Lessons from the trail: grandpas

be my friend

Watching these grandpas walk together on the trail forced me to take inventory the other day. Am I a good friend? Do I have friends I can count on?

I have so much room for improvement.

I get lonely often. I have been trying to cultivate my relationship with God to a deeper level and feel successful. My relationship with my husband is better than ever (thank you marriage counselor.) I’ve also been spending a lot of time with my kids – can’t get away from them – blasted summer. However, I still get lonely.

At the same time, I like being alone. I don’t feel lonely when I am alone. Weird, eh? It leaves me wondering what my loneliness is trying to tell me because some of my happiest times are when I am alone. I guess when I am alone I am closest to God so that explains that. So what is this loneliness and why do I often feel it when I am surrounded by people?

As I run and bike the trail, I see all kinds of people engaged in all kinds of activity. Lately, though, I’ve been paying the greatest attention to the people who walk with a companion.

They always seem engaged in a beautiful thing with and without conversation. When there are just two people they always seem to genuinely be enjoying one another’s company. The picture above depicts one of these scenarios I found most touching.

I just read an article from the LA times that linked loneliness to premature death. I loved this line.

Anyone familiar with Henry David Thoreau knows that isolation does not necessarily lead to loneliness, while the story of Marilyn Monroe shows that a strong social life can still leave you lonely.

I think for me personally, I experience loneliness because at 39, I still struggle with emotional maturity. At least that is what the therapist said. Ha ha. I want to learn how to be closer to people. I want an old man to walk with on my path….o.k. maybe an old woman as I have an old man in my husband already. I’ve been on the prowl for a friendship that will be more deep and fulfilling, but so far it has been a challenge for me to find. Living in a society where putting on airs seems mandatory makes it almost impossible. There seems to be so much competition to be the best in everything nowadays instead of an atmosphere of  “hey, you’re screwed up, I’m screwed up, you want to be friends?”

At the same time, I over-share and over-communicate, and maybe seek out too much emotional support and encouragement. I air my dirty laundry in hope of acceptance and am often left disappointed. I also struggle with comparison so it’s hard for me to befriend people who are out to prove themselves better than me.

I find myself pulling away from people who are surface friends. I can’t handle being surrounded by perfect people. I need real. Part of me worries that maybe I am expecting too much from others and not focusing on myself enough, but I think that is just paranoia talking. I think what is really happening is that for the first time in my life I am getting in touch with the real me: the good, the bad, the ugly. I am learning to love myself and accept myself. Like a person who trains with friends for a marathon: when the person is running consistently 2 minutes faster per mile, it’s time to find new running partners. For me, as I seek out emotional wellness, it means that surface friendships are no longer enough. The other people are two minutes behind and I can’t stop my personal best to wait for them. It hurts. It’s a painful change, and maybe even sometimes a lonely place, but eventually I think I will find them and I will be all the better for it.

I am left pondering is true friendship able to be maintained despite emotional wellness?  I guess the real question is “should it be”?

I am going to open comments on this post only. I would love to hear kind feedback on how to create and maintain quality friendships.

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