See, how it works is, the train moves, not the station.

Tonight I sat across from a friend whom I've known for close to four and a half years. Knowing me, that's quite a feat. I've never been particularly skilled at keeping people around for a long period of time. I used to torture myself through my late teens and early 20s, lamenting the fact that it was probably some mortal flaw within me that made it impossible for me to like any part of any person enough to make their entire person worth knowing [for very long]. I genuinely felt I was an asshole of the highest order, and that I was to be relegated to a life of friendlessness similar to the life I had perceived my parents living. But in stark contrast to my self-flagellating cynicism that's carried me through three decades and countless friends-lost, I held my Red Headed Slut shot high above the wobbly iron patio table at Hard Times Cafe and clanked it against my friend's glass - "To all the friends we've loved and lost. Fuck 'em!"

It seems rather appropriate yet yawntastically boring for me to reflect on friendship as I approach my 30th birthday, but that's what I'm gonna do because that's what I'm doing. You can't argue; this is my blog. It's really fucking difficult to be my friend sometimes. I'm needy, judgmental, passive aggressive, nosey, guilty, whiny, suspicious and hypocritical. I'm everything I hate in other people. I said to my friend tonight that while turning 30 seems like a whole bunch of nothing special at all, that I am marking the occasion with a commitment to myself and a commitment to the world: before I open my trap and whine about how much you don't love me, I'm going to think about all the ways I haven't shown you love first. Now, don't go out and write a self-help book with that little ponder-able. Sometimes there's a lot to be learned in reflecting on the love you give other people...and why you instinctively and subconsciously make the choices you do. Call it selective reduction, call it self-preservation. It's worth thinking about. Anyway.

At one point during the course of dinner, my friend was talking about family and friends who held him to standards far beyond any personal aspirations of his own. People make the standard excuses; we're tired, we're old, we're lazy, we're undignified jerks who would rather drink beer alone than be forced to socialize with anyone for any reason whatsoever. As we chuckled about our own personal issues with this sort of Standardization of Friendships, I caught a few notes from Billy Joe's song "My Life" and began to giggle. Thinking it terribly rude of me to giggle while my friend talked, I rudely interrupted him to tell him why I was laughing. What? I'm from the suburbs. So I told him that it was pleasantly ironic that this song, which is essentially telling someone to fuck off/I'm fine, was playing as we were both grappling with the ramifications of not particularly caring when someone is dissatisfied with our commitment to them.
I don't need you to worry for me cause I'm alright
I don't want you to tell me it's time to come home
I don't care what you say anymore, this is my life
Go ahead with your own life, and leave me alone
In attempt to not get killed (and also secure a room for the night) Chi-Chi Rodriguez, as played by John Leguizamo in the movie Too Wong Foo Thanks For Everything, Julie Newmar, reminded her traveling companions that "no one is so rich as to throw away a friend". No, we certainly are not all rich enough to dispose of the possibility of welcoming a new person into our life who may share our interests, our dreams, their booze, some oatmeal raisin cookies, hopes and the like. Yet at the same time, I know that there is only so much of me. This in turn reminds me that there is only so much of everyone else, and my share might be far less than what I can give them (and/or vice versa). The friend I shared a meal with tonight was someone I almost literally grabbed by the shoulders and shook when I was at a grave time of crisis in my own life, because he wasn't capable of giving me what I needed. But I survived. Perhaps that is what makes our friendship so valuable; I can be vulnerable and share in his company when I see him, and care for myself when I can't. If I forced things, or if he forced things, then our friendship would most likely end or be entirely unsatisfying.

We all most certainly need the company of others to feed our souls (and our bellies if they are good cooks!). It is a significant accomplishment on my part, however, to simultaneously know both what I am capable of and what I need. It makes what I have so much sweeter and what I don't have so much less of a concern. Maybe I've figured out how to be a friend, and have a friend, much more than I ever realized. Maybe I'm just working on calming down. Maybe I've finally convinced myself that everything is going to be just fine and that, despite how much it pains me to use a cliche as support for my position, I really just need to sit back and smell the goddamn roses.

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All content © Meaghan O'Malley, 2009-2012. Header image by Rebekka Seale.