Kathy's post on friendship, and the difficulties of navigating this world of creating new connections in an old habit (self) has me and others thinking. Those of us who post on here, in blogs or comments, are often introspective types. I could probably write an advice column on "How to have a more fulfilling relationship with your borderline personality disordered feline" and come up with new material on a regular basis. (I type this as mine has put her catself within arm’s reach of my busy hands).
I'm a sociable gal who also happens to be an introvert. This means I need regular breaks from human contact, and "down time" to declutter my psychic space from the onslaught of inputs. I don't try to keep up with the Joneses, or the Smiths, or the Kardashians. I purposefully and deliberately make plans to not have plans, and try to craft unstructured time in which I am to do less than more. This is not only not celebrated in American culture, but perhaps deemed pathological. What kind of reality show would I make? About a ten minute one, in which they find I can be fascinating at cocktail parties, and then not so much at home. How do I cultivate this persona non drama?
Over time, I have struggled to accept that I am, in fact, more of a loner than I want to be. I have social skills, can dress well enough, instigate and maintain interesting conversations, show deadly wicked humor if I'm in the mood for it, and all around decent person (for a liberal, feminist, untheist). Some of this is innate, some of it is acquired, some of it in transition. For instance, it is no longer charming to stay until 2 am at someone else’s party. Of course, I also no longer know people who have parties that go to 2 am, if at all. This is called.... well, not sure... it either involves maturity or plain old adrenal fatigue. My rechargeable batteries take longer to recharge, and have a shorter activity life.
When looking for friends, we choose quality AND quantity. Quantity can be number of people we can call on a Saturday afternoon and merely suggest getting together without a three week plan and NOT look desperate or inconsiderate. Quantity can be the allotted amount that any given person can expect reciprocity of phone minutes, text messages, or actual hours in each other's company. Quantity can be how many issues or topics we can hope to discuss without recrimination. Quantity can be the size of the group that can be included in socialization with this person. Is she a one on one friend only? Is she friendly with other friends? Is she the kind of person that is only there to keep company in large group situations?
Quality is a bit more of a ranking on how much we would do for this person, if asked. I think most of us like to consider ourselves generous, selfless, giving, thoughtful, compassionate people. There is always a line in a relationship, that which can and can't be crossed. We could probably natter on all day long with colleagues about many subjects, but would not go to that person's house and help them with personal hygiene if they were physically indisposed. Even some of my closer friends are well clear of that line, and you can't always determine who will and who won't show up in the face of disaster. It's a self sorting group.
What do we want when we want a friend? Is it someone who will always take or return our calls? Is it someone who knows the harmony to our melody? Is it the person we can use the most words with, or the least? There is the person who knows you- your history, your preferences, your quirks- and the person who gets you. We each have a Tao of relating, and some are just created to leap into the center of our space with more facility than others. Not always being a better friend, but being a closer vibration to our own cosmic signal. A soul mate doesn’t need to be a sex mate, after all.
Recently, I have struggled a little with social boredom. I crave to find things more interesting. This isn't new, this pops its head up periodically, particularly around the warmer summer (Arizona) weather. I go through my list of "go-to" hobbies and find that almost all of them are one on one with me, myself and I. I have had to adapt most of my interests to things I can find the time to do regularly, can afford to do, can be picked up or put down with ease (book, knitting, exercise, whatnot), and tucked in to an ever tightening space/time continuum. Some things cannot be overlooked forever (dishes and laundry) in face of fun time. Some things will not be given up by me (regular meals and quality sleep). The opportunity cost of connecting with another suddenly includes gas money, general atmosphere, recovery time, time involved getting groomed, and expected return of satisfaction for the said engagement. Is it worth giving up time with my sweetie? Is it worth the 40 plus minutes of driving? Is it sufficiently delicious to warrant a likely $30 tab? Do I like these people enough to make small talk over messy appetizers and cheap wine?
I envy those who cannot tell the difference between cheap and quality beverages and food (sometimes). They are not hindered by their senses. I have such strong sensory intake, I will often pay for days the cola, chips, or hot dog offered up at a gathering- or just the constant noise of music and video games in the background.
Being able to participate without complaint is key for social success, and the bar is set too low for my nervous system most of the time. The burden of becoming a healthier person with a higher quality of life is having to refrain and disdain. Cheap libations and crappy entertainment are toxic to the sensitive soul. It is with the realization that the hangover is not worth the experience- whether it is a spiritual, emotional or physical one- that the need for friendship changes. In turn, I may have less to offer others because I seek to keep a little more for myself.