What is your definition of friendship?

In high school, I was voted "Most likely to tell a story about her best best friend on earth".  What can I say?  I've got a lot of best friends.  I'm lucky - I've always made friends easily.  It's always been surprising to me that even though I've had a lot of friends, most of them are of the really quality kind - intelligent, loyal, funny, ambitious, deep and interesting.  Depending on when and what's happening in my life, I have a different best best friend on earth (bbfoe).  There are my childhood best friends - Sigalle and Danna; my high school best friends - Bianca, Amy, Suzy, Molly; my cousin best friends - Sharon, Lizzy, Jodi and Leslie K; my college best friends - Jessica, Eowyn, Kate and Robyn;  my guy best friends - Greg, Jon R., and Keith; my adult years best friends - Carmen, Sigalle (again), Tamar and Greg (again); my camp best friends - Carly, Lindsay and Tamar (again)....my sister-in-law best friend - Beth and my best, best, best friend on earth - Ted.  I've left a bunch out too (like my San Francisco bestie -Rose, and my traveling best friend - Leslie H, my auntie best friend - Alison, my new best friend - Kim and ....)

OY! Dear Other Besties - please don't be offended - you are still my best best BEST friends on earth!.  Somehow quantity has not compromised the quality of said best friends.  Everyone I've named here is still a BBFOE - even after my losing Max and my mind and a good part of my soul.

Someone left a comment the other day that I have had a hard time understanding and wrapping my brain around. The comment said (in part) " I wouldn't know how to relate to you if we ever met because it seems as though you want everyone to suffer your loss in order to understand what you're going through or be your friend."  Uh..............YA!  I still cannot tell if that was written as if it were a bad thing.  Is that too much to expect from my friend?  I am not sure what your definition of friendship is but I think you might not be aiming high enough in the friendship department.  My friends are people who I have chosen to walk through life with.  They aren't people that I was born to or that I NEED to spend time with or that I am getting paid to be around.  I chose them.  They CHOSE me.  We root for each other.  We show up for each other not only for the really exciting life events - like marriages and babies, but also for life's heartbreaks.  When my friend is suffering from a broken heart - whether because he/she lost a job or a boyfriend or a loved one or some self confidence - I suffer too.  Their loss is my loss, their gain is my gain.

It is nice to have people that you simply have uncomplicated fun with - people that you can party with or go out dancing or drinking or shopping with - but those people aren't necessarily your "friends".  When I lived in Israel, I spent a lot of time on a Kibbutz where there was a pretty large group of young Israelis and volunteers my age.  It was one of the most fun times of my entire life but I made very few genuine friends.  I had people to hang out with, go to the nearby Arab village for falafel with, and go to the pub with...but at the end of the day, I was totally replaceable - people were coming and going all of the time.  Those people weren't my friends, though I used the same word to describe them.  They were people I played with at a certain time in my life.  They were great!  But, I certainly wouldn't turn to any of them in a tragedy.  I wouldn't have cried to any of them about my broken heart.  I didn't know much about their hopes and dreams and fears.  It doesn't mean that they couldn't have grown to become real friends - they just weren't at that time.  Our "friendships" were superficial for the most part.  And that is ok.

In Hebrew we call those people who we have superficial relationships with our "Yedidim", which translates to "friends" but means something different than "Chaverim", which also translates in English to "Friends" but whose significance far surpasses those in the first category.

In times of heavy grief, we tend to go deeper within ourselves - making those superficial relationships impossible to maintain.  How can we continue to be in "friendships" with people who just want to have fun with us when we are incapable of having fun?  It is just impossible.  In times like these, we need our Chaverim, our best best friends on earth - the ones whose hearts are also broken that we are suffering - and in our case, those who are missing Maxie with us.

I read this AMAZING book recently called "A Grief Disguised: How the Soul Grows Through Loss", by Jerry Sitter.  Sitter lost his mother, wife, and two year old daughter in a car accident caused by a drunk driver.  Sitter and three of his children survived the accident.  There were may valuable lessons Sitter shared in the book.  Practically every line in my copy is highlighted.  He wrote a lot about the importance of the community that formed around him and his surviving children after the accident and about their willingness to share his pain and make themselves vulnerable.  "Throwing caution to the wind, they walked into the house and embraced me in tears, though they had no idea what to say to comfort me and the children.  They chose to make themselves available, vulnerable, and present to our suffering."

He also writes about how, many people were not able to step up to the plate, and how he knows that in the past he had been one of those people himself.  Even people who do care can't really step up  "..tragic loss, like mine, always engender a groundswell of support that ends almost as quickly as it begins.  We should not necessarily fault friends for the brevity or superficiality of their support.  I have been prone to do the same myself...I wanted to express concern, which I did.  But I did not choose to embrace the suffering and did not allow it to change my life.  In most cases I lacked the time and energy; in a few cases I also lacked the willingness and heart."

