Monday, March 2, 2009

Friends- Do You Want 'Em?

I'm thinking about friendship today. My friendship landscape is much different now than when it was when I first discovered about Aspergers Syndrome. Someone in a private forum I subscribe to mentioned it was important to discuss setting realistic and manageable goals. I'm not sure what he/she meant, but I'm debating hat for mysef at the present.

For example, I'm discovering that I have to decide what balance I want: A lot of "ok" friendships or a handful of quality friendships. If I want to have a lot of friends, I have to accept the fact that very few people live up to my high standards. And people don't like being around those who make them feel bad about themselves, which folks with high standards tend to do (even without trying).

So I have to choose between just having the rare few close friends (all of whom are Aspie, incidentally) and spending time with people who may be fun in other aspects, but whose conversation isn't always not 100% meaningful. The few close friends I have almost always provide quality, thought-provoking, and meaningful interaction but (like me) can only tolerate so much interaction so there's less of it. And we don't go and "do" very much. We do things where we are existing together, talk on the computer or while walking or go to a bookstore. That's comforting and calming.

Whereas on the other hand, I sometimes hang out with the more shallow group (until I reach MY limit of personal interaction) but doing that means accepting that part of the conversation will be about "stupid stuff" and part will be shallow vanity girl stuff that's not important to me. The advantage to this is learning more about style and shopping, and just having more opportunities to hang out with someone. If I get in a people mood, I have someone to call if my favorite people are in their usual solitary mood.

The thing is, until I acquired a family, I had very little use for the shallow friendships, because I have so many social funcitons as part of my job and church that I rarely get in a people mood without people around. But another dimension has surfaced, now that I'm learning to develop these type of relationships: I see that such things really are the glue that makes the rest of society run. Coworkers, people who teach/care for my son, neighbors, a LOT of life goes smoother when you take the time to be "shallow" with people.

And I don't understand it. It's just that I don't operate that way. See, if a neighbor needs help, I'll help just because I'm a neighbor and that's what neighbors do. But someone else may not help me because, even though I'm a neighbor, I never chat with them like the other neighbors do. Similarly, on my job, if someone needs me to do XYZ for them, I'll do it whether I like them or not-it's part of my job. But I finally noticed that most of the time I need something done, it usually only gets done when I approach the people with whom I've started a "chit-chat" kind of relationship. Or, of me, a relationship isn't built on one or two-line emails back and forth. I want meat, I want rambling. I want to understand what you think and why you think it. But others are scared off by that sort of thing, so in order to forge relationships I must be short and sweet. I don't understand it, but that's how it seems to work... Maybe someone can explain it to me.

In the meantime, I'll keep working at it.

1 comment:

Janet said...

My best friend and I occasionally have a conversation that covers all the points you mentioned in your post. We live 9 or 10 hours apart now, but we've been best friends for close to 20 years now. We've both had to cultivate "friendships" within our communities in order to provide social interaction for our children. The "friendships" aren't comfortable for us (and I think w'er both NT) and it annoys both of us to waste time gossiping or talking about make-up and fashion. We also get annoyed at women who are totally dependant on their husbands. For goodness sake, learn to change your own oil, run a drill, hammer a nail, and work a plunger! We persevere anyway just because we need to connections if our children are ever going to have the opportunity to spend time with other children.