My friend is moving. To the other side of the big pond. She will take with her caring family, love of beauty and her sensitive and reflective mothering. Her sense of humour, passion for reading and timely wisdoms thrown at me just at the drop of a hat. She’ll move and from then on we will only be able to have virtual cups of tea when the time change or our owl-like natures permit.
This has been happening to me quite often ever since I settled in England. Different characters and personalities cross my life and our living room, share with us their life events, moments of joy and sadness, jokes and frustrations but eventually venture further to explore different realities and live different lives. It’s difficult to nurture those friendships… divided by space, time and daily routines. We try though… by emails, cards and messages sent now and again, occasional get-togethers, chats and phone-calls… because we miss them, those exchanges of common interests and problems, being part of their lives and their contribution to ours. It often takes to be removed from one’s reality to understand how valuable and enriching our relationships were… how much we’ve been learning from them and how much of a better person we became through them.
When I moved from Poland and decided to study here, I was missing my friends so so dearly. All of them… and you know what… this feeling hasn’t changed. I still miss them. They are still in my thoughts and they are still my reference points, I still see myself somehow in them and through them… starting from those in my primary school through to those that I met at later stages of my education and through various other experiences. I just think that it’s impossible to forget a friend. Lose touch with, yes, that’s possible but forgetting is not. And I think that often this is what we are afraid of, of being forgotten, or of being not loved by them as much as in the past. And perhaps they fear that too.
I met once a very eminent senior academic and had a chance to have dinner with him. Over a plate with nice hot food and glasses of wine, he told us stories… of his friends. His whole conversation was filled with friends. You very quickly realised that they were his focus and his life and what a wonderful focus to have! I expected (and feared slightly) a conversation laden with reflections on politics, literature and history or a strong focus on his academic work but no… as he was reminiscing with a pause to smile or laugh, it was becoming more and more apparent to me that this man is just living, breathing and enjoying his friendships… he was with those people mentally as much as he was physically with us…. he loved them dearly… and that love surpassed the distances that he had travelled.
There is a term in psychology called ‘mirroring’ and it refers to us subconsciously (or consciously) copying of gestures, language and emotional responses of others during our conversations. Apparently we tend to see people who mirror our emotional responses as more empathetic. [Therefore this ‘technique’ of mirroring is frequently recommended to parents who want to build a good relationship with their children… not to reject or disregard the feelings but to mirror them.] I am thinking of my close and long-distance friendships and I can see that yes, regardless of the distance, changes in our circumstance, developments, perhaps this is what we still want from our friendships and friends… to be able to ‘mirror’ us somehow. If sharing and being part of daily struggles is not possible, what else remains for us to do?