Saturday, July 3, 2010

Real Living: Love and Friendship

Friendship and love are interesting.  In a way, they’re pretty straight forward but at the same time, they’re complicated beyond measure.  On occasion they overlap, and I think that’s when we go from living to truly living.

We all have friends.  These are the people you trust and invest time, attention, and to a varying degree a part of yourself into.  Across the spectrum of friends there are good ones and best ones; not really a problem though since people have depth and are complicated.  There are folks we invest more into than others for a variety of reasons--shared interests, available time, distance, etc.  Then there are those special circumstances where it’s not clear if someone is your friend or not, but elements of the relationship look and feel like friendship--even a very strong friendship.  Let me give you an example.  I’m in the military and move with some regularity.  Every two or three years I uproot my entire immediate family and off we go to a new place.  One of the amazing things about this lifestyle though is that we share it with many others in the same circumstances, and when we get somewhere new, we have immediate friends.  They may not be good friends at the start, or even ever, but there are elements of the relationship that would shock the best of friends outside this context.  I can arrive at a new location and literally trust my neighbor with the keys to my house, my car, to sign for my household goods (all the stuff we own and fill a house with), and frankly my wife and son.  Amazing!  I think someone once referred to these as the common bonds that will tie folks together.  And so goes friendship.  Because I’ve moved my entire life I have only a few friends I’ve retained from my youth (up through high school).  Oddly, I have even fewer that I’ve stayed in contact with from college.  But I have quite a few from my adult life, all spent in the military, several of whom are truly like brothers and sisters to me.  Some may be closer.  But what’s most interesting is my wife--I’ve known  her since grade school and we ended up married.  We are best friends, and we’re lovers.
So then there are those we love.  Philosophers bicker about what it is (and isn’t), but for us regular folks, it’s like “good art”, you know love when you see it.  It doesn’t really matter what the “experts” say.  We all love lots of things and the word has a variety of meanings.  In this case though, I’m talking about when we’re fortunate enough to find someone who is the love of our lives.  I’ve seen this in others now and then; sadly it seems rare.  I feel fortunate that I’ve found it too.  As I said, I married my absolute best friend, the mother of my son, and she’s also the love of my life.
So what’s the point?  Well there’s living, and then there’s living.  Don’t get me wrong--I’m not diminishing any relationship that anyone has, with or without a husband or wife.  For me, I was living a great life before I married my wife.  She was the right person for me, and over the seventeen years of our marriage, I’ve realized that while life was good, while I was living before, once we were together, life took on a whole new significance, meaning and purpose.  And it was amplified when we had our son.  I am alive--really alive.  I’m middle aged, my body has been broken (literally), and even serves as host to at least one “tropical” critter (parasite) that decided I’d make a good home when I was in Africa (and I’ll probably never be rid of until I move on).  But that’s not life.  My body can fail.  Living is having friends and genuine friendships.  Living, is when you have the privilege of seeing one of those friendships develop in to love.  It might be marriage, it might be the genuine love between brothers or sisters, and frankly it could even be between folks who aren’t related in either of these ways.  I’m not actually sure what makes it happen, but it does.  Life is a wonderful thing; real life--genuine living--is when we have the privilege of wonderful friendships, at least one of which becomes the love shared through marriage, through the deep bonds of brothers or sisters, or the absolute closest of friends.  Because of the dear friends I have, and the special love of my wife, I am a better man than I could have ever been otherwise.

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