One day I was lamenting the loss of friends post-divorce that I had felt close to throughout the marriage. It was not that I did not have other friends in my life at the time, but I was confused by why people I had once felt close to were now no longer talking to me or even trying to be a part of my life. It was then that my therapist said to me, “Well Doug, some people are friends in in the fun of life and some are friends in the work of life.” I found that to be an evocative sentiment at the time and it has grown on me even more since.
These “fun of life” friends were people who got together some few times a year at parties that all followed a pattern. We gathered and had conversation for about an hour or so that celebrated our wit and said very little. We never delved into each other’s lives. We never talked of hopes, dreams or fears. We never talked of pain or hardship. We absolutely never spoke of feelings. Then after about an hour or so the drinks began to kick in.
Once the alcohol started flowing through our veins we became louder, more sarcastic, and more judgmental for our own amusement. The evenings flowed through a period of recollection and nostalgia that generally followed the pattern of recalling the same stories we had told the last time we got together. After that, things would get even louder, games might be played, music would start, dancing may ensue and the evening would reach its inevitable tipping point. Soon all would be drunkenness. This is fun, in a way, but it is also empty in more meaningful ways.
Eventually someone would fall over and we would realize that the evening probably best be drawn to a close before we all fell over. We would retire and wake up in the morning craving carbs and Advil. Slowly people would muster up the strength to get in their cars and leave. We vowed that it was a fantastic time and we were fabulous people who loved each other just so so much.
We never spoke of the mental illness suffered by one of the friends who lived a paranoid schizophrenic life in a one-room apartment with a refrigerator full of only beer. We never spoke of the failed relationships, unhappy marriages or daily struggles that made up the lives of the guests. We never encountered anything real in each other. We reveled in the fakery, drenched ourselves in nostalgia, drank like fish, and called that love and friendship.
Friends in the fun of life.
Then later in my life I began to form different friends. When we got together we surely had fun. We told stories, we laughed we ate and we sometimes drank. Lots of time we ran. We ran in any weather all year around. We went to events together. We celebrated each other at special times. We created special times so that we could celebrate together. We celebrated life.
We also knew each other for real. We knew who was sick, who was suffering, who was hurting and who had a joy to share. We acknowledged that life was a winding road and we took each other’s hand and said “Let’s walk (or run) together”. We met weekly or many times a week and looked at those times as highlights of our week.
Friends in the work of life.
The fun of life is a good thing. It is not to be completely disparaged. However, if relationships only seem to have a toehold in that reality they are certainly of dubious value. Or if relationships like those are the only ones you have than your life will surely be wanting for deeper connections.
The work of life is what we each face each moment of every day. It is joyous but messy, happy but sad, celebratory but painful. It is in the reality of these dichotomies and struggles that we connect at the level of our soul’s daily striving to touch the divine in all of us and be one.
Friends in the work of life.
I wish them for you all. I treasure mine.