I had all but disqualified myself from writing about Friendship this month. “I have no friends,” I thought, envisioning ladies’ magazine coffee klatch groups, beer commercials and Facebook statistics. I don’t have the requisite exercise buddy, shopping buddy, or the Oprah-sanctioned “5 Friends Every Woman Should Have”. That little childhood rhyme started playing in my head: nobody likes me, everybody hates me, I guess I’ll go eat worms.

I’ve decided to re-frame the topic.

I do not have a lot of friends. I do not make a point to get together with acquaintances to socialize. I am an introvert and was raised by introverts. I didn’t have birthday parties or play dates as a kid. I had one good friend who lived two doors down, and we played together almost every day. He was a year younger than I and a boy. When I was in 5th grade, a girl joined my Sunday school class, bringing the class total to three – myself, the rector’s son, and this new best friend. She still sends me Christmas cards. When I moved from Illinois to California the summer before high school, I had to start all over. After a year, I had made a good friend who was a year older than I. She was a bit bossy, but she connected me to the Girl Scout troop, the school choir, the Italian club, and my husband. I was 15 when she introduced us. I was 45 when he died. Later that year, I met someone online – a bookseller who’d just finished a course in Spiritual Psychology. I’d found my new best friend. We’ve been together for almost 8 years. 

photo credit: Carol Toepke
photo credit: Carol Toepke

What I know about Friendship is not about quantity. It is about quality. I think I have enjoyed all the important health benefits that Friendship adds to life distilled into a few precious draughts. To feel that freedom that creates well-being, we have to be able to establish a trust that allows me to be completely myself; we have to create a safe vulnerability. Honesty, copious communication, time, and kindness are the key ingredients. For me, this doesn’t happen easily. It takes concerted effort. More often, I find myself in relationships with mentors or students. I feel quite comfortable as a student or a teacher. Those are roles I can hide in. To be in a true friendship, I have to come out of hiding and operate in an arena of wholeness and equality…which is far more risky. A tremendous accomplishment of my 24 year marriage is that I know that I can survive and thrive while being fully open to another human being. Still, I suppose it has to be the right human being. And those are rare.

The love of a true friend is extraordinary. It goes beyond the giddiness of fun, beyond the pleasantries of companionship, beyond the nobility of human kindness, beyond the affirmation of attraction. The love of a true friend is challenging. It asks you to be entirely forthcoming. It asks you to question your habits and assumptions. It asks you to change and react to change. It asks you to be the best you can be. And it asks you to challenge your friend in return. Because of this dynamic love, life is never boring and your relationship never goes stale. Because of the trust you build, you can enter into the most intense realities of life with some security and the sense of adventure. As my husband used to say after another trip to the hospital, “Never a dull moment!”

My calendar is not full of lunch dates or parties; my phone doesn’t ring for days at a time. Still, I have tasted the best of Friendship and grown braver, healthier, happier and wiser. And no worms were harmed.

© Priscilla Galasso, essay and photographs or as indicated above

4 thoughts on “Friendship and the Serious Introvert

  1. Dear Priscilla (following the example of Naomi),

    I’d like to say that your penultimate paragraph, the one that commences with “The love of a true friend is extraordinary.” is so full of truths; it transcends all of the perennial definitions of friendship and it tells me that, above all, you are being true to yourself, which, I believe, will have gone a long way to enable your finding a second ‘life’ partner. Thank you for sharing your experience of friendship.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, John, for your understanding and recognition in that comment. Being true to yourself is probably the best gift you can give to Life. Perhaps that is what makes writers write and artists create art.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh, Naomi! I thank you from the depths of my worm-eating, inner child for your lovely, loving letter. At the heart of Friendship is the answer to that gnawing anxiety, “Am I loved?” One sincere “Yes” is worth a million appearances of proximity. That the exchange of emotions and ideas and that fundamental question of Love can be accomplished through writing has long been documented, but the Internet variety is fairly new. I am truly grateful that it has brought us together! I credit our friend Jamie with the means that made it possible and count her as a sincere “Yes” in my life as well. My cup runneth over! My eyes also….

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  3. Dear Priscilla,
    I relate to so much of your story, even to having a childhood best friend who lived down the block–except it was five houses, not two. Many people think one who gets up on stage to tell stories, some quite personal, must be an extrovert. I see so many parallels between our lives, beginning with your work at the museum which places you into a public position. As you said, it’s easy when those roles are so well defined for us. And we were both young when we experienced our first major loss, and that changes you. I too am an introvert, daughter of an introvert, married to an introvert. I have many friends I value greatly–writing and storytelling colleagues, the friend I walk around Green Lake with twice a week (she is a gift shared by my cousin before she moved to England). But my inner circle consists of a handful or maybe two handfuls of the nearest and dearest (and I gave birth to two of them). Quality over quantity is my choice, or maybe it’s just how things worked out, but I’m not complaining. I would like to add that there is also a small handful of friends, found through blogging, for whom I feel a special affinity, with whom I exchange ideas and conversation, for whom I feel friendship and familiarity, in spite of the fact that we have never actually met. I don’t need to tell you that you are one of them. Thank you again, dear friend, for sharing yet another piece that has me analyzing, wondering, nodding my head and feeling fortunate to count you among my friends.
    Warmly,
    Naomi

    Liked by 1 person

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