It was Friendship Day on Sunday, and It’s got me thinking about what that really means.
Of course, because this is a site dedicated to stuff about running and human’s best furry friends, I am thinking also about the connections between these two things: friendship and running (and dogs).
For many people, running is a solo endeavour, an opportunity for enjoying solitude. It can be an opportunity to reflect (on a myriad of things) and/or an escape from the day-to-day, hectic pace of work, family, etc.
For others, running is as much about connecting with friends as it is the running. It’s an opportunity to share a mutually enjoyable experience (or is that ‘misery loves company’?).
And for some, running can provide both experiences (more, say, than playing on a team sport). I tend to fit in this camp; I like and crave the solitary time that running affords, and I also enjoy outings with others – to catch up, talk about past and upcoming races, and discover new places to explore and get recommendations for everything from the best place to buy a fridge to knee braces for dogs to new restaurants to try.
The older I get, the more interesting this concept of friendship becomes to me. As a self-employed, introverted nomad without roots or even longevity in my current community, this notion of hanging out with friends seems to have become increasingly elusive with age.
Friendship to me is different from being friendly. I see many of the same people during the week, and we greet each other warmly with genuine interest and compassion. In other words, we are friendly towards each other.
But it is not the same thing as friendship.
Friendship comes from shared experiences – the sad and difficult ones as well as the happy ones. Friendships often take time to build. Some, like resilient plants, can endure periods of drought and neglect, and with just a bit of nurturing can return to beauty and glory. And, typically, the more nurturing you can offer, the more they thrive.
I have experienced some, however, that wither from too little nurturing, too little time and too much distance – some of these have been the result of my neglect. Even the most resilient will eventually die if they are not tended to.
Ten years ago, I was fortunate enough to have met Sue, who has become my best friend as well as my life and business partner. And, over the years, I have grown to appreciate the relationships I have with my siblings. They are not just family to me; they are my closest friends as well. After all, we share many of the same values and numerous experiences. And, of the few, new-found friendships that are developing in my new community, I have noticed they take considerably longer to really establish because our respective lives are more complex than they were when we were in high school and university, and allow fewer opportunities for multiple connections over the course of say a week.
In spite of my introverted leanings and lack of roots in Orillia, I am buoyed by the friendliness of those I meet and the promise of developing more and deeper friendships with some of the wonderful people in this community. And, as I ponder what that looks like, I am drawn to these quotes by Yeats and Gibran:
There are no strangers here. Only friends you haven’t yet met.
Friendship is always a sweet responsibility, never an opportunity.