#sol17 Day 11: Nonlinear Friendships

I was listening to the Edit Your Life Podcast: Handling Friendship Changes a couple of days ago (BTW, this is another #trypod!). Some points the hosts made that I’ve been thinking about:

  • The average friendship lasts seven years.
  • We have the right to decide who we want to spend our time with.
  • New relationships are wonderful.
  • Friendships satisfy different needs.
  • Only you control your behavior.
  • Reach out to someone who lights you up.

This podcast comes at an interesting moment in my life. I have a handful of “ride-or-die” friends. Two (both White women) have been my friend since elementary school. We seldom see each other save for when I’m home for a visit and some random texts here or there, but I also have no doubt that if I needed them–or they needed me–we would fold time in an instant and do what we could to help each other.

My best friend (another White woman) and I have had a friendship for over 20 years. She lives in New Orleans and I’m in Boston. We see each other once a year, twice if there’s some sort of lucky coincidence. Our friendship has weathered some moments where it probably shouldn’t have: we had a moment early on in our friendship that was about race and it was hard and we got through it. We almost didn’t, but, somehow we did. And now, I’d like to think we are the type of friends that discuss hard truths when they arise and live to tell the tale.

Most recently, I’ve had friendships that are of a different sort. One is with a friend (a White woman) who has become reliable, true blue. She was that way before I had E, but since then, has turned into even more of those qualities I had undervalued before having a child made me crystal clear about what to value: she shows up. Again and again and again. And she is unafraid to speak up. That means she calls people on their racism. She speaks up when a person is rude. She is the ally I’m learning parents of color need.

My friendship with her is contrasted with a friendship I ended. A hard decision, largely because I can’t quite recall when the last time was that I’ve done something like that. Essentially, what happened was that that friend sent me a picture over the summer: her white son in the back of a police wagon during a local community fair. She sent it to me with the intention of showing me how much fun they were having in a small town over summer vacation.

We had been friends for nearly ten years. During that time, she’d been loyal, the person who showed up even when I said I wasn’t up for visitors, who chased my baby blues away because she was so consistent in her friendship. When she sent the picture, it was in the midst of protests from the Movement for Black Lives, of lots of deaths of unarmed Black men by police officers, of general stages of panic and worry. The picture she sent wasn’t intended to trigger any of those particular contexts.

Yet, it did.

In the moments that followed, when I moved from disbelief that she would send me this particular picture to a sort of momentary sadness and disappointment, I also wondered if I was overreacting.

Long story short: I couldn’t get over this one, despite my friend’s explanation that she simply wanted to share a moment with me, not unlike many others we’d shared over the last couple of years of our children. What was different about this particular moment was that, as she later admitted, she simply didn’t spend a lot of time having to think about the issues that I think about as a mother of color, particularly as a mother of color to a Black sun. 

That admission, while honest, was also what ended that friendship for me. I simply am unable to have friends who don’t have time to think about how their whiteness (and here I should also add white supremacy and white privilege) impacts their interactions with me, or with my child, or even with other children and folks of color. Certainly this does not mean we sit down and talk about race and racism nonstop–though having friends who are unafraid to talk about difficult issues is a non-negotiable–but at least taking the time to be thoughtful is paramount. I do not have the luxury of not thinking about how my Blackness, my gender, my parenting, even, figure into anything.

I miss her, though.

So some of the points of that podcast wind through this post. I have a few key friendships that defy that average of seven years because they are with folks who have been loyal, honest and true. That they have been with white women also demonstrate that Black and White women can forge lasting friendships, broach tough topics, and remain friends. To that end, I also think that the friendship I recently ended had run its course, and that is finally okay to admit. I do know–now more than ever–that the people I want to spend my time with are the friends who mean the most to me and who push me to be the best person, friend, mother that I can be. And I bet that these are the friendships that will endure, the ones I need to endure. I can also say that perhaps the friendship that ended is not ended forever. I recall a quote I read about friendship that said that friendships are not linear.

We’ll see what happens. It’s been these nonlinear friendships that have proven most enduring.

One year ago: #sol16: Busy Making Other Plans 


slice of lifeThis post is part of the Slice of Life Challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers, who have created a space for writers and teachers of writers to come together. To learn more about this challenge, click here.

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9 thoughts on “#sol17 Day 11: Nonlinear Friendships

  1. Oh, girl. What an eloquent way to write about such a layered topic. I love so many moments in this piece–fold time, taking the time to be thoughtful is paramount, the ones I need to endure.

    This also resonates with me because I struggle with the issue of how to handle people in my life who are really clueless about things like white privilege and how bleak it can be to be a person of color in this country. My husband grew up unaware of the degree of his privilege, and in our ten years together his worldview is slowly widening, but it has been a fight to get it to grow at all. We recently read Between the World and Me together (at our friend Amy’s suggestion) and it was the first time he’d been exposed to a text about people of color that was written by someone of color.

    I continue to grapple with the ways I can deal with insular people–my husband, family, friends, students, colleagues. I am a teacher at heart and always want to educate, but it’s an exhausting job on top of a regular teaching job plus momming plus life, as you know. I think you’re wise to jettison some friendships and acquaintanceships from your life so you can focus on improving the ones that endure.

    Thanks for this wisdom! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Shana. Insular people are the most difficult, particularly when we know them well and are invested in them, right? Sounds like you’re making some progress, which is what is important. We will keep going and while taking inventory of friendships is hard, the other side is peaceful.

      Like

  2. What a complicated, honest and important post… I’m so grateful you shared it. I am taking away not only a podcast to check out, but some ideas to reflect on, especially this quote: “I’d like to think we are the type of friends that discuss hard truths when they arise and live to tell the tale.” — I aspire to this goal with one of my amazing newer (2 year) friends (I actually Sliced about our friendship this week!) — our version of this is intentionally being “comfortable with discomfort”. (We met, of all places, through our kids’ PTO — we are moms of high schoolers — I’m white, she’s black, and we run a parent group together.) THANK YOU for a great slice today!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s in those unexpected places that we can find the most valuable friendships, isn’t it? And I think that’s how we get somewhere: to have friendships with people who can help us grow, even if it’s hard. Thanks for reading!

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