I say this because I know that although I am able to handle unlimited amounts of acquaintances and casual friends, as far as real friendships go, I think I am full up. There are always those occasions when you sense that people are making overtures to take the friendship to the next level but I can’t remember the last time I took anybody up on their offer. It sounds callous but I just don’t have the time or the space.
So when did this happen? How did I slide, without noticing, from seeing friends as something exciting and fulfilling to something onerous and time consuming? I feel horrified to even think in these terms but, there it is, the ugly truth. As a student and beyond, in my 20s and 30s, I made new friends constantly. Some of these relationships have stayed the course; some are now just Christmas and birthday card friends. Even though the intensity of our friendship may have waned through distance or circumstances, I still hold them in my heart and I like to think, if they were in trouble, I would be there for them. When then did I stop letting people in?
I suspect for a lot of people who feel the way I do, it’s a sign of the times, as everyone is rushing around trying to fit as much as they can into 24 short hours. This must be especially true of people trying to juggle careers and children but I have no such excuse. I’m ashamed to say that in my case I’m too selfish to want to invest anymore of myself into new people. I am sociable to an extent but I also value that precious time spent alone and to develop new friendships would cut into that time.
A woman was recently pilloried in the press for refusing her friend’s invitation to be a Godparent because she didn’t want to offer the kind of commitment that being more than a token Godparent would dictate. She was held up as a freakish symptom of modern times where we are all supposedly only out for ourselves. I sort of admired her though, surely it would have been easier but worse to agree and then take a backseat. I have friends whose children I am fond of because I love my friends but if I am being brutally honest I am not emotionally present for them. I lavish them with gifts and money because that’s the easy bit, time and relationships take a lot more effort.
The paradox to this was a childless woman I met recently who was fostering strong bonds with her friend’s children in the cynical hope that she would have someone to care for her in her dotage years. Are we all becoming so cold and calculating? Frankly, even if I had children, the last thing I would want for them would be to see them lumbered with caring for me. I would rather be euthanized.
The realisation that I don’t have an open mind and heart, where new friends are concerned, is not something I am proud of. The people I admire most are the ones who go through life giving of themselves and encouraging others to do the same. People who welcome friends into their hearts from all generations and, no doubt, consequently enjoy rich and fulfilled lives.
And so I am going to be kinder and less selfish. I am going to be open and available to others. Don’t be too surprised, in fact, if you read about my canonisation sometime in the near future – or do you have to be dead for that?