On friendships near and dear, near and far

Feb 5, 2006

Whenever I go to Cleveland for our summer and winter holidays, I always call ahead to four friends to tell them when I’ll be in town. These four men have played important roles in my life over the last 15 years—they’ve been confidants, mentors, role models, benefactors, references and so much more. While the distance between Cleveland and Durham means we often go weeks and sometimes months without talking, I look forward to my reunions with each of them.

Before I left Cleveland at the end of my December visit, I got to see each of my friends: one I met for lunch, another for breakfast, the third for tea, and the fourth walked into the diner during my breakfast chat, giving us just enough time for him to invite me to his wedding.

I’ve been thinking about friendships for a long time now. Well, most of my life. You see, I’m a loner. But I hate to be lonely, which is why I’m also an extrovert.

These days, I feel most lonely at the gym, where I see the same people at the same time every day, but I’ve never spoken to them or been greeted by one person.

My mother once gave me a valuable coping skill. I was a freshman in high school, moping around the apartment one day when my mother gently told me that I had a choice to make. I could wait around for someone to call me, or I could pick up the phone, call a friend and initiate an activity. (I wrote about that same DeKalb apartment, and another important life lesson from my mother, here.)

As I noted in my previous post, one of my motivations for starting the Chapel Hill blog meetups, and the Tar Heel Bloggers group before, was to initiate some local friendships. I’ve met some interesting individuals through these groups.

One person I met through blogging called me this morning to thank me for once telling him about a scene in the film Last Temptation of Christ. I remember this scene as Christ walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, thinking to himself, “What if I’m wrong.” Then, as the drumbeat builds to a crescendo, he wonders, “My god, what if I’m right?” (Turns out I’ve remembered this slightly wrong, but the idea is the same.) My caller wanted to tell me he’d seen the movie last night, and found the scene a powerful affirmation to change some part of his own life.

Later, the Cleveland diner friend I mentioned above called to talk with me. He caught me just as I pulled up to the house, and I sat in this driveway moment as he and I had the first leisurely, substantive chat in years, a wonderful conversation I so wish we could have every week.

Over at jcu92.org, another friend chimed in. ( I started that college class site to reconnect with my classmates.)

There’s a new sitcom on CBS, Love Monkey, in which four male friends (like the four on Sex and the City, or Seinfeld, or other shows) regularly meet up to share their thoughts and dilemmas and accomplishments and conquests. That’s what I yearn for. That’s why I’m picking up the phone …

Do you regularly get together with your friends? Tell me about it in the Storian comments, please.

Anton Zuiker

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