On Keeping Up With Friends

Moments ago, I hung up the phone after a long chat with an old friend. By “hung up”, of course, I mean pressed “End” on my iPhone. I’ve known this friend for years. I’ve traveled overseas with her. We even lived together for a time in Illinois. She was an awesome roommate, if you were wondering.

This long chat has itself been a long time coming. Our last in-person meeting was almost accidental – her vehicle broke down near Denver in early 2011 and we spent most of a day hanging out while it was repaired – and I’d missed other opportunities to see her upon my semi-regular returns to Illinois. A few days ago, though, it occurred to me that, for the entirety of 2012, all 366 days, I hadn’t heard the sound of her voice. That was a stunning realization. It’s one thing to be incapable of sharing a meal with someone very close to you, but it’s another thing entirely to be incapable of picking up the phone and hearing “home” vocalized for you.

We talked about that lack of vocal contact during 2012, and agreed that we were both complicit to varying degrees. But what was behind it? Why was it so hard to check in – even a quick “HOWDY! OK BYE!”

She experienced the same phenomenon with some of her family and friends last year. 2012 was not a perfect year for either of us. There was stress, sure, but it seemed to be the special kind that drives you to bring it up when someone on the other end of a line said, “So, how are things with you?”

The idea that we formulated was that perhaps the lack of contact is an unwillingness to burden others, especially when no unburdening happens on your own end. It’s an anti-catharsis: You hang up the phone and think “Damn, that got really dark. Now I feel bad for having unloaded like that.”

I put on my popular psychology hat and suggested that perhaps it was our compassionate humanist natures that prevented us from making the calls-in-question. “It’s OK. We want to be nice to people so we’ll leave them alone. We’re helping by not hurting!” This prompted some laughter, of course. I don’t think that negation in the case of friendships is healthy or useful.

So we ended our call with a vow to be more connected to family and friends in the coming year. Since I’ve been slow to choose Resolutions for 2013, I think I may have found an easy one. Time to make some calls…

*The caption of this picture doesn’t really suit the reality of the photo’s backstory. It was taken at the end of our second day of skiing at Winter Park. And by “our”, I mean “her”. I’d cracked a few ribs on the first day, so I sat it out. She did shred the gnar alone. My bad. Even though I look pretty boss in this photo, I was in a great deal of pain, which actually makes me even more boss. 

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