Life’s Rich Pageant
Over the holidays several people have complained to me about having to get together with old friends, with whom they no longer have anything in common, “just because it’s Christmas.” These are usually friends and acquaintances that are only seen during the holidays or perhaps at the odd funeral or (probably second) wedding. In some cases it’s a spouse’s old university friends and in others there is a direct connection that goes back so far, “I can’t even remember why we were friends in the first place anymore.”
But whatever trivial commonality first connected you way back when, I can tell you exactly what you have in common today. History, that’s what. And that history is why you should quit your complaining about spending a couple of hours a year with people you’d probably never have the opportunity to develop a friendship with today.
“Opportunity” is the key word. As grown ups we tend to get stuck in friend ruts and only maintain acquaintances with people just like ourselves. Back when life was simpler (remember that?) we picked up a new friend because he happened to answer an add for “roommate wanted” or because she offered to share her purple crayon and you both liked french fries. Fast forward a decade or two (or more) and you don’t have time for friends who don’t fit into your kids and work schedules; she doesn’t have kids and you haven’t touched a fry since the twins came along. And that old roommate always goes on an on about living abroad whilst you never left the suburbs. What ever will you talk about?!
But instead of focusing on how different you are today, perhaps one way to survive and enjoy this annual get together is to focus on your shared history. It very well may be the same conversation year after year, but you’ve only got to do it once. One should never forget where one comes from. And if you’re the spouse having to endure the annual tongue wag about the good old days, remember that seeing where your other half comes from is an opportunity to a see a fuller picture of them. After all, their life didn’t begin the day you met.
One person complained to me about having to get together with her high school girlfriends because after one underhanded, passive aggressive comment after the next she feels the gatherings are laced with negative energy. “I could feel the daggers plunging into my back as I walked to the bathroom.” She swears she’s not going to show up next year. But even in this case, I think it’s worthwhile to maintain the connection. Perhaps next year, see members of the group individually. In a group of bullies, one on one visits are often a safer, gentler place. And remember: negative, competitive, mean girl behavior isn’t about you. I say kill them with kindness.
Friends from our past may no longer have a place in day to day life, but they are part of who we are. They ground us, they connect the dots and they give reason for pause and reflection on the life you have lived. In the words of rocker Gord Downie, it’s all part of life’s rich pageant.