any more, and so my connections are beginning to crackle and fade. I miss them badly.
Where I live, I could cover a radius of 60 or 70 miles counting the people I have known for more than ten years and, discounting family and workmates, I would only need the fingers of one hand. And not all of those. It’s a poverty.
So when I drove over to see my friends this morning I knew it was rare time and that the only way to make the most of it was to pretend that it wasn’t. Keep cracking the same old gags, keep probing the same old sore spots, keep comically playing up the same flaws and weaknesses, knowing that in this company all those things are permissible, expected.
You never know what you’ve got until it’s gone. I love where we live, I love what we do, I love the people I spend time with, in and out of work, but my heart has been compensating for the fact that my old old friends are so very very far away by growing hard to that fact. Instead of dealing with it by contacting them, finding ways to spend time with them, staying in touch in a meaningful way, I’ve subconsciously focussed on closing off that part of me and imagining that it doesn’t matter so much. And that sucks really badly.
As an aside, this morning also forced home the sense that two hours of meaningless waffle with my friends is worth more than a year of thumbing up and down a screen, wondering what they are up to and whether any of them remember me. I deleted Facebook from my phone this afternoon. Not because I think it’s an evil but because checking, rechecking, thumbing, is a drag on my mind and every time I do it, it reminds me, in some very small degree, about the real friendships I’m not looking after.
To all you lot out there, I really miss you.