The company you keep

teapotI found a new friend today. Or to be more accurate, I was given him as a gift, of sorts, from a mutual friend.

We were set up. Engineered, as it were, into meeting by our mutual friend. We both admitted to having been somewhat puzzled by our friend’s insistence that we should meet. And it was a puzzle– at first– until the pieces fell into place and we shared that “aha” moment when we each realized why our friend had set us up in the first place.

Lest you get the wrong idea, this was not another blind date situation like the one I wrote about in my previous post. Not a “date” of any kind. Just two people discovering over a pot of tea that their friend was right– they did indeed have a lot in common– and a lot to talk about.

A couple of days ago I went for lunch with a work colleague who I have known for a few years strictly in a “work” context. We had a wonderful conversation — not just about work, but about our lives, our kids, our health issues. We discovered that we have great deal more in common than our professional connection.

These two encounters have left me reflecting on how seldom I put myself into situations where I can make new friends.

I have good friends. Wonderful people, many of whom have been part of my life for three decades or more. Friends with whom I can laugh and cry and argue and play and have an honest heart-to-heart about the utter nonsense that is so much of my life. There’s nothing quite like an old friend for being able to hear today’s tale of woe in the context of your whole life story.

But the flip side is this: there’s nothing like a new friend for making you hear your own story in a new way.

It’s a bit like writing, for me. When I talk with someone who doesn’t know the “backstory” to my life, I shape the story differently than I would with someone who knows me well. I have to put the things I am saying more into context– to explain more. In the process, I invariably end up explaining some things to myself. I catch myself saying thoughts out loud that I wasn’t even fully aware that I was thinking.

The experience of figuring out my own mind by sharing it with others is one of the reasons I enjoy blogging. But now I think that perhaps I have let myself become too isolated in other ways. Perhaps I have been too comfortable with my beloved “old” friends to venture out and add some new ones. Perhaps I have lulled myself into thinking that at my age I don’t really need any new friends. Perhaps I have just allowed my innate introversion to be an excuse for sticking to safe spaces and old patterns.

That fear of falling I talked about in an earlier post is perhaps just one manifestation of a bigger fear of losing control. You can’t make a new friend unless you are willing to relinquish some degree of control. You need to be willing to ride the conversation and see where it takes you.

In the past few days I have been blessed with two very enriching conversational “rides.” I find myself looking forward to the next opportunity to have a conversation with both of these individuals. And I find myself wondering: who else is out there whose conversation I am missing?

And where should I go to find them?


3 thoughts on “The company you keep

  1. Wonderful and so relatable! Years ago I moved to A part of Connecticut where families had lived for generations. Nobody needed/wanted new friends. If you hadn’t gone to kindergarten with someone, well, they weren’t interested in friendship with you. It was terribly isolating for me until I met, one by one, folks nobody there wanted to befriend either. Folks from “away”. They became life-long friends!

  2. Pingback: where my demons hide | Muddy River Muse

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