“switcher. noun. A person who essentially “switches” from friend to friend, party to party, trying to attain the most networking contacts and befriend the most people. A fairly shallow individual, this person seeks out other like individuals to extend their network further and further, leeching off of the individuals with healthy relationships.” Def. 2. Urban Dictionary Online. 17 June 2013.
My son uses this term to describe a friend. He struggles to come to this realization and the hubs and I painfully observe. I feel shut out were the words written on a personality worksheet; conducted by his teen church group. Much as we want to jump in and protect our son, this is one of life’s painful realities; the dual-edged sword of relationships. He must learn to navigate this on his own.
After dinner I hear the hubs talk about his friendships throughout the years; our son intently listening. He is the introvert, one who usually goes against the grain and doesn’t care to socially be acceptable; to conform. The few friends the hubs considers to be close are ones my boys know; the ones whose families continue to remain in contact with our own. It is eye-opening to listen to the son ask questions; as he tries to understand the ties that bind.
True friends are rare gems to be found.
As I filter and sort through my own life clutter I am assessing what to keep and what to let go in my relationships. Recently I found my Christmas card mailing list and began to cross out names and addresses of those no longer in our lives. What I thought would take me ten minutes took me over an hour and a half. I had assumed that the names to be crossed off my mailing list would be ones from the far past who were far removed from today. But what I discovered was that the names that continually remained on my Christmas list were ones that have been with us through thick and thin. They may not currently live within my ten mile radius and know the ins and outs. But these friends were and are important chapters in my life story. These friends would care about our story’s outcome.
I separate the wheat from the chaff.
The names that remain on my Christmas list will be the names my sons will send out notices to with my obituary.
A few stories come to mind.
-the girlfriend who let me put my slippers on her grandfather’s lawn at age four
-the girlfriend who shares her dreams and feels everyone else lives them; always the teacher
– the girlfriend who sewed my wedding dress and the other one whose professional pictures journal our family
– the ombudsman sisters who mothered me most; as my own mother slowly forgot me due to Alzheimers
– the girlfriend whose life parallels my own from 2000 miles away and the other within a 2 mile radius
– the girls who reintroduced me to books, including my laotoong, and the ones who continue to read them with me
What surprised me most were the names unfriended from Facebook and crossed off my list. For over sixteen years I lived as a military spouse; a life only another military wife could truly understand. Only five names remain on my list from those sixteen years; the keeping up with the Joneses mentality wearing thin. Switchers.
A friend does not constantly compare and contrast. They accept my flaws and celebrate my joys. In my walk through life they are there to replenish me when I am thirsty. They walk alongside to hear my stories and help shoulder the burden when life gets too heavy. There are no smoke and mirrors; they are authentic and transparent. They are not switchers. Most importantly they allow me to return the favor. A friendship goes both ways.
Amongst a new group of people my son animatedly shared the words on the drive home with the hubs and I. It has been hard for him to walk alone, to leave the known friends behind and open himself to new opportunities. Hesitant to attend a party the words in the dark SUV imprinted on our hearts.
I now see what real friends are like. They don’t call each other names, put each other down and shut me out. They made me feel welcome; like I belonged.
Instead of keyboards and screens he is finally in the presence of real people. It is all we ever wish for. I tell him to have faith. To believe that as one door closes, a new one opens.
At life’s end it is these relationships that sustain us. Our friends’ lives touch our own; shaping our thoughts and creating new paths. My Christmas list is proof of my journey; each address triggering a memory with its own story to tell. My lifelong goal is to capture these stories in my book. As the only child with no surviving parents; these photo journals remind me that I do not walk alone.
As I stood in the country farm general store it hit me. I don’t need pictures or physical presence to feel like I belong. I think these thoughts, wanting to share them with my son, as he journeys on a parallel path to my own. Our answers are always within and it’s as I confiscate my phone from my other son, deleting pictures of Christmas art from my phone gallery, that it finally dawns on me.
I believe and have faith. I never walk alone. And what was I thinking, I’m a mother of three sons! I hope to instill this belief in their own growing faith formation as they learn what true relationships look like. To find peace, discover hope and enduring love.
Today I sat alone in our church pew, the hubs serving as a hospitality minister and my youngest joining his brothers as an altar server for the very first time. Unbeknownst to me he cried; nervous. What if I forget the book?
The family, who always resides in the pew behind, tapped me on the shoulder and pointed. My older sons had taken him under their wing and guided him. I was surprised at their outward affection, in front of an entire church congregation, as they encouraged him and put arms around his shoulders to calm him down. I feared they would yell or mock him, as they normally do within our four walls.
The scene filled my heart spaces in all the right places. The hubs, standing on the opposite end of the church, shared afterwards that he’d keep this memory forever; even when our boys no longer are with us. It had brought tears to his eyes.
I hope someday my three sons will look through my journals of friends and family; reading the meaning of life through their mother’s lens. And I wish for their Christmas mailing lists to be as long and meaningful as my own.