I have a friend who lives down the road from me. She puts me to shame with her hospitality and her thoughtfulness. She drops off little thank-you presents at our home when we do her even the smallest of favours. She always remembers our birthdays (and buys thoughtful, generous gifts). When Nick fell off the scooter and fractured his shoulder, she was so concerned that she offered to drive him to the hospital herself so that he could get x-rays… even offered to pay for the x-rays! If she or her husband borrow a piece of equipment from us… it not only comes back on time, it comes back with a little gift… or a little thank-you card.
She is a thoughtful person… a generous and gracious hostess… and a lovely friend to have.
I – unfortunately – am not that type of friend.
- I forget birthdays… like… all the time. I never remember them (unless Facebook reminds me). Even then, I forget to buy birthday presents (even for close friends). I have attended two big-bash birthday parties recently – and showed up at both empty-handed (having forgotten to get gifts). I feel very guilty about this.
- I forget to return things. One friend has been waiting for months for me to return a DVD that she loaned me. I keep forgetting to send it back (I have finally booked a coffee date with her – this coming Wednesday. Let’s hope I remember to bring the DVD along with me!)
- I don’t return phone calls (mostly because I don’t listen to my messages on the answering service). I have been wanting to cancel that blasted answering-service for a while now… but keep forgetting. Additionally, I don’t like my phone (at all). Actually, I have a bit of a hate-relationship with it. I deliberately leave it behind when I go somewhere – or keep it turned to “silent mode”. One wonders why I bother with a cell phone at all. I wonder that too! But everyone keeps telling me how I MUST have a phone… so I reluctantly comply.
- I (often) don’t return e-mails. Mostly because I’ll be scanning through my daily mass-mailing of e-mails… and will see a note from a friend… asking me a question… or something… and I’ll say to myself: “Don’t forget to reply to Tracey and give her those contact details for Margate”. And sure enough, that’s exactly what I do: forget.
- I’m a very sucky hostess. I have had the good fortune of visiting people who have a gift for hospitality. Sadly, that’s not me. My fridge is almost always poorly stocked (mostly due to poor planning on my part – and a deep hatred of supermarkets). My guests will be lucky if they find cold water or ice. And very lucky if there’s juice. And they’ve hit the jackpot if they arrive at our house to find biscuits or other snacks. I’m the host that says: “There’s the kitchen… there’s the fridge… help yourself!” (although there’s never much to help themselves to!)
I don’t think I’m a very thoughtful person… and there’s hundreds of things I’d like to do better and that I feel guilty about. I feel guilty leaving such long gaps between my visits with Tracy Joan. I feel guilty for avoiding my aunt. I feel guilty for keeping Heather’s DVD for too many months. I feel guilty for not helping Tracey and Rogan with the dishes. I feel guilty about my insensitive comments to Tony. I feel guilty about forgetting to reply to Nyasha – even though she was in the country for such a short window period of time. I feel guilty… about soooo many things.
Sometimes, I wonder whether it would be easier to duck out of the politics entirely. To become a recluse of sorts – with no family… no friends… and thus: no relationship admin and no guilty feelings to plague me… and no continual, niggling sense that I’m just not “measuring up” in the friendship department.
And let’s face it: friendship admin is… admin! There’s birthdays we need to remember… phone calls we need to make… people we need to visit and connect with… disputes and arguments we need to settle… tempers we need to soothe… egos we need to navigate… dinners we need to host… e-mails we need to respond to… questions we need to answer…. weddings / christenings / birthdays & funerals we need to attend… gifts we need to buy… and so on.
Sometimes, I wonder: “Maybe I’m just not built for this kind of thing”.
Because all I ACTUALLY want to do is flop around a table (or sit under a tree) with some good company… and some good coffee… and to share some quality time, some laughs and some stories with the people who mean the most to me.
I don’t care if the food is cold… or the house is a mess… or that we’ve run out of biscuits. I don’t care that the kids and their friends trash their bedroom or whether they pass out in a sticky pile of filth without having bathed or changed into their pajamas. I don’t care if I’m mulching around in my slippers with my pink granny-gown and my hair in a messy top knot. When I’m among friends, that stuff simply doesn’t matter.
I yearn for meaty conversation – connections and conversations between like-minded people… real-deal quality-time with the people that I genuinely want to be with. Everything else seems… superfluous.
So, yes. I’m a sucky friend.
I will probably forget your birthday – and seldom answer (or return) your calls. I will leave you sitting at a coffee bar waiting for me (ask Ryley!)… because I have forgotten to check my dairy. I will either forget to buy you a birthday present – or – it will arrive embarrassingly late. If you visit my home, you will arrive to an empty fridge… and maybe a few hard, stale hot-crossed-buns.
A sucky, sucky friend indeed.
BUT… you will be welcome in my home… and there’s not an off-limits part of my house or my heart. Help yourself to whatever you want – with my blessing! I welcome your debate or your difference of opinion. You can sleep on our couch… bath in our bath… use all of of my nice Body Shop products – with the greatest of pleasure. You can borrow my stuff (and I don’t even mind if you don’t return it). I’m happy to babysit your kids when you’re in a tight spot (just please remind me about it… or better yet, remind Nick). You can eat anything and everything that you’re fortunate enough to find in my kitchen… and I will never expect you to wash a single dish.
To my friends: Even though… in many ways… I’m a bit sucky as a friend, know that I value your company deeply… and I drink from our conversations… and just the feeling… the “knowing” that you are a part of my life (even for those of you that I don’t see too often)… is what makes my life richer in the ways that count.
(Now… where’s that Poppy-Cat book that I need to return to Tracey?)
Here’s a FEW (of hundreds) of photos that give me the warm and fuzzies …