One Is Silver; the Other Is Gold

About ten years ago, I had a conversation with a woman I like about making new friends. She said, without hesitation or affectation, that she had enough friends and that she really didn’t have room for any more. She wasn’t saying that she didn’t want to become acquainted with new people but that she simply didn’t have the bandwidth to sustain any more close friendships due to the time and commitment involved in keeping strong the ones she already had.

At the time, her comments shocked me, even as I, too, felt as though one more person of significance in my life might just put me over sanity’s edge. Our children were young and needy; our friends, most of them also parents, were strung out and needy; our spouses/significant others were stressed out and needy; and our parents, often neglected by us, also were needy.

My shock, I think, came from this fear that if I didn’t keep building on what I already had, I might one day find myself alone. The odd thing about this is that I am somebody who needs my alone time more than most people. Some people turn to social situations to replenish themselves when they are worn down; I’m someone who replenishes myself in solitude. Yet, I deeply need to be around people too, in particular people whom I am in a reciprocal relationship with, whether they are family or friend. I’m what you might call an introverted extrovert. Or an extroverted introvert. I don’t know which one.

My friend was right, though. At that point in time, I wasn’t seeking new relationships probably because I didn’t have the room for them. I wasn’t looking back to old friends either. I spent my limited free time with the people whom I could reach out and touch, mostly those who lived within a ten-mile radius of my home.

A lot changes in ten years. The biggest change is that my kids are more self-sufficient and by choice, spend more time away from home. This means I have more time to pursue my passions and to spend with friends.  Each year, I find myself reaching out further and wider to people with whom I can share some part of me that has surfaced or resurfaced as I’ve had more time to explore myself, my world and to address some of the existential questions that grow out of such exploration.

I feel as though my world has expanded in so many good ways through both new friendships and renewed ones. There is nothing as uplifting as laughing with somebody you’ve known since you were five nor as soulful as talking for hours with somebody you’ve recently gotten to know. And there is the intense feeling of your life coming together when a staid friendship blossoms into something deep and connected. Having the room to make these things happen fills me with a sense of joy about the rest of my life, the second act, so to speak, which I hope will be at least as long as the first act.

Though as I open myself up to new people, I frequently find that I have moments of shyness, that fear that somebody who interests me, whom I want to know better often for reasons I can’t pinpoint, couldn’t care less whether or not I come into their lives. If I reach out to somebody and they seem surprised or thrown off-balance by my desire to spend time with them, I can’t help but feel a little bit rejected, even when I know that my perceptions may be wrong or their reactions may be the result of their own insecurities or issues that have nothing to do with me.

Anais Nin says that “each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.”

I love the idea that we are each made up of so many worlds that we don’t even know exist until somebody enters our life and gives him or herself over to us at the same time as we give ourselves over to her or him.

How about you? What does friendship mean to you and how has it changed over time? Do you like the idea that we draw out of others new worlds when we get to know them better? Please share your thoughts in the comments section.






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14 thoughts on “One Is Silver; the Other Is Gold

  1. Sara- this was a wonderful piece for me to read on two levels. The first is specific: I felt this way about YOU when we met last year – excited and nervous, a little bit like having a crush – I am an extroverted extrovert, and that sense of connection with a new person always fills me with joy and also a sense of optimism about the world, which can be very lonely. The second is more general: I wish that everyone felt that sense of wonder and promise- what Nin calls a new world and what I think of as the romance of making connections – that you describe so beautifully in your piece. I have been traveling a good deal lately, and I find that the most wearying day can be improved by refusing to remain anonymous, and occasionally I am rewarded with the start of a wonderful new friendship.

    1. Your comments made me smile. Meeting you was great fun. You are most definitely an extroverted extrovert! It’s hard to believe it’s been a year since the NYC conference. Have you sent your manuscripts out yet? Let’s plan a reunion for sometime in the winter or spring.

  2. Sara, your post comes at a time when I’m not exactly needy, but definitely stressed. This past year has been full of huge life events, mostly of the fun and fantastic variety, but even good things bring on stress.

    This has me thinking of Grey’s Anatomy, how Christina and Meredith are each others ‘Person’. I’m blessed to have more than one Person, friends who can be counted on to cry or woot with as the occasion demands, and who graciously put our friendship on standby when life has become so hectic I have no choice but to shut out the world and get things done. Or find some solitude.

