I have always had a ton of friends and no friends at all. While this may seem an impossibility, “a ton” and ‘none” do not have to be mutually exclusive. It isn’t in the “how many”, after all, rather it is simply in the “how”.
If I were to decide to go out for dinner and wanted to invite a friend, I have a handful of old faithfuls that would likely oblige. These are my long-time high school friends. Karyn, Bridget, and Deb, bring me back to middle school math. A little pre-planning and I have a group of college friends that would meet up with me as well. Marti, Charly, Lisa, and Lesley all live close enough to grab a spontaneous bite. Close friends like this last through time. They share with me a common link to the past. We have history.
I also have friends from all of the things I enjoy doing. I have CrossFit friends (although not many with whom I socialize). I have Podcast friends (although most are too far away to meet anywhere other than online). I have teacher friends, dance lesson friends, playdate Mom friends, running club friends, coaching friends, school board friends, none of whom I see on a regular basis.
I can sit at many tables in the metaphorical cafeteria. I just don’t really have a table that is mine.
I do not get invited to many places or events. I am working on changing this and creating a life in which I feel like I fit. I don’t necessarily need a “group” or a “clique”, just a place where I feel like I can be myself. A place where I do not have to contemplate what I am going to say because no matter what I say, I will be understood, or at the very least accepted.
I think I will create a table.
When I put my table together in my mind, I realize something. Most of the people sitting at it are significantly younger than me. Some of them I met when they were children. I could easily be the mother of most of them. In my lifetime struggle with relationships and boundaries I got to thinking about this. Am I immature? Do I act my age? What is it I am looking for in, or getting out of these friendships? Do I have any friends my own age?
Debra and Marti would represent my high school and college friends. I maintain the most consistent and close contact with them. They are my age. Susan, a new friend I have recently made, is actually older than me. She is whimsical however and loves to experience life in a youthful way. She also gravitates toward young people and is a mentor. Jennifer, the mother of Rachel, represents all that is missing inside of me as the mother of a dead child. She is a bit younger than me. Pam is my CrossFit bestie. We laugh and lift almost daily. Polly, one of my closest friends, represents Concord and God and all the things we question. As I write this, I am starting to feel pretty good about my table. All of these people are close to my age.
So, let’s get to the youngsters.
Aimee (Zoomie Zoom) is there. I met her when she was a 6th grade runner and I was a coach. She came to summer practices. She competed on the track team. She spent a chunk of time at my house in her high school and college years. I was in my twenties when she was born. We work well and hang out well together. Branden (B) is Gracie’s age. That’s right, I have a friend who is the same age as my daughter. Heck, Gracie can be at my table. I may be her mother first, but we cultivate a friendship as well. B is a CrossFit friend. Bethany is there too. I met her at Walker School when she was 7 and I was 27 (give or take). I knew her siblings as well. I went to her wedding and have shared in daughter raising. Her friend Ashley gets a pass to the table as well. I am older than Bethany’s mother, I could be the grandmother to her children, and at times I am just that.
I have too many former runners to fit them all at the table, and my job loss and its subsequent press coverage strained many of those connections. But Haley and Annie from Bow and the two Rachels from Concord would have seats. So would Ember, Anna and Erin, oh and Emma. (See where I am going here!)
I do have a small group of guys that might make their way to the table. Jack, my Essex Street connection would be there. Teschek would be there. He hired me to time races almost 30 years ago. Neighbor Dave has been a constant (especially since Molly died). And of course, Kenny. For all of our struggles we co-exist pretty well. Aside from B, the boys are my age range.
So, what’s with this blog listing all of my friends really about?
I started the day feeling a bit off. I have these days now. Lots of them actually. Learning to live in the “off” moments is a skill anyone suffering from extreme grief can understand. When life has parts that are unfixable, all you can do is re-invent broken. There is that meme about how cracks let in light. I must be very bright then!
I was lonely this morning. I have a deadline for posting a blog. It is Bethany’s birthday today. She is still in her thirties. I am tired and anxious. I thought I would write about Bethany. Hence the title about age being just a number. One day I will write about her. Today, however, this blog has been more of a journal entry. Me talking to myself about how I often feel excluded and, on the outside, looking in so to speak. The key word here is feel.
Like my last conversation with Molly when she declared that although she wasn’t “in” a social group necessarily, that she was friends with all of them, that she could float about from group to group and be a positive piece of the action, I too lack a group. I too can sit at a variety of tables and be a positive piece of the action. Heck, sometimes I am the action! I have friends and connections from everything I have been a part of in my life.
The age range is over 40 years. From early twenties to mid seventies the people at my table not only get along with me but would get along with each other as well. Adding years to your time here on earth can strip away the importance of the number. Age matters not in a good conversation. Heck, it doesn’t really matter anywhere.
My table is big.
So, who sits at your table? How old are they and where did you meet them? What will you talk about as you eat your metaphorical lunch? I am sure, like mine, it will be good.
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