Sunday, August 22, 2010

Reflections on Friendship

Friendship is challenging at times, for me. In the course of so many years, I've had a lot of unpleasant experiences. Many of them have been due to my own lack of social graces...which is due to not having had much of a social life as a child, therefore no opportunity to learn the fine points of friendship, therefore prone to blunders, therefore avoided by the more socially graceful kids, ..... Sigh.

A lot of them have been due to others' lack of social graces, too.

This past year has been an interesting year, the beginning of several tentative new friendships. Each is so unique. Each of us, in some way, has hit a "bottom" where we were desperate to find a better way of living with ourselves and with others. We have been hurt, physically and emotionally abused, neglected, manipulated, you name loved ones of all descriptions as well as relative strangers.

That means we come to friendship with "issues"..."baggage"..."history"...i.e., we're each in some way "damaged goods" thanks to previous friends, family, etc. Sometimes, no matter how compatible we are as people, our "baggage" just interferes with the other person's. It makes starting a new friendship interesting to say the least.

Last night I had a very special dream about one of my new friends:

In the dream, this person, like me, was a professional bus driver. We went out for a leisurely drive in one of the busses that I drive daily. (Like I said, this was a dream; I'm not really allowed to take the busses out for a Sunday drive!)

My companion and I did all the things we would normally do on a Sunday drive. We went up and down hills. We turned left and right. We stopped and started in all sorts of conditions. Ordinarily, we would have been doing this with the purpose of performing our duty of transporting people to their destinations. In our own cars, off-duty, we might have taken the same trip to see the scenery, or simply for the sake of enjoying one another's company and talking while driving.

But this trip had a different purpose. We were evaluating the vehicle--an older, quirky bus that had a lot of miles on it. Before we committed to driving it on-duty, with precious passengers on board, in all kinds of weather and road conditions, we needed to know its limitations...and we needed to develop reasonable boundaries for operating it in service, so that we would never exceed the limits of this particular vehicle. Some busses just shouldn't be driven out on K-10 at 65 miles per hour; others are just fine for that but would rather not go 5 miles per hour on the busy campus all day.

Each bus is a little different, and they become more individual with age and wear. On-going repairs and minor accidents add to the aging process of a vehicle. They start out bland and identical, but over time they are customized more and more. Zip ties and duct tape, Tek screws and caulk all come into play when something irreplaceable but non-essential fails.

We put the bus through its paces. We tried accelerating fast and slow, on slopes up and down, to see how it would respond in various situations. We assessed the play in the steering wheel, and whether the vehicle tended to drift to one side or another as we went down a level road. We tried the brakes to see how fast it would stop, and whether it pulled to the left or right. We tested the turning radius...and one of us had to help the other back it out of the cul-de-sac where it couldn't turn around (oops--we should have planned the route ahead, not just wandered around making random turns).

I woke up knowing exactly what this dream was about. It was about how to be friends. Or more specific, how to take good care of friendships.

We need to take time, now and then, and assess our friends/friendships. Not to judge, not to try to change someone else, but rather to better understand what we have to work with in our friendship. If someone has sensitive areas, we need to be careful of those in the friendship. If someone has blind spots, we need to understand that. Likes and dislikes, skills and disabilities--these are all equally part of the assessment. Not that anything about them is right or wrong, we just need to know what they are. Some, we may be able to fix right away. Some we may need to wait for a part. Some we may need to wait to fix them until they get worse. Many really can't be fixed, but are just the unique "character" of something that's gone down the road a few hundred thousand miles.

This assessment is not a one-time thing, because people change and friendships evolve too. With some friends, we may need to assess the boundaries of the friendship frequently; with others, not so often. With the buses, we do a daily inspection report, required by federal law. But sometimes a more comprehensive assessment is needed, as this friend and I did in my dream.

Too often, we go about friendship just like we go about driving our personal vehicles. We just take them for granted, and never take the time to look under the hood until we are stranded by the roadside facing an expensive tow and repair. How much easier it would have been to just check the oil routinely! But, in fact, many friends would be fearful of doing such an assessment, while others would be offended by the whole idea, fancying themselves free of quirks.

I especially treasure those few rare friends that begin the friendship with the instinct to do that "test drive" and assess our strengths and weaknesses right away, together, based on fact, so that we can set realistic boundaries for the friendship. In the long run, I think we will not be disappointed at having taken the time to approach friendship seriously, as seriously as driving a bus.

1 comment:

  1. and some friendships are bettered by taking time more seriously than driving a bus.