Reflections on the Language of Friendship

I’ve come to an age where it’s possible to have meaningful friendships lasting 2 decades. And this September it did get me thinking about those friends that made it past the 20 year line. And when I say ‘made it’ I don’t mean a Facebook Like once in a month, but rather the ability to either continue to speak naturally and frequently with each other, or at the minimum, be able to pick up an honest conversation as though the years never passed every time we do meet each other. What is it that we once shared and are continuing to share that are keeping us together? There is only a handful in this group for me. Unlike my husband, who continues to be in constant touch with huge collections of people he knew since he was a six year old, I’ve had a more complex relationship with relationships.

A strong component of lasting friendships tends to be the element of being able to be one’s self with said company. But the self that existed in one’s adolescence or early 20’s is surely different to the self that exists in one’s mid to late 30’s. So the ‘being yourself’ element to it is not by itself usually enough and while I haven’t quite worked out what are the other vital elements required, I would guess that ‘shared values’ or ‘heading for a similar direction’ would usually play a starring role. Underlying it all, however, what really matters to me is the ability to communicate the development of all of the above. I am not sure whether it’s an inherently female trait or me and my friends in particular, but we are friendships that mainly survive through deep communication. We thrive on self-expression as part of the mobilising force of self-growth and without being able to authentically communicate with each other, the bond will lose its oxygen and eventually die a natural death.

In this Post-20-years-Best-Friends-Forever ‘BFF’ group, different languages of communication also exists. There are communications which is centred on the language of raw honesty, where both are able to open the slightly nastier, more private doors of the self. The intention is not to give each other the best spin about the current state of affairs, or stay resolutely positive for the future but rather embrace the truth of life’s invariable pitfalls. No our lives are not necessarily beds of roses, the future will continue to throw us curve balls and forcing ourselves to believe everything will magically conclude itself into a Disney movie is too exhausting. Instead we fling open the folders of our current ailment, read aloud our self-written reports where we both diagnose ourselves and the other and come up with a short-term practical toolbox of solutions or at least, a modus operandi. When there is none that can come to mind, we stay candid about the disease and admit that perhaps, only time can tell of it’s condition and fatality rates.

What distinguishes the language of this friendship is the unspoken agreement to engage in, from the very inception of an alliance, nothing short of transparency with each other. Heart, kidneys, souls and reproductive organs have been laid out in front of the other from the get-go and because this style of disclosure continued throughout the years, it is usually this type of friend who will be able to dissect and understand you much quicker and with more precision than the others who knew you later, when you had already developed the capacity to conceal and modulate and keep less pristine issues at a protected distance. This type of friendship doesn’t require shared cultural, political or spiritual values to keep evolving. It is operating largely on intellectual and emotional truth. The risk of this type of communication is the fact that the truth can sometimes hurt, but as the saying goes… the truth will set you free even though it may first piss you off (Plucked from Pinterest). And for me.. there is definitely something addictive about truth. I may not always like to hear it, but when in profound uncertainty, I seek for its’ plain and simple face.

Finally, despite all this convoluted introspection on how we express our inner lives with friends, the most underrated privilege of the Post 20 years BFF group is the capacity to enjoy silence together. To kick off our shoes, recline on to the earth and bask in the warmth of being wordless as part of the language of true friendship. And the past 4 days has been able to capture this so beautifully for me. We speak endlessly, we stroll through the easy perfunctory respectfully, grab the horns of the uncomfortable with both sensitivity and courage, and in between, we luxuriate in the peace that silence brings. I suppose this is as close to being content as a friendship can become….




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