“I composed a beautiful letter to you in the sleepless nightmare hours of the night, and it has all gone: I just miss you, in a quite simple desperate human way.” ~ Letter from Vita Sackville-West to Virginia Woolf
Those of you paying close attention will immediately take note that this is the same Vita Sackville-West to whom Violet Trefusis (the inspiration for the blog name) was writing love letters.
The hussy! The female philanderer! <Come on, Maddie … Read the title of this blog entry again.> The perfectly normal, if bohemian, woman. For those following the thread, this was the progression: Violet got to Vita a few years before Virginia did.
Now, lest my friends read this blog and think I will declare my undying adoration and ask them to run away with me to France the next time we meet, it is somewhat unlikely (dammit - France with my friends sounds outstanding!) However, I do admit to having strong feelings for a blessedly large number of women. They are my friends. They are my tribe. They support me and I hope that I provide some small measure of support in turn. The women in this tribe are the smartest, funniest, prettiest, sexiest, most accomplished women in the universe. Not that I’m biased. At all. Although, I do love each of them to the moon and back.
Writing that reminded me of an undergraduate class I took <cough> decades ago where I learned that the Greeks enumerated eight different kinds of love. Some enterprising student along the way decided that eight was way too many to remember and cut the list down to four: eros, storge, agape and philia. C.S. Lewis codified it in 1958 with his book The Four Loves. But it leaves out Mania … hello, Fatal Attraction, and Pragma … and hello to you, 26 years of marriage, so I’m keeping all of them.
Now – back to my friends. I have more than one kind of love for them, too. This blog will be about four of the loves: affectionate love (philia), familiar/familial love (storge), enduring love (pragma), and obsessive love (mania.) I have some truly amazing friends, most of them women. I hope that everyone reading this can say the same. And perhaps my friends aren’t any more amazing than yours; however, I posit that I appreciate my friends more than your average bear.
In another post, I talk about my mom, the many moves we went through, and how hard I found it to make friends. I finally made some lasting friends in my last family move my senior year of high school. I made some good friends in college, though not as lasting. But there followed some pretty lonely single years. Then I started dating Galahad and we married in 1990. Shortly thereafter, I began a career in consulting. The combo of husband at home and work friends far away was enough for a decade.
In 2000, Galahad was recruited for a job, and he and I moved to the Beautiful City we still call home. My company’s cost cutting measures meant that my travel was reduced, so I saw my work friends less and less. I didn’t really know anyone in the new, Beautiful City. Galahad was leaving for work each day and making new friends. I was at home. By myself. Managing a remote team via a combination of email and phone calls. Each day, I desperately waited for Galahad to return home from work. Too desperately. My clinginess caused him to distance himself. I admit, in retrospect, that my love had more than a hint of obsessiveness woven throughout, though there was never a bunny in a pot.
In retrospect, I see the ugly cycle became a horrible dance. In fact, when I saw this routine years ago on So You Think You Can Dance, I cried, though I didn’t realize until years later that I could see our story with every beat of the song. Galahad started having nights out drinking with his new friends to create more space. One night a week became two, then three, then four. I had accusations and tears. He had excuses and anger. I shoved down loneliness. He throttled guilt. He said he didn’t love me. I told him he was a fucking idiot. I packed my Subaru Legacy wagon and loaded up our dog, Virginia Woof, and drove four hours to live with my dad. My marriage was clearly over.
Until it wasn’t. After three weeks of silence, there was an email from Galahad agreeing that he had, indeed, been a fucking idiot. Could we talk? Yes, we could if Galahad would agree to go to counseling with me. Ginny and I moved back. Our counselor articulated the unhealthy system we had created. He also uncovered the secret I kept, even from myself. I was in my late 30's and my biological clock was screaming at me, though I kept trying to muffle it. The counselor also noted that I needed friends. Oh, and Galahad could possibly cool it on so many nights out a week.
That was pretty much it for the counseling, but it worked. We got pregnant that year. And I found that having children became a conduit for friend-making. It didn’t happen quickly. I wasn’t a big fan of the mommy-and-me groups since I didn’t have a lot in common with the young, stay-at-home mommies. I did, however, experience a huge dose of familial love as I became closer to my sister who had a nine-year-old. And when our squires started pre-school , I met some interesting and talented moms. I met even more when my boys reached elementary school. Then I uncovered enduring love (storge) when I reconnected with my girlfriends from high school. Galahad and I started camping with the YMCA Adventure Guides where I found another great set of friends who were all about the fun and games (ludus.) I made an effort to network with professional women who lived in my Beautiful City. Some of those colleagues became friends. Each friend I made seemed to give me energy to connect with even more people.
It’s been a long haul, but my life now is full to overflowing with connections. Since fate is an ironic bitch, it is currently my calendar that has me out of the house a few nights a week socializing. Galahad is still with the same company in our Beautiful City, but that company started to encourage telecommuting. I now encourage him to be more social and go out with his friends.
Our dance is more intricate, but less fraught and a hell of a lot more fun. More partners. More lighthearted. More like this. Hot damn!
Question 1 - Pics of the 3Vs are below. Do passionate affairs make you look grim?
Question 2 - Do *you* have an awesome set of friends, too?
Question 3 - Has making friends gotten easier or harder as you have reached mid-life?