Who Am I, if I Am Not My Friends?

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December 28, 2013 by lucieromarin

It’s easy to love friends as much as family. It’s easy to love them more than family, if you’re single and childless, and the family you were born into is small, or scattered, or weird, or contemptuous of your faith, or in some other way disconnected from you. (This also holds true if you, single or not, are the weird or contemptuous one, of course!).

If, like me, you feel suffocated and sterilised by the thought of being defined by your career, but you have no vocation by which to be defined, the chances are that your friends hold a particular meaning for you that they do not hold for persons with spouses and infants (or parishes or whatever) to occupy first place in their thoughts. I’m not saying that married people don’t care about their friends! I’m just saying that the reasons for caring – as well as the manner and means of caring – will be different, and that a person defined by career or vocation is less likely to find herself defined by her friends.

I can hear someone’s thought interrupting me here, with, “Yes, Lucy, but why must one be defined by anything, let alone friends or family?” to which I can only reply, “If you’re asking that seriously, then you’re not a choleric, or you’re a choleric committed to the destruction of the social order.”  Everyone wants to belong to something, and if one has no biological community to belong to, then they may find themselves attached to a community of friendship.

However, I do also take your point, so I’ll rephrase everything, and say that the non-vocationed person – especially one with a strong instinct for family – can find herself as attached to her friends as she would be to family, and that this can turn a blessing into …well, not quite a curse (that’d be putting it a bit strongly) but certainly a problem.

Where would we be without our friends? We sure as heck couldn’t sustain long hours of rehearsal and liturgy, fast days, or shopping according to the two-finger rule, without them. We’d have had no one to talk to, no one to joke with, no one to cook for, no one to turn to for prayers, or encouragement, or advice, no one to notice our new shoes or new clothes, no one to quote books to, no one with whom to share the cinema popcorn, or secrets, or stories of tragic dates…and this is all great, until the friendship is changed by the disappearance of the friend into a vocation, or, more seriously, busted open by some form of betrayal which leaves you only with the wreckage of your memories and a great big hole where your identity as Friend of Jane Bloggs used to be. (When I say ‘betrayal’, I don’t mean something like ‘She bought that blue dress even though she knew I liked it.’ I mean something more along the lines of ‘She was my brother’s mistress and only invited me to things as a way of covering her tracks.’)

Well, I actually have no advice at all about what to do when that happens, other than to a) say a prayer for wives betrayed by husbands and vice versa, because if a friend’s betrayal feels that awful, what on earth must spousal betrayal feel like? b) get dressed up, because there’s nothing like looking nice to give you confidence, and c) make no hasty moves. Vengeance is not only sinful; it’s also ugly, whereas classy behaviour is not only virtuous, but makes you look good.

My only real advice is preventative; you have to know how you define yourself, and what that can mean if things go sour. If you want to define yourself by your career, that’s your choice; you just need to ask yourself if your career will visit you in the nursing home. If you want to define yourself by your children, that’s your choice, but you have to ask yourself what you’ll do when your children leave home. If you want to define yourself by your friends, that’s your choice, but you have to ask yourself what will happen when your friends are taken from you, as, one way or another, they certainly will be. We can attach ourselves to whatever we please, but we have to know what it is to which we are attached, and why.

I’m not going to end by saying that God Is the Only Thing that Matters, because either you know that already (in which case  you hardly need to hear it from me) or you don’t (in which case I’m not sure that reading it on a semi-anonymous blog is going to be terribly illuminative) but I will say this – if you truly, truly feel that anyone or anything owns you, other than God, then at best, you need a hobby, and at worst, you’re in a cult.


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