Even in the able-bodied world, friendships can be complicated. Here are a few categories of friendship I have experienced:
There are golden friendships established in childhood or adolescence. We share in life’s most precious moments—making sense of life’s confusion, first-love, marriage, children, grandchildren, and the grief of lost loved ones.
We share in each other’s dreams and complete the other’s thoughts. Each step of our journey is taken hand-in-hand, side-by-side. Sometimes, as in my case, it’s a sister.
Silver friendships come during or after college. All friendships are special, but these tend to occur in serenpiditous circumstances.
“Serendipity” means “pleasant surprise.” We met these friends on a double-date, in a class, sport, hobby, sorority or fraternity, at a wedding, as the spouse, friend, or relative of our spouse, friend, or relative. My silver friendships are now long-distance friendships due to moves for marriage, job transfers, and life changes. (Another serendipity of these friendships is that no matter the length of time between getting in touch, you pick up where you left off!)
Some friendships are seasonal. Our paths cross at a specific time, for a specific purpose–from a few months to a few years. Then, they disappear from our lives.
This type of friendship is as valuable as the other stable, life-sharing relationships. But just like them, you can’t predict how long they will last. Accept that these friendships have an expiration date. Remember the blessings imprinted in your heart, because its completion is no one’s fault. These friends come into our lives for a season.
There are also people who don’t need friendship. They’re completely happy being an island to themselves; they seek no greater fulfillment than their family. They will spend time with you when you invite them to, even call you up or stop to talk when you meet in passing. There’s nothing wrong with them, or you, when roots don’t grow.
Some people aren’t friendship material. They have self-serving motivations and come with the fear of being found out. They have nothing meaningful to give; they’re takers. Learn to recognize them for who they are, and don’t hang-on to one for the same reasons.
Specific to SCI and others living with an illness or disease, there are people who want to be charitable and of service. They offer their assistance and time to help with transportation, errands, shopping, meals, whatever needs arise. But in time, let’s face it, our reality wears them down: we may have to cancel or reschedule appointments due to health issues, accidents, or rain; lifting our wheelchair in-and-out of the car, unpredictable terraine, and inaccessibility is difficult for them.
Although these people will be a fond, appreciated acquaintance, life may sometime get in the way of a deepening relationship. Yet, some of them do become lifelong friends. I include them in my golden friendships.
With each friendship, enjoy the silver, and the gold, as well as those of mixed metals. Each will teach you something about yourself.
What kind of friend are you?