    Still, some new friendships have taken root – a big surprise for this introvert.

    1. It is great to have your “Person” or “Persons.” You’re very lucky. I feel equally blessed but also am always thrilled to find new people who are doing things are thinking things that inspire me or excite me.

  3. I’ve been thinking about friendship a lot since I turned 50. I actually want more — at least in my home town. Aside from my sisters, I can’t think of anybody that is my “go-to” friend anymore for last minute movies, hanging out at gardening shops, etc. I have many friends across the country and across the ocean who could fill that bill, but few in town. I’ve tried all those tricks they tell you to make friends. As I’ve grown older I’ve changed and want different things out of life than the people I used to hang with. As I’ve chased those loves from state to state and country to country I’ve met people like me. However, none of them are close enough to hang with on a Saturday night. Or, if I do meet someone I might like, I do get that vibe that their dance card is full.

    1. I think you find friends when you least expect to. If your sisters are nearby, that sounds pretty nice to me. I’m so sensitive to that “vibe” re: the full dance card but have found that when I’ve pushed myself to try anyway, usually those people are just scared or uncomfortable with not knowing if somebody is right for them.

  4. Love this. As I read your post, I swear it was like you were looking right inside my head and translating with your lovely, succinct prose my exact experiences and thoughts. I also like the Anais Nin quote, which reminds me of another quote I like (though I can’t remember who is credited with it): “Each person we meet is like a story we haven’t yet read.”

    1. We’re around the same age, aren’t we? I find that many of my same age friends are going through similar thought processes re: friendships. And similar experiences. I wished I could find a way to mention my “on-line” friends in this because they are a whole new group of people whom play an important role in my life.

  5. I love this post, Sara! It’s a great reminder that there are times in our lives when we reach out to a wider circle of people, and times when we just sustain (or are sustained by) what we have. I don’t have kids yet, but I know that the rhythms of my work schedule can cause these kinds of seasons. Still, I’m thankful for friends in all seasons–however many I may be maintaining 🙂

  6. This post makes me remember being reluctantly relocated north of Boston, MA with three babies from what I thought would be my forever home, here in NC. I will always be grateful to you, and our other neighbors, for befriending me and patiently teaching me the survival skills necessary to live way up there. My thoughts on the length of the day this time of year? Thank God for other people and their holiday lights, book groups open to a new person, volunteer choirs…and indoor tennis courts.

    Brave other moms of toddlers gave me the pep talks necessary to get out of the house with my 3 toddlers when it got warm enough to go to local playgrounds and not have the kids freeze to the equipment. I think you and I took occasional insanely cold and early morning winter walks…sanity saving walks for me.

    I am very thankful that you and others were willing to add another friend to your circle of friends. If not, those 5 years away from “home” would have been very lonely. I have wonderful memories I can reflect upon and friends we can visit when we find ways to travel back to the North Shore. It is fun being the tourist who hugs people she finds around town!

    It is amazing to see how grown up and beautiful your daughters have become. Their photos reveals an inner beauty as well. In my mind, they are perpetually frozen at the preschool age and so seeing their photos is always a pleasant surprise.

    Perhaps the best learning experience was in how to be a better friend and neighbor to those who move to my small southern town from the Northeast and other faraway places. I now have neighbors from Boston. It is incredibly fun to chat with them about the differences in the two cultures, especially the differences in driving!

    1. I can’t believe you were only here for 5 years. I would have guessed longer. Maybe because it was during our kids formative years. I have the same response to your kids. When did they get so old? I never would have said that we let you into our circles; I’d say we formed circles together. It is amazing how the culture of two cities on the same coast are so different.

  7. Sara, I’ve experienced the same response when reaching out to make friends since I moved to the Bay Area back in 1987. I couldn’t comprehend the closed-offness I was running up against coming from a Midwestern background. Then, finally I realized that everyone was too busy and believed didn’t have time for more in their lives. I jokingly would say that “someone had to die before you’d get on someone’s friend list”. Sad but true. As soon as I can divorce myself from the high tech industry, I will leave this area. Believe it or not, Los Angeles is a must friendlier city!

    1. It’s so disappointing to come across that kind of attitude especially when you are looking for people to get to know. Good thing our WANAs are such a friendly bunch. Doesn’t matter where you are for us. 😉

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