It’s funny, this life. I think I can honestly say in all these years the thing I’ve given most value to has been friends. In a real, true, deep, fuck-everything-else sense. I’ve done the sensible stuff and the crazy stuff. I’ve embraced challenges and fights. I love them. I am them. I learn from them. I feel with them. All of them. Some more some less, some now, some yesterday and tomorrow but not now. Some forever. Some interrupted.
I never signed up to the old adage of ‘you only have a few close friends you can trust in life’. Bullshit. You start from trust -maybe cautious trust, maybe instant trust- and see where it takes you. Granted, this way you get hurt more but you also love more. And learn more.
Today I met an amazing friend who lives far, far away. Clever, witty, incredible woman. She was in London briefly for a conference. I insisted that she go to the theatre to see Emilia. She did. I sat in a café doing some particularly tedious work, waiting for the end of the show. I met her outside just to see that light in her eyes. She was overwhelmed, unable to find words. That feeling. That Emilia feeling. I hugged her. Had to rush off. I’m still high on her excitement.
Two days ago I learned a soul-brother back home was dealing with some serious illness in his family. Twenty minutes later we were on the phone, distance dissolved, formalities skipped, and we talked about life and death and love and more life, between traffic noise -at this end- and council appointments -at the other.
I said funny because only about two of my friends live less than 50 miles away. When it’s not 500. Or 5000. What’s even less funny is that I don’t seem to be able to figure out what the issue is with making friends in the 35-50 age bracket. It seems to be a time when most people (including me!) are too busy with their lives, their diaries taken up by so much stuff that only long-standing solid friendships find space in the occasional gaps. I have, in the past, been tempted to attribute this to cultural factors – being a foreigner, being an overenthusiastic southern European who gesticulates too much. I’ve given it a lot of thought and decided it’s an explanation that doesn’t hold. There must be a whole bunch of much more valid reasons. And a lot of them are probably to do with how ‘stuff’ and prescribed activities consume us to the point that we don’t have time, space, and emotional resources to connect with each other much.
Which is probably why I love hiding in a theatre. Ideally by myself. And going to gigs. Ideally NOT by myself. In these places connection is almost inevitable. And real. And acceptable. And unfortunately short-lived.
And it is also why I really value the much-debated social media. Warts and all. Online a common interest can become an honest conversation. Occasionally even a friendship. With real people. Of flesh and bones and hearts. It depends, of course. There are risks, of course. Trust is even more problematic, of course. But it is possible. It is more possible than with busy diaries and improbable childcare arrangements. And sometimes possibility is all you need to keep going a few more months, until the next long-distance trip.