Wednesday, September 22, 2010

their names even rhyme


Albert Camus wrote that the only serious question is whether to kill yourself or not. Tom Robbins wrote that the only serious question is whether time has a beginning and an end. Camus clearly got up on the wrong side of bed, and Robbins must have forgotten to set the alarm.

There is only one serious question. And that is:

Who knows how to make love stay?

Answer me that and I will tell you whether or not to kill yourself. Answer me that and I will ease your mind about the beginning and the end of time. Answer me that and I will reveal to you the purpose of the moon.

-Tom Robbins, Still Life With Woodpecker

Over the past year this quote from Tom Robbins has been wandering over the spaces in my mind. In the wandering, I've been substituting friendship for love.

Who knows how to make friendship stay?

A couple of weekends ago, we welcomed two of my high school buddies to visit. Karen and Sharon. We ate lunch together in some way/shape/form for our four high school years. Occasionally Sharon was missing. And sometimes it was Karen. Our friend Edith was also a prominent lunchtime fixture. There were others that came and went during those years, but these faces were something I could count on. We lost touch after high school. The magic of Facebook cured that last year.

A few things about Karen:
. She is just as dry-humored and hilarious at 36 as she was at 17.
. You might have to look her in the eye and possibly stare at her for a few beats to see if she's being serious or sarcastic or both (not an easy task).
. She is a dedicated mother to two scrumptiously adorable girls - whom she not only feeds / houses / tends to general mothering duties, but also homeschools. Did I say she was dedicated?
. She doesn't take herself too seriously, which is a wonderful trait to have when you are my friend. (I take myself too seriously.)
. She somehow seems to not only suffer through, but actually enjoys listening to my long nonsense rambles.

A few things about Sharon:
. She is profoundly patient when weekend plans get rewritten several times over due to a sick Alice Bean.
. She is profoundly patient with aforementioned Alice Bean.
. She enjoys introducing aforementioned Alice Bean to the wonders of Disneyland and Mickey Mouse, through the magic of mobile phone pictures and videos. (Alice, after the education session and for several days following, "LET'S GO SEE MICKEY MOUSE'S HOUSE!")

Karen and Sharon have been friends since they were 7 (or was it 8?). They met in Girl Scouts.

Between laughing at yearbook pictures and visiting several of my favorite shopping spots, I posed the question to them. How do you make friendship stay? It was late at night over caramel Rice Krispie squares when they told me. Sharon said, "I think we're still friends because we dislike the same people." They both laughed at that - and I caught the briefest of flickering looks between the two of them. The look that says they've answered the question before, that they've thought about their enduring friendship and this is the fun answer. This is the answer they give because it makes sense. It melts their experiences, their fights, their tears, their tenacity of holding on to each other when their circumstances would point to a different option, a much easier option - to let it all go. When faced with the choice of not caring about the other person, they have said no. Again and again, they've said no and they've held on and they've carried on and they've gotten through whatever it was that would have them no longer relating.

This is why I keep wondering over the question, chewing on it like a dog with a bone. How do you make friendship stay? I've stared down the barrel of friendships, watched them in the crosshairs of different life choices and different life circumstances. Time and again, the easiest answer has been to move on. To let go. Not always my choice, either. But you get the picture. Enduring friendships, the ones that last, are few and far between.

How do you make friendship stay?

Karen and Sharon would have you believe that the key is to hate the same people.

But that's not really it. That isn't what has them traveling long distances to visit one another and share in each other's lives despite the fact that they went to separate colleges, the fact that they live several hundred miles away from each other now - and their lives are different. Very different. The key to their friendship isn't that they don't like the same people. It's the opposite: they love the same people. They love the skinny arms and legs and long braids of the girls they were together - and they love the women they are today. They've taken the time, and continue to take the time - to expend the energy to know each other, yesterday and today. They don't rest on the laurels of their past friendship, but continue to pull it into the future by truly sharing themselves and what they've become. Real friends. Real friendship. Karen and Sharon know how to make it stay.

Who knows how to make love stay?

Tell love you are going to the Junior's Deli on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn to pick up a cheesecake, and if love stays, it can have half. It will stay.

Tell love you want a memento of it and obtain a lock of its hair. Burn the hair in a dime-store incense burner with yin/yang symbols on three sides. Face southwest. Talk fast over the burning hair in a convincingly exotic language. Remove the ashes of the burnt hair and use them to paint a mustache on your face. Find love. Tell it you are someone new. It will stay.

Wake love up in the middle of the night. Tell it the world is on fire. Dash to the bedroom window and pee out of it. Casually return to bed and assure love that everything is going to be all right. Fall asleep. Love will be there in the morning.

- Tom Robbins, Still Life With Woodpecker

Tell me your secrets. Do you know how to make friendship stay?


Sibley Saga .... said...

I don't know any secrets. I wish I did. I just keep trying.

Tenacity maybe?

Bethsix said...

So, my first inclination was to respond to your post with the word, "NOPE." (Bitter much?)

I remember my friend Joanna as my most consistent high school lunch buddy. My high school had three different lunch shifts, so we didn't eat together all four years. In 9th grade, I had a weird, all-grades speech elective at the lunch period, and NONE of my middle school friends were in the same lunch shift. It was horrifying. I remember eating with a junior or senior girl named Krista who seemed to have the same friend issue but was also annoyed to be eating with a freshman. :(

I don't know what the answer is. I don't seem to be able to do a very good job of it. I have friends I've known most of my life (6th grade on), but most of those are pretty surfacey or based on nostalgia at this point. We all became really different people. And this is to say nothing of the invisible wall I seem to have separating me from people.

Nostalgia is fine. It's great, even, but like you said, you can't have that be the central thread of your friendship. You have to keep pulling your relationship toward the future.

It seems like this is easier with some people than others, though, or more natural.

kately said...

The true friends i've had since youth are maintained because we truly care of about each other's lives and even though we sometimes have gaps in talking with each other that span months - almost a year sometimes - we understand it and it doesn't make a difference. Other friendships go by the wayside because each person has a different rhythm and we just don't sync up, mainly in communication regularly to stay fresh on each other's lives so we can share day to day struggles, joys, etc. When you stop sharing those things, then the things you talk about when you do finally talk are surfacy and there's just no way it seems to get into the meat of what mattered to you several weeks ago, because it is gone and something else has taken its place and you don't have the energy to relive it again in conversation just to bring the other person up to speed. Meaningful friendships are ones, in my estimation that support each other in the details of the days and not the bullet points that make up the month's activities.