This I Believe

Michele - Naperville, Illinois
Entered on May 3, 2006

THIS I BELIEVE

The older I get, the more I believe that friendship—built by the actions and the emotions that support it–is the most important relationship I can have, and a relationship that has not received its due.

This belief is an odd one for someone who grew up embracing her loner status. Believing I was a loner was easier to accept than to admit to low self-confidence, and it was certainly an easier face to present to others. As I matured and my confidence grew with experience and knowledge—of myself and others and how we influence our world—the loner went away and left a huge hole that only contact would fill.

Not just any contact, though. Friendship is special, nurtured with care and, because of its importance, limited to a few. What I discovered—through the romantic years filled with painful yearning and heart-aching disappointments—is that love means nothing if not based in friendship. Love floats on air and vanishes with the wind if not tethered by respect and caring and the simple delight in being with someone who makes me feel good and who feels good when with me.

Friendship transcends and tests family bonds. I have often observed members of families whose relationships with each other lack warmth and trust and tenderness. Sharing a bloodline does not mean we share anything else, and we should not feel guilty about this. I have been fortunate. My sisters and brother and I would be friends even if we weren’t related. It was not always this way, but we have worked at it—caring without interfering, closeness without smothering–to the point where friendship is as natural and necessary and valued as breathing. My dad lived long enough to embrace me as a friend—despite the occasional flare-up between souls who are too much alike. Friendship eluded my mother and me while she was alive, but her memory taught me how to live so that I am missed when I’m gone. Maybe she was my friend more than I realize.

And the romance I mentioned earlier? Ah, romance. Romance is found in laughter at shared jokes and finishing each other’s sentences and liking the same movies, just as with anyone else. And when the inevitable differences between my partner and me strain and pull at love, the tether of friendship—respect, trust, fondness, delight in our togetherness—holds it firm.