25 August 2013

Pencil v. Ink Pen Friends

In case you don’t know this about me, I am BIG on relationships. Friendships mean a lot to me – even when they are not mutually reciprocal or are lopsided in importance when it comes to me and the other person involved. Maybe it stems from being an Air Force brat who was constantly moving, every other year, for the first decade of my life. Kinda hard to forge lifelong friendships when that is the reality of your life. So, once I was in a “stable” place, I started forging friendships that would last an eternity. My best friend from childhood, Beth, and I have maintained a friendship since seventh grade, and I could tell you how long ago THAT was, but then I would have to inflict bodily harm – and nobody wants that.

Then when I was transplanted to New York City, my home life was one of such turmoil that, once again, I was unable to forge friendships of a lasting sort. In a recent visit back to NYC, I met with a group of high school friends who told me that when I was in high school, I was perceived as “snooty” and “stuck up”. ME?! ARE YOU KIDDING? So, I shared with them the story of my life at that time (which I never shared with anyone while living it) and it became clear(er) to them why I acted the way in high school. It wasn’t about snobbishness – it was about survival. (But that’s another story for another day).

Then came college, where at “The Oaks” (Oakwood College, now University, in Huntsville, AL), I was again able to forge friendships with men and women that have stood the test of three decades. Scroll through my Facebook friends list and I will guarantee that at least 40% of that list comprises of the names of people that I either met at the Oaks, or have made the connection with because of our mutual love of that school. (ok, maybe 50%). And then there are the friendships from the theatre, and from church, and from work, and…the lists go on and on.

Recently, I realized (again), that while I may value these friendships and relationships, they are not equally valued by the person on the other side of it. And where before the realization of that would have put me in an emotional tailspin – not so much anymore. I have come to realize that there are some people who are “pencil” friends, and some who are “ink pen” friends. And you have to know who is who so that you don’t lose your mind when dealing with them.

The “pencil” friends are the ones who only “pencil” you into their lives when it is convenient or necessary for them. You know the ones who call you up when they need your help – or advice on a restaurant to go to – or to see if you know what is happening around town – or to get travel tips on a destination spot. The ones who when you call them, they rarely answer the phone, or if they do, they “will get back to you later”, or who, when you make lunch/dinner/theatre plans, always call you the day before (if not the day of) to cancel for a myriad of excuses … I mean, reasons. You know the ones. What I had to do was recognize and realize who those friends were, accept them as they are, and then decide whether having them on the periphery of my life was necessary. Some people, I decided were – and others, I have distanced myself from them – and for the most part, they haven’t even noticed. And I’m ok with that.

And then there are the “ink pen” friends. The ones who are there for you when the chips are down. The ones who answer every phone call – even the ones at 2:00 in the morning. The ones who, when they say, “Let’s meet for lunch, I haven’t seen you in a while” actually mean it and will meet you for lunch, even if it doesn't fit in with their normal lunch routine - just because they know YOU work a nocturnal schedule and sometimes being up at 12 noon is just not do-able. (Ok, maybe that's just me). The ones who are your friends, even when it is inconvenient and/or uncomfortable to be so. The ones who champion your causes, celebrate your successes, grieve your losses and just support you when support is what you need. That is the type of friend I strive to be. Not always successfully, but I think I do better than most.

There’s nothing (necessarily) wrong with being a “pencil” friend. If that is all you can be – then, that’s all you can be. But the thing about pencils, the marks they leave on the paper of your life, eventually fade and are erased away. There might be a faint impression or a spark of memory years down the road, but it’s the “ink pen” friends that make the lasting, indelible, mark on your life.

There is one “ink pen” Friend that we all can have. You know who I’m talking about. “I will never leave you, nor forsake you” is a promise written in His book of love to His children. And I’m glad to know that when I am in the throes of depression or in the midst of a trial or suffering another heartache – when I reach out to my friends here on earth and they are not available, there is Someone who is always there to answer and listen and soothe whatever is going on. Jesus is the ULTIMATE INK PEN FRIEND. If you don’t know Him, maybe you should get to know Him. He’s a good Friend to have.

Be blessed.v ©2013 Kristina E. Smith

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