Television makes friendship look so easy.
Neighbors become besties. Couples divorce but remain confidantes. People thrown together in impossible situations invariably end up lifelong friends.
So — where is my Ethel, I ask? My Shirley? My Rhoda?
(And why am I picking shows from my childhood as examples?!)
In my youth, you would have categorized me as outgoing. Open. An extrovert to the nth degree.
I was friends with everyone — even those that would have been considered “unlovely” by the popular crowd — and talked to complete strangers with ease. A trait passed to me from my paternal grandfather, according to my Dad. I could walk into a party and find a conversation in an instant. I assumed the best of everyone, and took people at face value.
But there’s a downside to all that friendliness, openness and acceptance. When you take people as they are, you’re surprised and shocked when they don’t return the favor. When you make friends with everyone, you aren’t looking at the potential for hurt. Betrayal. Rejection.
We’ve all had friendships that, over the years, went by the wayside. Friendships from high school or college faded after graduation. Someone transferred and correspondence eventually faded. People changed and the relationship disappeared quietly by joint consent.
But we’ve probably all had at least one friendship that ended unexpectedly. Someone got mad and blew up, then refused to reconcile out of pride. A misunderstanding caused a rift and hurt feelings on both sides. One party had kids and decided to end a friendship with the childless gal (true story — guess who was the childless gal?).
Or we unwisely overlooked the warning signs and befriended the one individual who would have crushed any and all in his or her path. And probably has — over and over.
Today, everyone is a critic. It can knock you back to post something innocent on social media and have people crawl all over your heart — even those you trusted — and kick your hurts and fears to the curb, making you second guess your right to feel.
Over time, these hurts and rejections add a brick to an ever-growing wall between your heart and everyone else. A betrayal can add a whole section of wall. After all, if a person you trusted can stomp on you and just glibly walk away, how can anyone be trusted again?
But…we continue to reach out.
We feel the need to connect on a deeper level than being “Moms” or “Wives”.
So we start conversations. We attend meetings. Join groups. Find a church. Take classes.
And hope that eventually, we’ll find our Ethel.
Or be someone else’s.