Victoria Sarne continues her examination of life-changing moments and daily challenges.
I was thinking about the nature of friendship, the different forms it takes and what it has meant to me in my life. I have a woman friend who lives in Canada and was an immigrant like me way back when we were both young mothers, and who has always phoned me whenever and wherever I went out of the country. Sometimes there have been really long periods when we haven't seen each other for that reason and yet as conventional wisdom says, a real friend is one with whom you can instantly pick up again as if no time has passed. And this has always been the case. I consider her my best friend. Like most close friends, we have shared openly and honestly our loves, our likes, our tragedies, our secrets, our sadnesses and our misgivings or our joys about marriages and children. I always thought we knew each other really well and that there were no more surprises, no more wandering spouses, re-marriages or singlehood, no more deaths of dear friends, just the exchange of updates on our now settled lives (at least in her case; mine is still rather gypsy-like).
And yet she startled me the other day by saying something quite ordinary, almost a throwaway remark in passing, in one of our very long, long-distance phone calls. It suddenly and surprisingly made me aware of something I do, or rather, don't do. She said, "You never call me". I know I never do, although I will message or send e-mails. It occurred to me that she had over a period of roughly 40 years never questioned that nor had it dissuaded her from continuing to call me to find out if I was alive or dead at any time. Nor had I ever given it any thought. Our habit was and is that if she hasn't had a message from me of some kind, after a while she will phone and check in. I have always taken it for granted and felt comforted knowing that she would, at some point, call.
That chance remark sparked a realisation that I rarely, if ever, telephone anyone; not my family, nor other friends. I told her this, although illogically I always assumed she must know. I hate talking on the telephone and I always have. If I can't see someone in person, then I would rather write (no real surprise there). I have never vocalised it before to her or anyone else and yet it is a life-long ingrained habit that I am well aware of. I told her she was right and I was sorry that it must have appeared uncaring or thoughtless on my part when really it was just an illogical aberration. I explained that it had nothing to do with how I viewed our friendship, which I treasure, but because I am such an introvert (maybe anti-social half the time). Phone calls often seem like an invasion of my personal space. Work calls I can do, but I have been known to dither for ages about just picking up the phone to children or relatives, and inevitably in the end not doing it. I made a point of telling her that she is absolutely the only person I ever talk to at length on the phone (and the phone calls sometimes last more than an hour). It seemed stupid and selfish when I said it, but she understood once I expressed my feelings and thoughts.
I taught myself a lesson that day; that we should assume nothing in a friendship, no matter the longevity of it, and that we should always make sure that we express our gratitude for that valuable gift by actually saying the words: thank you for being my friend. Thank you for being my lifeline on so many occasions...you know who you are.
• Victoria Sarne, formerly a wedding and event planner in Nassau, is happy to stay in touch with readers from the Bahamas and welcomes comments and questions. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org, call 242-467-1178 or visit www.lifelineswritingservice.com.