I’ve been giving something a lot of thought lately, and have decided to share it with you – to influence you (if you’re not already) to open up to friendships.
Deborah Tannen, the linguist, recently wrote a piece published in The New York Times which discussed some research which indicated that people with sisters are happier than those without them. Her point of view was it isn’t women who talk better than men, it’s that they talk more often – even if it’s not about problems. The very act of just communing is beneficial to both.
She pointed out that men – even men with problems – might talk to each other and end up feeling better, even when they didn’t spend ten seconds talking about “the problem.” Why? I believe it’s because talking is a connection, an act of interest and caring, and a remedy for isolation, loneliness, and despair.
My mother was from a small town in northern Italy and grew up during the Fascist/Mussolini era. Her parents owned a restaurant and worked all the time. She did have a sister, my aunt Lucia, who was gunned down by a Nazi firing squad at the age of 20 the very first day she joined the underground movement but, other than that, she learned (sadly) to be contained in herself. That never changed. As I grew up, I never ever saw her have even one friend and she instilled in me a real sense of self-protection. She always told me I trusted too quickly, got disillusioned/betrayed/hurt and then suffered immensely. She was right. But so what? Being “hurt” is not the worst thing in the world. Being disconnected is.
I don’t readily tend to talk about my personal/emotional conditions. That’s now what I do when I get together with friends. I just share life with them. I have a few lovely lady friends right now – a deep quality of friendship – which is so deeply satisfying. I remember my surprise when one of them hadn’t seen me for almost a week and said, “You know, I miss you.” I just about fell down. Why was I so touched? Because for the most part, folks are into their own lives and don’t necessarily pay much attention to subtle niceties like that with friends. At that moment, she was cemented into my heart. What a generous, sweet thing to say. I have another friend who texts me now and then just to tell me to have a great day, and another one who gives me professional massages twice a month simply because she wants me to relax.
My mother missed out on a lot. I’m glad I didn’t listen to her warnings about trust and people. Yes, some have been untrustworthy and unkind, and others have outright betrayed me. But if your heart stays closed to avoid that hurt, then you won’t hear from a friend those words: “Miss you…love ya.” I’d rather suffer some frustrations in return for not missing out on hearing that. I hope you are also so willing.