Friday, December 17, 2010

"Waiting for the Smiths"

You know that old expression, "Keeping Up with the Joneses"? Meaning the incessant need to have just a little bit more than those around you, and doing whatever it takes to obtain same, in order to save face? (In other words, a materialistic crock of shit life philosophy.) For the sake of the expression, "Jones" being a common enough name to stand for just about anybody with whom you see yourself (or your family) in competition.

It probably won't surprise you to learn that I have never given a damn what the Joneses think. Nor have I tried to keep up with them. Even if I had all the resources in the world I wouldn't go out of my way to use them to make sure Mr. Jones didn't get too far ahead of me.

So I have not very often been guilty of that one.

But I must plead guilty to another concept. One that isn't quite the opposite of "Keeping of with the Joneses", but similar enough in method that I have dubbed it, "Waiting for the Smiths".

In this case, "The Smiths" are the term I use to stand in for any group of friends, or potential group of friends.

I believe that everyone is entitled to a certain demographic of friends. Not only entitled. We require certain types of people to be in our life in order to obtain any degree of fulfillment and contentment. All of us need at least some good friends that share our spiritual views. Our politics. Our own set of social graces and norms. Nobody wants to, nor should they, spend their whole life around people in whom the do not feel comfortable in confiding due to large differences in core beliefs and perceptions.

Yet in accepting that truth, I ask two questions:

1) How many potential friends are going to posses all such qualities in similar quantities to our own?

2) Can people with sometimes daunting variance in fundamental beliefs still provide each other with significant spiritual and emotional support?

My answer to the first question is not zero. But without doubts, the number is quite small over a lifetime. For most people, I dare say three or four at most, one of whom is almost certainly a spouse or future spouse.

The second question I answer with, "perhaps".

However not too many years ago I would have answered that question with, "no". I was convinced, (and to be honest part of me still feels this way) that a person in trouble or despair can never open up to, be honest with or supported by anyone with whom they didn't share very specific characteristics. Such people are fine for recreation. Or conversation. Some beer here and there. But no real connection at the deepest part of our humanity can truly occur.

In some circumstances, I am right. It can't be done, and it is foolish to think so. But I realize now that maybe it is foolish to wait until the ideal friends show up in our lives before we are open about our deepest selves. Honest. Vulnerable. If we wait for a group of people that make us feel 100% comfortable with sharing everything all of the time without any bit of fear or awkwardness, we may wait a very long time. A long during during which we have kept certain parts of ourselves hidden. And that may lead to more unhappiness.

This, my readers, if what I have dubbed "Waiting for the Smiths". The Smiths being, of course, those people with whom we have instant rapport, congruence at the deepest parts of all factions of our soul, and the ability to have fun to boot. As I said, there is a "Smith" out there for just about everyone. But maybe we shouldn't wait for them to show up before we open up.

Another way to "Wait for the Smiths" is to hope that friends we already have, people who are lacking in some quality we require, will some day other obtaining that quality, or worse than that, people whom we think we can change into possessing that quality so we can make use of it in our relationship with them.

Don't misunderstand me. We must still exercise discretion. Every single friend of ours does not need to know everything. Some of them shouldn't know everything because indeed we all have certain friends that we want to remain in the "have fun only" category. And that is fine. In fact, it's great. We all need those. But before you conclude that you have nobody to confide in, nobody with whom you can share your difficulties or worries, or fears, nobody that can keep you company when you need it, make sure you survey those friends you have, without holding them up to the "Smith Metric". They won't be able to do everything for you, but maybe they can do enough that day. If you give the right friends the chance.

And who knows...perhaps people that you feel quite dissimilar to would in the end wind up being one of "The Smiths" some day.

Are you "Waiting for the Smiths" in your life?

4 comments:

Jamie Nacht Farrell said...

First, thank you for posting again ( ; I was so excited when I saw this. As to your questions / comments, in reference to question 1 - I agree. There is that famous quote that says, "If you can count the number of real friends you have on one hand, you have a lot". On question 2 - I think this is more about people's willingness to be open minded with one another; as well as liberal in their thinking. A great example...I grew up in S. FL and NY - surrounded by NY Jews/Italians. Even in college, that was my "Crew". When I got to the working world, I was introduced to so many diverse people, I found them all interesting, different, exciting, etc. BUT did not know if I would be able to "relate" to them the same way I was to the people I grew up with. NOW - I'm married to one of them ( ; He's Irish Catholic and he's perfect. WHat I found was that while we are different (seemingly), we share the same core set of values and that is what matters. So, on #2, I guess I would say if you have the patience to weed through the superficial BS and relaly get to know someone's value systems, you may find you're more similar than you once did.

Maggie said...

I am also guilty of "waiting for the Smiths," and I thank you for writing this blog to show me that I am not alone in feeling that, while I can appreciate good qualities in almost everyone, I cannot "connect" with almost anyone. After reading your blog, it confirms my belief that, in essence, that's okay. One can still be happy by learning to be secure enough to open up different sides of ourselves to different people - not waiting for the one person to open the floodgates on them - and we should not lose ourselves so that if and when that person comes, we are ready.

Maggie said...

I am also guilty of "waiting for the Smiths," and I thank you for writing this blog to show me that I am not alone in feeling that, while I can appreciate good qualities in almost everyone, I cannot "connect" with almost anyone. After reading your blog, it confirms my belief that, in essence, that's okay. One can still be happy by learning to be secure enough to open up different sides of ourselves to different people - not waiting for the one person to open the floodgates on them - and we should not lose ourselves so that if and when that person comes, we are ready.

Ty Unglebower said...

Maggie...

I'm happy that my post spoke to you, and I am always glad to hear from others who find themselves in similar circumstances as myself. My favorite part of your comment was,

"we should not lose ourselves so that if and when that person comes, we are ready."

Well said!