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-=[ Friendship ]=-
“Friendship and community are, first of all, inner qualities.”
— Henri J. M. Nouwen
Real friendship begins as an inner quality or attitude before it can truly be expressed outwardly. As a young man, I wasn’t careful about who I chose as companions because I always thought I was too fiercely independent to be affected by others. Not true… Oh yeah, I was independent enough, but the power of the group should never be underestimated.
My father loved to tell me “If you hang around the barbershop long enough, you will eventually get a haircut.” I didn’t fully understand what he meant at the time, but he was expressing an old truth about “birds of a feather… ” For Puerto Ricans it’s “Dirme con quien anda… ”
At fourteen I sought friendship and popularity as a way of validating myself because I felt small and weak inside. As a solution I created a persona people could like: humorous, crazy, outrageous, fashionable. It worked. During high school, I was one of the “popular” kids, becoming part of the “in crowd.” To this day, I still experience people I don’t recognize coming up to me.
But this all came at the price of losing my true self. Moreover, staying popular was work — there are rules, you know. Eventually, I would break all those rules, but by then I was too popular to escape the popularity. Breaking the rules became part of my mystique — the basis for even more popularity. LOL
Many years later, I would have to retrace my steps and befriend myself. In the process of becoming friends with myself, I was then able to connect with people in a more meaningful manner. Today I realize how fortunate I am because I can count many, many true friends. People who have been there for me through the years in good times and bad, who tell me what I need to hear rather than what I want to hear, and who accept me as I am — a deeply flawed but loving man. These are people who help me be me, and not just the “celebrity” Eddie who is fun to be with, and who does and says outrageous things, but also the introspective (dare I say even shy) Eddie who cares about the world and engages it on a daily basis.
Truth be told, I like to say I’m a “people person” but I’m really not. I’ll never forget the day my mother turned to me while we were watching the Jack Nicholson movie, As Good as it Gets, and exclaimed, “That’s you!!!” — referring to the Jack Nicholson character. LOL!!! Not the obsessive/ compulsive part, but the character’s penchant for saying and doing things everyone else was only thinking. LMAO! I could be mean at times. Today, I like myself a lot better than I used to, but there is a dark side lurking in here somewhere.
Back to my point: it is through relationships (with ourselves and others) and community that we create and recreate ourselves. If we can inhabit a space, both psychological and “real,” in which we can accept ourselves in a community or web of relationships that will accept us also, anything is possible. Ever notice how sticking to an exercise program is easier if you have a partner? Imagine building a community like that — where the participants involved encourage you to be the “best person you can be” on a daily basis and accept you when you fall short (and you will).
There are people quicker to latch on to the negative and create a Jerry Springer-like atmosphere. These very same people are the first to point out the pathetic quality of such an atmosphere, but the true irony is they are the perpetrators. Ever notice the people who enter a fray only to express how childish it is?
Such people often define themselves in terms of negativity. It’s all they know. A good case in point: let me get into it with one of the many cyber predators around here and watch the holy rollers come out and “find” where my words are not consistent with my actions.
I am fortunate: I belong to a group of men and women who love me for me and who encourage me to realize my potential. The thing is that we can all do that, every moment of the day. Whether you’re stuck in a traffic jam or walking down the street, this kind of life exists only as a possibility until you grab the opportunity by the throat and decide to be part of this insane world.
True friendship should be an inner quality that exists as a mutual feeling of admiration, unconditional love, and a desire for fellowship. It should exist without demand. Sure, there are times some of my friends fail me in my expectations of them, but they’re human too — they are bound to disappointment me! LOL shit, I’m sure I’m no walk in the park, myself.
The important thing is whether we can love each other unconditionally and without malice. And we can offer this for others when only we possess these qualities for our selves. Finally, maybe one more aspect about friendship is to accept another’s friendship without trying to change him or her.