He goes on to say what this experience is like for the griever, who themselves lacks the energy to carry on the superficial relationships - too tired from just getting through the grief each day.  "I did not have enough room in my soul to let all of them in.  I could not keep retelling the same story, update people on what was happening to my children, or explain what I was thinking and how I was feeling during the many bleak days and months following the accident."  There is only so much room in one's heart.  As much as people have kept their distance from us, not wanting to get too close to our pain - we have kept those who cannot get close to our pain at a distance as well.  It goes both ways.

All of this to say -Yes, it's true.  I EXPECT my Friends....my Chaverim....feel heartbroken for us.  I expect that they are feeling broken that beautiful Max died.  Not because they "have to", just because they do.  I expect that they miss him and that they also think about him when they meet a child of 9 1/2 months, or when their own child turns 10 months or when they encounter a 2 1/2 year old child.  I expect them to feel this way because not everyone makes my BBFOE list (though it may seem otherwise) and because I really only have space in my heart for those who care.  I believe that my nearest and dearest have the same expectation of me.  I deeply care about the lives of all of my closest friends - I want for them love, happiness, health, prosperity, joy, beauty, success!  And I suffer with them through heartbreaks, physical pain, disappointment, and loss.  That is what friendship is.  If these aren't the friendships that are present in your life, you are missing the deep soul connection that is possible between human beings and I am sorry for you for that.  My friendships are incredibly rewarding and fulfilling and I wish that for you too.

"The most important thing in life is your family. There are days you love them, and others you don't, but in the end they're the people you always come home to. Sometimes it's the family you're born into, and sometimes it's the one you make for yourself." 
- cheesy Sex and the City quote 


Rebecca said...

This is interesting. Pete doesn't tell people about Toby dying because he doesn't want people to feel sorry for us. He's embarrassed when people feel really bad for us, although he certainly doesn't want them to ignore it, either. It used to make me really, really upset when my friends didn't act as heartbroken as I thought they should. That has changed in me, though. I had a friend have a baby last summer and a few weeks ago she sent me a message and said that every time he sleeps and she looks at him she thinks about us and gets really sad and scared. A year ago, I might have actually felt good about the fact that someone was thinking of Toby. Now, though, it makes me sad. I want him to be remembered, but I don't want a mother to look at her sleeping baby and feel scared and think about my dead son. I want her to look at her baby and think about how precious he is and how happy she is. I used to want people to feel a little afraid and sorrowful for us. I will never be innocent again. I wish I had that innocence back and believed that it couldn't happen. I envy my friends who feel that way and I wish I could be like them again. But I no longer want to change that in them.

I have started demanding less of people. There are those who are close to me and we occasionally talk about how I feel and how I am doing in regards to Toby. I have people I can call and talk to and cry to when I need to. (Most of those are fellow SIDS moms.) But I also have those who I DON'T talk about those things with. I have friends who I just meet for lunch, go to the movies with, and go to concerts with. I have found that I need these friendships just as much. These are casual friendships. I know they feel bad for my loss but while they don't offer me emotional support like my other friends do, I still need them. For me, I have learned that not all friendships need to fill all purposes. Naturally, I've cut out the assholes and the people who just don't care but by taking the pressure off of some of my other friendships I actually feel lighter myself.

Em said...

I love the Hebrew definition of friends. How wonderful to have more meaning to the word 'friend'. Friend almost seems too superficial now, with the advent of facebook. I have a couple of chaverim. Not as many as you but as many as I need. Not sure I could keep up with as many as you do but I'm glad you have them. And yes, my chaverim have shared my heartache over losing Eva where others drifted away. Thanks for this post. It was awesome...might even cause me to post about friends too one day soon. Also, so glad Mo made it past 9.5 months. 10 months is our magic number. Anticipating the day.

Maxie's Mommy said...

Rebecca - me too. I have "yedidim" that are nice to just laugh with...I don't share much about Maxie with them...in fact, I'd rather not. I know they couldn't really be there for me in a significant way anyhow. Then I have the "chaverim" - the ones who stick by me through thick and thin and who I will do the same for...most of them have challenges in their lives that I wasn't able to be present for in the first year of my grief but I am more present for now. Grief is always changing. But - I AM making the distinction between those friends who are like my family and those who are simply people I know and like and of course, the people who kind of showed their innate suckiness. Some of the categories got shifted around after Maxie died. Chaverim became Yedidim, Yedidim became Chaverim and the asshole category got some new individuals among their ranks as well.

Leslie K. said...

I love you Abbs and am so blessed to have you as a cousin and friend!

Jayden's Mommy said...

Friendship ha always meant a lot to me. In Proverbs 18:24 talks about a friend that sticks closer than a brother. I feel bless because I'm lucky to have so many. Through the first year of loosing Jayden they have been there. N Abby I think of Maxie every time my daughter reaches a milestone. I know one day they will meet n probably talk about (us) their crazy mothers. N I will definitely feel better once Kyle passes the 9 n half month mark. N I consider you a special friend, you may never know how much your words and your understanding has help me. I know if i lived in LA you could be "mejor amiga". Much love to you and Mo and Ted he is a lucky man. Kira