more thoughts about friendship

 

“yeah, you go deep all quick and stuff, but it’s not really the same as getting to know someone over time and having the opportunity for them to disappoint you.”

maybe 2-3 years is the sweet time, the honeymoon phase, of a friendship. [sidenote: did you know that “honeymoon” in Spanish is, quite literally, “luna de miel”? being a nonnative (read: noob) speaker of a language has these perks, of your ears perking up at the sounds and literal meanings of words — of your mind immediately envisioning a full, yellow moon of comb, dripping with honey at the sound of “luna de miel” that “honeymoon” simply does not conjure up because you’ve become desensitized to the cuteness of that word, in its naked self, stripped of all its contextual trappings. if I were talented at illustrating, at this moment, I would try to draw a naked-in-a-cute-way WORD. someone do this for me.]

and after this period, chara said, you start to come to a period of conflict. 

-because you start getting to know a person better, in all their good sides and their bad ones?- I proffered.

well yes, that, but what I wanted to say was that after this period, you come to a place where you have certain expectations of a friendship of [however many] years and so does that other person. and more often than not, these expectations will not match up perfectly. at least that’s what I can deduce the reason to be; that’s the overarching umbrella reason for conflict in my long-term friendships: mismatched expectations. do you know about the [example of just this thing] of second year?

-this…makes sense. buhcause, [offers example of just this thing] that happened my first year!

-and, and, and I wonder if all relationships are like this. but other kinds of relationships have more rules decided by society on how they “should” sorta be. take romantic relationships, for example. society, more or less, dictates certain expectations for a romantic relationship. like, an average healthy, happy couple should probably talk to each other [some range of] times per week. and you should probably see each other [some range of] times per week, or per month, or whatever. and for anniversaries, you should probably do [whatever kind of thing] to celebrate. you know? like, there are certain EXPECTATIONS for a romantic relationship, predetermined, that are just not so for friendships. expectations for friendships can be wildly varying, and that’s where the trouble comes in, because you’re not really sure where that person could be coming from, in terms of what they are expecting from this friendship with you. people love and feel loved in different ways. people are and inspire different kinds of thoughts and feelings that makes this whole thing of RELATINGships really very complicated. it’s like a beautiful thing, too, though, that it’s this freeform, freewilly kind of substance, malleable and putty-like in your collective four hands (or six or eight or seven).

yeah! exactly. basically, I think it’s inevitable that you’re going to disappoint and be disappointed by these mismatched expectations. 

-but see? I haven’t really. it’s only been the peachy, moon-of-honey years of friendships (mmm peach + honey) that I’ve lived. I feel sort of stunted in this. but also…glad that I get to learn this in theory before mucking it completely up in practice. I feel much better equipped for this.

what you have to do is decide that a relationship with that person is worth pushing through that disappointment and make it work. there are gonna be sad moments; there are different kinds of friends for different portions of you and portions of your life. and that’s okay. 

-friendship is hard!! what the heck.

to pass through

The Korean word for “communication” is 소통 [so-tong].

And the Chinese characters that root the word in its etymology:  

  • 소통
  •  소통할 소
  •  통할 통

So the first character is redundant to the meaning of the whole word itself, but the second is more interesting. It’s a character that can mean lots of different things, depending on its context, including:”to communicate,” “to allow,” “to pass,” “to pass through.”

To pass through. You have to imagine some force that comes at you, but doesn’t stop at your face. It roars and enters your chest, goes clean through you and leaves a hole of itself behind; viscerally, and potentially painfully, changes you. Like a good book, a soul-drenching song, a good conversation that accomplishes true communion, touching each other’s fingertips through the complicated and goopy membranes of our selves – all of these things are forms of communication, and all of these things have the potential to blow a hole through you, changing you in an indelible, yet sometimes very delicate, way.

In this construct, the world takes on a sheen of exhilaration in all its mundanity. Every book you pick up could punch you in the gut. Every trip to the theater could leave you in tears, every conversation could slice right through and leave a hole you didn’t have before you got all involved. Literally any experience changes you to be a little less intact, a little more interesting. Having lived – truly lived – would mean to have all the scars and tattery bullet hole reminders of the experiences that went through you and changed you for the ever.

This makes me wonder if this Jewish-American writer knows Korean:

“When at last I came upon the right book, the feeling was violent: it blew open a hole in me that made life more dangerous because I couldn’t control what came through it.”
― Nicole KraussGreat House

Sounds terrifying, but that’s actually what we’re all looking for, all our lives. To meet people, to hold conversations, to connect in ways that explode a little bit of our integrity as whole human beings, so that the same things may flow through the community of a new “us,” brought together by our collection of common blood and bone. A gory aftermath of a skeleton structure that builds – that melds – us together in new joints of true communion. Through our similar-shaped holes, the same winds, the same salty currents, the same jolts of electricity, with all our tears and our laughters, will rush through us in the same ways, connecting us in this crazy web of constantly moving bits flowing through from the world outside. Understand me! we cry out. Connect with me, know me, come close to me, pass through me.

The more I think about this, the more it makes sense. That life’s true fruit lies hidden in its struggles; the growth is in the grit; it is the rain that will strengthen your soul… all of that.

the cuteness is also in the struggle
the cuteness is also in the struggle

One has to make a sacrifice. I chose the freedom of long unscheduled afternoons in which nothing happens but the slightest shift in mood as captured in a semicolon. Yes, work was that for me, an irresponsible exercise in pure freedom. And if I neglected or even ignored the rest, it was because I believed the rest conspired to chip away at that freedom, to interfere and force upon it a compromise. The first words out of my mouth in the morning spoken to S, and already the constraints began, the false politeness. Habits are formed. Kindness above all, responsiveness, a patient show of interest. But you also have to try to be entertaining and amusing. It’s exhausting work, int he way that trying to keep three or four lies going at once is exhausting. Only to be repeated tomorrow and tomorrow after that. You hear a sound and it’s truth turning in its grave. Imagination dies a slower death, by suffocation. You try to put up walls to cordon off the little plot whee you labor as something apart, with a separate climate and different rules. But the habits seep in anyway like poisoned groundwater, and all you were trying to raise there chokes and withers. What I’m trying to say is that it seems to me you can’t have it both ways. So I made a sacrifice, and let go.

Great House, Nicole Krauss, p. 44

And as we spoke a picture of myself emerged and developed, reacting to S’s hurt like a Polaroid reacting to heat, a picture of myself to hang on the wall next to the one I’d already been living with for months – the one of someone who made use of the pain of others for her own ends, who, while others suffered, starved, and were tormented, hid herself safely away and prided herself on her special perceptiveness and sensitivity to the symmetry buried below things, someone who needed little help to convince herself that her self-important project was serving the greater good but who in fact was utterly beside the point, totally irrelevant, and worse, a fraud who hid a poverty of spirit behind a mountain of words.

Great House, Nicole Krauss, p. 39