"Whoa! Whoa!! Whoa! Time-out. Let me get this straight; you know her, she knows you, but she wants to eat him?! And everyone is ok with this!? DID I MISS SOMETHING?!” This is a scene from Lion King, the movie, showing Timone’s outrage when Simba introduces Nala as his best friend, but the Nala had been chasing Pumba for dinner, his, Timone, and Simba’s friend. Like everyone else, Timone has expectations of what a friend, here best friend, would or wouldn’t do!
Friends, huh? Everyone has friend, yeah? I have several and no, the number I have on Facebook is just that – a number! How might it be possible that you have five hundred plus friends? I want to think not, because like all relationships friendships need nurturing and are some sort of constant work and a number of hundreds in friends will exhaust you just at trying! Some of my friendships have often left me wondering about things. Friendships between friends of mine have too. I always question what is friendship really? Or what is a friend! I have friends that I remember from my first grade and from my tenth birthday party but I am not in constant touch with but I know they are my friends albeit lack of correspondence. I have the kind that needs constant texting, calling and “filling in” on what’s going on in my life! But that doesn’t make them better friends than the rest. Then there is the kind that I know when all chips are down and s*%&t hits the fan, will be there for me regardless of when we last spoke! Now are those better friends than the other lot? Not necessarily. I’ve come to know that each friendship fills its bit in the web of my ‘friendship’ life. The friend who knows where I am all the time, the one that I text that I just crossed the border or touched ground at some airport, the one that I text when I get into and out of the shower and/or bed is not inescapably the one I will call when my little girl has a horrendous fever at three in the morning or when I find out that my boyfriend of close to nine years has been cheating on me for three of those years.
About a month ago I sat down for coffee and those gorgeous giant muffins with a friend who was relocating to Trinidad and Tobago. Before this meet up we had not spoken or seen each other for over three years and before that almost five years between the times that we were at university. She had been to the United Kingdom and stayed in Cape Town as well for a bit. We have been friends for over 20 years and I am mad about her and she is crazy about me and that alone keeps us friends. I have her email address and she has mine but a one liner irregularly is good enough.
Just last night I was going through my French text books from my university years (I am refining my French at a French Teaching Centre here). A picture of an old friend fell out from one of the books I was holding; I met it with a smile, and where it had fallen out there was evidence of a conversation we had had the night the picture was given to me. I doodle a lot when am talking and actually write conversations as they happen. This was more than 15 years ago and between that we had kept in touch to know about the birth of his first daughter and him that of my second daughter, big notable events! But this is someone I know has my back, all the time, and will go to the ends of the earth for me! Well, maybe not so much, but you get the picture, yeah? This guy likes me, and we have adopted each other, he is my brother and thinks of me as his little sister. I do not know how it came to be, honestly I couldn’t be bothered with the how, but now there is a friendship! This is a guy I can tell anything to, anything really, to how much I need to get laid already, safely. I know he is not going to try and bed me himself. Now tell me that isn’t a friendship worth keeping. Every girl needs a friend like that, trust me. He was there at times when I needed him when nothing made sense and a phone call or a text that spelt it out for me “this too shall pass” sufficed. He listens. When I miss him I call him and he does the same when he misses me. When his daughter was in hospital with a pneumonia scare, I held his hand every night as he sat by her hospital bedside with her “worrying” uneven breathing. I was in another country but I knew it was important that I be there for him at this time, checking on them constantly and just listening when that was all that he needed from me. He is not my Facebook friend; we do not need validation.
All these realisations and revelations haven’t always been clear-cut to me and they came somewhat painfully. The other time I was whining to a friend about another friend who I felt was not being a good best friend. I had heaps and heaps of stories to justify this claim, about this friend not being bestie after all. My friend asked me “does she know she is your best friend, bestest as you put it?” she continued, “and do you know that though she may be your best, you may not necessarily be her best friend. And since she isn’t you, the things that you expect of her as your bestie may be different from what she perceives of besties?” Aha! I thought. But some things are clear-cut, or are they not really? I think she is a friend, just! Bestie? Maybe, maybe not! Will I still drop everything to help her with something when she asks? Yeah, maybe! And will I hurt when she doesn’t reciprocate? Probably! But with time all will work itself out I am sure, or some heart to heart could get us to the same or show us we needn’t be. This friend also shared with me something that enlightened me and I wondered why it had not been made into a friendship ground rule. She said to me ”I have come to know that only I am responsible for how I feel, and no one, not even a great friend should be made to take over such an integral part of my emotions, and consequently my life. Only I am responsible for how I feel.” Now, how’s that for a mantra?
A fellow blogger at MostlyUhuru said this of relationships, and that by extension could be applied to friendships as well; “one of the most important factors in relationships we build with others is 'showing up',”! I have said to friends that if at any-time I have a need, seeing them even as their hands aren't full of stuff to give me I would be the happiest. It is comforting to know someone is thinking of you when you're in a not so savoury situation. Another friend told me at another time that expectations reduce joy and that most times we are hurt more by our expectations than by the people themselves. Ah! Friends or no friends, I will be happy because I have me to make me happy, but of course I cherish all these friendships of mine. They are all special to me in their different and unique ways. To friendship!