So last week I had the pleasure of heading down to a friends house to chat and sip wine with some gal pals. I’ve been reflecting on it ever since, trying to find understanding in the types of friendships I currently have, what they mean to me, and possibly them in return, and to learn that there are various types of friendship. There are, right?
Of course there are. I’ve just never really looked at it that way. My views on the whole having friends thing has been more of a black and white. When I was younger (school aged years), I had a very small circle of friends. I met my best friend when I started a new school in the 3rd grade, and we were the inseparable, peas and carrots friends until high school. Along the way 4 more girls were added to our group and it was us 6 girls that held a tight friendship pack for the entire 4 years. Out of the 6, 2 of the girls which included my bestie from elementary, were my closest friends. We told each other E-VER-Y-THING! Even though we had spent the entire school day together, we chatted on the phone ever night either before or after dinner. We were glued to each others sides every weekend. We were 100% chicks before dicks. We considered ourselves sisters. And this is what I’ve always based my friend relationships on. The ‘take a bullet for you’ mentality.
Two years after high school I moved away. On my own. One of these days I’ll tell that story, but I knew I was never meant to live in Iowa the rest of my days. I kept in touch with friends, but found it wasn’t the same to the having them in my physical presence. I tried making new friends and quickly learned that very few measured up. I put my whole heart into my relationships, diving completely head first into the deep end, only to find I was jumping into a pool with no water. I had had a couple of other let down relationships in the past, to include an ex-boyfriend who I loved way more than I loved myself, and decided I was building some very high walls for those would-be friends to have to climb in order to reach my inner circle that was still surrounded by a lava filled mote which was guarded by dragons. Ok, that probably sounds way more dramatic that what it was, but you get the picture. I kept myself shielded. Only one person made it past all that, and I am still friends with her today. 10 years later. She knows my very deepest, darkest secrets, been there through all the joys, and helped get me through all of my failures. She is truly the ‘take a bullet’ friend. And, sadly (for the sake of not coming to the revelation/realization I’m at now), she’s been one of my only friends the past 10 years. (and that sounds way more pathetic than really is)
Have I had other friends? Yes. But because of the level of friendship that we had, I don’t think I recognized the value of it at the time. I thought they were more acquaintances. I have also limited my friendships to just military wives, thinking that I needed to ‘stick to my own kind’. When my husband was stationed in Okinawa I moved back to my home state to live with my grandmother. I got a job, made a couple of good friends who were civilians. There is no major military base in The Field of Dreams, so it was civilian or nothing. My husband went for the 1 year unaccompanied tour, and this was the first time in our marriage that we’d really been separated. It wasn’t easy, and I struggled with it at first. I was sad, lonely, angry… and I lashed out at people often. And? My friends couldn’t understand. It was frustrating. There were times were I avoided people just so I didn’t have to try to explain why I was feeling the way I felt. It wasn’t until I started working at Curves that I finally met someone who I could really hang out with, and become close with. Her boyfriend at the time, who is now her husband, was a former Marine, who had served in Desert Storm. Coincidence? Someone who has more understanding for what I’m going through and just so happens to be dating someone with military life experience? I still talk to her to this day, but the other friendships I had made during that year away from my husband have all dissolved.
What I walked away with at that time was the notion that instead of having incredibly high walls, and a very narrow opening for who I let in I would just avoid making close friends altogether. The ones that were already very close to me would stay that way, and I would only be friendly to those I come in contact with through work, or social functions. But my ‘close friends’ weren’t, as par for the course in a military life, geographically close to me. This gets lonely. Sure, I had my husband (most of the time), but what is life without friendships? We need them. We need girls or guy nights out. We need someone to share a glass of wine with. We need to socialize and get chatty and silly, and break away from our everyday at home routines. It’s part of being human.
So as you can see, my view on what friendship is has been a tad dysfunctional. For some reason I started thinking about all of this last week when hanging with a group of ladies I’ve come to think of as friends. However, I’m not entirely ‘close’ with these so called friends. I chat with them often via twitter/facebook/text, but I have found that none of them seem to be the phone conversationalists that I usually want out of a friendship. They don’t know a ton about my personal life, and they certainly don’t know any of those deep rooted personal details that only one would know if they were in my inner most circle. They are also, every one of them, civilians with no major insight as to what it means to live the military life. Does this mean they are not true friends? No. And this is what I’m coming to realize as I reevaluate my definition of friendship. I am friends with each of them on a slightly different level, and instead of hiding behind my high walls and shunning them for their inadequacies defined by my past views I am trying to embrace them and appreciate them for all of who and what they are and what they bring into my life. I love learning about them all on each of our visits. I greatly enjoy our conversations, and the small common bonds that we share. I know that in a couple of years it will be our time to move again, and I fear that these friendships I’m growing very fond of will dissolve like others have in the past when we’ve PCS’d to a new duty station, but what helps to move me past that fear is the fact that I met these ladies through social media. I’m almost certain that because of the social media ties we have I will always remain in contact with these women and feel like they are all ‘keepers’, despite the geographical distance that will be between us. At least, I’m hopeful. Only time will tell.
I realize this post, at this point, is rather long and I will wrap it up soon. My point, though, is that I have found friendships to not be my strong-suit and I think I’ve been using the fact of being a military wife as my excuse to not recognize it or change it. Luckily I’m not so stubborn of a person that I cannot change. I know that I cannot expect any new friends that come along my path to automatically be who or what I think they should be, and with that I’m working on breaking down my walls and do more embracing of what’s being offered. I know that I also have to recognize that my hindrance in friendships is that I’m always going to be the new girl in town. I can’t just jump into any circle and have the same relationship with one person as they would have with someone in the same circle who has been there years before me. Again, this is where I’m learning to just appreciate what is available to me in the now. I’m also learning that, as the new girl, to not let first impressions or rumors steer me away from what could be a decent friend. Through a site that I contribute write for, I have met some really neat women. One gal, who edits regularly for the site, I’ve been getting to know little by little. Each time I talk to her she continues to defy the original impression of who she is that I was led to believe about her. Had I listened to the rumors and never given her a chance, I would have missed out on something that to me is becoming something more meaningful than just a writing/business relationship.
So, to finally conclude this really long post, it’s not too late to take a look in the mirror and redefine how you view life and it’s many facets. After 11 years of being a military wife I am learning to appreciate the variety of friendships in my life in the now, stop comparing them to the past or judging them for the future that hasn’t happened yet, and redefine my views of friendship as to not miss out on something very meaningful. They may not be ‘take a bullet’ friendships, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have an extreme amount of value.