When I married my husband 30 some odd years ago, we went to the preacher for premarital counseling.
Divorce rates were on the rise back then, and the prevailing thought was that counseling prior to marriage might dissuade divorce later on. Scot and I stayed married for 32 years, but I doubt that the counseling was the reason. But we both learned something about each other in the session that lasted throughout our lives together.
The process was straightforward. Rev. Tibbs handed us both questionnaires that we answered individually, and then we discussed our answers. There were no political questions—that might have been more helpful in the end, but anyway…
One of the questions was, “Do you have friends?” The choices were 1. None; 2. One or two; 3. A few; 4. Many.
When we revealed our answers, I was shocked! And so was Scot. On that we agreed. Here’s how we answered the question.
Scot said he had many friends. I said if he did, then I had only met eight of them.
I answered that I had few friends. Scot said my definition of “few” was skewed. He said he didn’t know anyone who had as many friends as I.
We looked at each other as though we had never before met. How could we be so off on what seemed to be a simple and fundamental question?
I had a core group of five to seven people that I considered my friends—They were the closest people to me that weren’t family. Most of them I saw or communicated with frequently. Scot had a core group of seven to ten people that he saw consistently, but considered his workmates, classmates, neighbors—almost every acquaintance he had whether he saw them or not—as “friends.”
Rev. Tibbs, who had been in my small Montana community for 13 years shed light on our differences. I had grown up on a farm, youngest of eight siblings, but with enough years between me and my next closest brothers and sisters that I was like an only child. Growing up I played alone or with my horses, dogs and cats most of the time. Scot had grown up in a small town with neighbor kids to play with and a world of playmates outside his door.
Rev. Tibbs said that in his experience working in our country community, kids that lived on the ranches 20 miles from anyplace often said they didn’t have lots of friends, because they didn’t have access to a big community of kids. I certainly wasn’t 20 miles from anyplace—I was a mile from town—but we didn’t go back and forth as people do now. I didn’t go to daycare, so from ages 3-6 I was home alone with my mom or my siblings. For me, when the school year ended, I was stranded. It was like that until I got a driver’s license.
There are likely many other reasons for our differences in perspective. Like the fact that I am an Extrovert, and Scot was an Introvert—although that personality difference would have predicted that our take on many or few friends would have been switched.
But the fact remains: I am blessed with many friends. And while I may qualify that I have many friends and a few close friends, that’s just picking at the fringes.
I recognized the blessing this morning, as I joined my “Shut Up and Write!” group. We connect on Zoom every Saturday morning. Originally, we were all part of an online class for writing Young Adult books. Allison is from Chicago, Hannah is East Coast, Yara is St. Paul and I am a transient between the Lake and the Hopkins condo. We are all women of color, and we are all in different points in our careers and lives—married, married with kids, single, widowed. We are professional friends, helping each other stay on track and write, supporting our writing goals with kindness and good cheer.
My life is richer because of these new friends. We only just met this summer. Because of jobs and extracurriculars, we moved our meetings from Wednesdays at five to Saturdays at nine. I didn’t want to use up my weekend, but I changed to accommodate the group. That’s what friends do. And it’s been fine. What else would I be doing on a Saturday morning? We write for 40-50 minutes, and then discuss for 10-20. Sometimes we discuss for longer, and sometimes the discussion digresses. And it makes the friendship richer!
This group has helped me write my blog, the one thing in my writing life that is a constant. They haven’t told me what to write, but they have been there to cheer me on and encourage me to keep plugging. And I hope I have done the same. I was thrilled when Allison and Hannah were accepted into a very competitive mentorship program. I have been awed and inspired by Yara’s work written in Arabic, read to us in English, then read in the original Arabic that made the words sing. I learned about Save the Cat in this group which changed the way I watch movies.
It takes time to make friends. I am so lucky this group has taken the time to “Shut Up and Write!”