Missives on Friendship, #1

I have a friend
Whose wisdom steeps like coffee
Always fragrant with friendship
Bringing good taste out of darkness

In a world driven by friending, unfriending, virtual words, and internet socialization, sometimes I think about the circles of my life—my family, my workplace, my acquaintances, my friends. How do you know if someone is a friend when you have never met them face to face? How does friendship form between two people whose threads have never crossed?

Some time ago, though dates aren't really my thing, I fell in love with the writings of LithiumAddict on my favorite fandom website. And you know what? Fandom gave me so much, but there is only one reason I truly don't regret it: because it gave me people I truly consider friends. One day, for one reason or another, I followed enough links and little breadcrumbs across the internet from that fanfiction profile to an online journal where I found out that this favorite author of mine was also lithiumlaughter, Percy O'Leary, the storygirl. If anyone ever deserved the name, she did.

I had never really thought about what it meant to put yourself out there online because at the time, I didn't. There was this little rosebud sitting in my heart I refused to allow to blossom, and I had reasons. I will not go into how terrible this world can be to those who are different and refuse to change, who dig in their heels and stand their ground, sure on the footing of familial attachment and obstinately stick up their chin in nonconformity while still preferring to skate beneath the surface of notice. I will not go into what my world looked like at the time, but let me say that that was me. If stubbornness is a strong will and obstinacy is a strong won't, then I am that won't. So I stayed tucked away inside myself and it was safe and comfortable and if people didn't like my fiction, then they were welcome to simply not read it.

And then there was Percy. She didn't just write fiction: she wrote her challenges and struggles; she wrote about the Man upstairs with such an honest, raw conviction of His tender care even in the strange turmoil a life could be; and she did so unapologetically and without offering offense. It made me willing to open my own self up a little bit, and a little bit more, willing to put my heart into words and take a look inside my skin in something more than the vaguest of terms. Oh, I had done enough of that inside my head and my safe circle of family, but to reach out my hand to another with the very real possibility that they would slap me back—I had never done it. I had not the courage.

Perhaps courage in writing isn't having the thick skin, but simply shrugging off the blood from our wounds because we have more words to say, more songs to sing, more love to offer. I can say honestly that lithiumlaughter taught me that.

In discovering that journal of a storygirl, I found a friend. I cheered her on and prayed for her and always received a welcome to my prayers. We started talking—this and that, writing, fandom, tea and poetry, the way we like to get under a character's skin and think about what makes them tick. When I was down, she cheered me up, she prayed for me and supported me when I needed encouragement and strength.

And let us say, that is what friendship is to me. Friendship is unconditional. You don't wait until someone is doing well to be there for them. Friendship is encouragement, support, lending our strength to share in the load. Friendship is laughter together in the good times, exchanging ideas and understandings and all the things that make us better people in the long run. Friendship is honesty and openness. Friendship is knowing when you cast that line out to another person, they will catch it. Friendship is agreeing to disagree. Friendship is sharing some of the same foundation or building it together.

Perhaps you could argue in this world of friending and unfriending that friendship has been cheapened. Not mine.

I have a friend
Whose hand is always open
Always free with her encouragement
Always stronger than she believes

Happy belated birthday, m'dear.

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