A couple of weeks ago, we had PK over for dinner on a weeknight. I cooked a hurried meal of pasta tossed in a silken tomato sauce, with mushrooms and roasted peppers, green salad with almonds and feta, and crostinis topped with apricot chutney and salty cheese. Something told me PK would want to eat a non-Indian meal. Since I had already checked, and he had told me he was off meat, it was easy to pick pasta as the main!
It got me to thinking how effortless it was communicating and planning this with PK, who was, for all practical purposes, someone we had never met in our lives.PK is N’s husband, and we’d all be meeting for the first time that night, but it felt like a trivial detail. I guess upwards of eight years of exchanging notes and talking about ourselves has made our husbands feel like a part of the group even before we actually met. Even before he arrived, VC and I felt like we had invited an old friend over.
As conversation flowed, over everything from issues of identity living in a predominantly white country, to politics of hate and violence in India, it didn’t take long before we wound down to the matter of self-discovery that we have each stumbled on, albeit in our own time and in our own ways. By the end of the evening, I was astounded at how much we had to talk! VC, who is otherwise the silent watcher, had talked a week’s worth of words usually rationed for social engagements.
It was rare, unexpected (because we went in with no expectations, I suppose), but also very special. I don’t think that PK and VC, or even I, for that matter would have found common ground, if we weren’t connected as spouses of friends. On the surface we’re not the most similar bunch of people. We each come from such varied backgrounds, interests, professions, even. But connections happen in strange and sometimes roundabout, perhaps serendipitous, ways too.
The evening really confirmed this new truth about the people piece in my life: my attitude towards friendship has become less about finding likeness and sameness at the outset, over the most obvious things that show on the surface, and more about inviting in the differences, and finding deeper things to connect about.
This is the piece that I have struggled with. I won’t beat myself up about it, because I suppose it is natural, and the easiest thing to seek comfort in familiarity. And let’s be honest, that is the basis for people to forge connection. But the more I find myself coming around to accept the fact that the boxy definitions and fixed ways of looking at people and who I let into my life may not be working for me anymore, the more I find myself enjoying people, the more connection I am able to forge, and the fuller my life becomes.
On the flip side, this kind of bonding takes time, effort and is hard to come by. Primarily because of the effort involved. But I find that I am slowly accepting it in whatever form it comes. In bits and pieces, glimmers here and there, in surprising conversations, in unlikely places.
It’s starting to be a lot more about quality rather than quantity. I have never been the one to have a large bustling group of friends, so numbers haven’t been my stronghold. But even with the few, I found that the disappointments occurred when I realised that every friendship seems to come with an expiry date. Today, more and more, I am okay with that. I’m learning to give thanks for the years I get, than hang on to an idea of “forever-friends” with the weight of foreverness attached to it, even when the friendship has faded away.
The wonderful thing about breaking the barriers in my own mind as far as friends and friendship goes, is that I’ve connected with people I’d least have expected to. And this transcends age barriers, interest groups, activities to interact over.
I think two things have contributed to the shift in my mind.
- Time off from social media (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and a 12-hour WhatsApp shut down) has ensured I focus on real interactions. I’ll make the effort to go out more, meet up with people, and really show up rather than flake off over text.When I’m out there, at an event, or in a conversation, I’m picking up my phone less. It feels like a small change, but the consequences it’s had on the quality of my interactions has been manifold.
- Deliberately trying to shake off the fear of uncertainty. Or the need to control it in some way to bring in certainty. By approaching every experience with people as a fresh, standalone chance to connect, rather than as an event that blends into a stream of continuity labeled by time, distance, duration.By allowing myself to be surprised.
The critical change in all of this was getting over the fear. The fear that something’s changed. The fear that I’ll have to inevitably face loss. The fear that I will have to start over.
But here’s the deal — discovering myself is not without the constant process of recreating parts of my identities. And creating new identities and ways of being is impossible to do without letting go of the old. It’s the only way to make to make space for the new.
Loss, is a crucial, and essential, part of revival.
Coincidentally, Mark Manson wrote an insightful piece about this aspect of loss just earlier this week. When I read his piece, I knew exactly what I have been processing these past few days.
I’ve been an emotional ball this weekend, with the abundance of people and the love it has brought to my life. I’m so thankful for it. But it’s only when I read Manson’s article that I was able to make sense of what I was feeling, and fully internalise the change that has very obviously kicked in.
The more I open myself up to this newness, the more new stuff (people, experiences, small little events) come my way. Whether it is willing to host my sister in law and her sister and her husband last week, or feeling so excited to meet PK, or catching up with A and finding the ability to be so vulnerable despite the time and distance between us.
As a result of this, I am no longer stuck in a loop of rueing the death of some friendships, or the format in which they existed. I’m no longer craving the connections I feel I’m not getting.
When the world is my oyster and my heart is wide open, even a chance interaction with a stranger fills me up in ways that years of friendship can. And can’t.