Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Keep Your Friends Close, But Far From Each Other

We've all been there.You go meet your buddy from high school and talk about old high school pranks and that kid who was high as a kite in the middle of chemistry.You call another friend and have a heart to heart about her family and how she's handling her parents' divorce.You have a couple from church over for dinner and a game of cards.

Each friend a separate entity, a different strand of your social web.

When left alone, you have great conversations, you reminisce, you laugh, you cry, you people-watch, you dream about a big scary future.Each friend serves his or her purpose.Each brings out a different side of you.But these varied friends could never assemble at the same social gathering and feel comfortable around each other.

Friends are like different compartments in your social utility belt, but I think if you try to use them all at once, you'll explode.Batman presses one button at a time on his, why shouldn't you do the same?

I remember the first time I noticed the classification of friendships.I turned ten.I had a legit birthday party, lots of kids over at the house, running around hyped up on candy, cake, and that high, that playground fever that transcends what sugar can do - that berserker craze that only the company of other kids can bring out in even the calmest child.There were games, there was cake, there were oh so many presents, including a very cool Beast Wars transformer toy that I lost pieces to in about 5 seconds.

It was during the roundtable cake and candles ceremony that I first noticed it.A lot of my friends were seated in factions.My church friends sat and talked with church friends.My school friends sat with school friends.Some were even sitting in uncomfortable silence, trying to remain in peaceful anonymity.

As a socially developing ten-year-old, this was one of my first recollections of a major social faux pas:


Oops.Sorry guys.

This rule has remained true as I've delved and dabbled in my sundry extracurriculars.

My swim team friends belonged in their sphere.My scout camp buddies in theirs.My band friends had their place, as did my fellow cast members in high school theatre productions.

Even now as a married adult, I have friends that like me, but I know them well enough not to mix them with each other.

One friend always makes me feel like I need to be a poli-sci major to even compete intellectually in our conversations.His political savvy is daunting, as is his inherent ability to read people and social situations.He's so dang smart and witty, and he doesn't pull punches.On insults.Or on compliments.It's all so unsettlingly sincere.

Another friend is a fellow I served with as a volunteer from my days as a missionary.We were assigned a very tough, unresponsive area.It really made us rely on each other for sanity, made us "war buddies."He was my best man at my wedding.

I've got a buddy who's a big idea man.We'll get together every once in a while and talk about design concepts or half-baked business plans.He'll vomit ideas like balloons, and I'll stand there with a pin to pop the ones that won't go far.If he's George Clooney, I'm his Brad Pitt, grounding him with the details that will get us into that casino.

I have another dear friend whom I've watched from afar.Her life has served as a sort of premonition, a small peek at the future.When she got married, I saw how happy she was and got so excited for that day to come in my life.She's always one step ahead of me in life's milestones, and her previews always give me hope.She's like a sort of big sister I never had.

Please understand, I'm sure if I blew a conch shell and told these dear friends to "Assemble!" at Starbucks or something, they'd be cordial and polite and get along well enough; we're all adults.

It's not them.

It's me I'm worried about.

My friends each bring out such unique sides of my personality, the transformations would be frustrating for them and exhausting for me.


I used to worry about that, but I don't think so.

Our personalities are complex, multifaceted things.There are countless sides to a person's interests, likes and dislikes, quirks, habits, jokes, mannerisms, faults and flaws.One of the great things about having such a variety of friends is that they can pull and stretch you, help you grow, and build you up in so many different ways.

Are your friends different?Would they all get along at, say, a barbecue?How do they build you?

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