Make New Friends: Writing Layers of Meaning

Friends, silver and gold

Make new friends, but keep the old,
One is silver and the other gold.

This classic friendship song began endlessly looping on brain radio the other day. Inspired by Kathy Pooler’s blog post, A Tribute to My Girlfriends, I sat down to pen a post about friendship. What emerged is far from what I set out to write.

I began writing about the fact unlike Kathy, who has remained close with numerous friends for decades, my friends are more situational, coming and going as our respective interests change, and … that paragraph was never finished. Something about the thought didn’t quite ring true, and a recent memory displaced it. A memory of a brief encounter I recently had with four friends I’ve been out of contact with for over fifteen years. How do those friendships fit in the silver and gold category, I wondered.

They don’t! As I wrote, I realized those categories don’t work for me. I realized how limiting categories and labels are, how they inherently imply boundaries and barriers. Degrees of closeness? No barriers there. But what about gaps? Nobody can stay constantly connected with every friend.

The longer I wrote, the more confused I became. Finally I had a breakthrough. My thoughts compressed into something manageable that I could get my mind around:

Each of my friends, local, online or far away, is unique. Each brings a warm glow of general pleasure, and each fills a different niche in my heart. As time goes by, our mutual interests may wax and wane, perhaps remaining on hold for years or decades. But that bond remains like an unlit burner, waiting for a mere spark to rekindle its warmth.

Maybe Kathy and I aren’t so different after all. And maybe it’s time to rewrite that song: 

Make new friends, but keep the old,
One will warm you while the other’s cold.

Far or near, good friends will bring cheer,
All that’s needed is a phone to hear.

Skype or text, an email now and then,
Friends will be there, though we don’t know when.

Since writing that essay, I’m seeing friends in new ways. Some are soft and fuzzy, while others have organized edges, maybe with a sharp spots to make allowances for. The state of our relationship may vary from red hot to vacationing violet. Friends light up my life, though we may have spells of darkness between us now and then.

My hour of writing that essay was priceless. It exemplifies William Faulkner’s immortal quote: ''I never know what I think about something until I read what I've written on it.”

Write now: Pick a topic like friendship or love, or God, or something else big and grand. Start writing and see where the topic takes you. Polish the essay, or leave it raw. The purpose is self-discovery. Leave a comment or send me an email about your surprising discovery.

Photo credits: top: Arkansas Shutterbug. bottom: Francesco. Both altered and used under Creative Commons license.


Joan Z Rough said...

Faulkner's quote is a treasure. My journal is where I find out what I think ... written by hand, sometimes messy, with misspelled words and things crossed out. I always find some tiny bit of wisdom and reason there.

KathyPooler said...

Well-said, Sharon and thanks for the mention and link. No, we are not so different after all. What I love about old friends, offline and online, is the feeling that no matter how many years or how much distance intervenes, we can pick up where we left off. And the internet has made connections possible. Somehow I have the feeling that WHEN we meet in person, we will feel like we've known each other all along. :-)

Sharon said...

Thanks for mentioning journals Joan. The essay I wrote worked like a journal entry, but I needed a piece for a writing group, so started on keyboard rather than paper. The main difference is in the polish. Noted essay expert Sheila Bender teaches that the writer's perspective and understanding always shifts during the process of writing a well-crafted essay. In my experience, that is also true of a soul-searching journal entry -- the kind that goes beyond simply documenting events.

Sharon said...

Amen, Kathy. That song revision is dedicated to a local writer friend whose house is jammed with moving boxes just now as she relocates to be near her children. It's also dedicated to dear cyber friends like you! Who could have imagined thirty years ago that many of our best friends would live in our computers?