Happy Valentine's Day!
A heart is not measured by how much you love but how much you are loved by others.
~The Wizard of Oz
Yeah, yeah, yeah. I've heard all the booing and hissing and moral outrage at a holiday that, with a wink and a nod at love, is really all about corporate greed. I get it. I've been there. I was a florist for eight years. I make cards for a living (but they are individually and lovingly crafted with great gobs of thought). I was also single and alone and lonely for a very long time. I get it. Really I do. Don't be hatin' on me just because I've managed to, in all the Universe, trip over a guy who, against all reason, absolutely adores me, and who is easily adored in his own right.
I'm not here to talk about mushy, gooey love. Relax. I wasn't even going to post today, but then I was inspired by (cue foreshadowing drum roll) a friend. I posted the above quote as my Facebook status this morning. My buddy Dave responded, "then you're in trouble..your heart will be growing out of your chest..just from MY love..not to mention the love of the hundreds of others..."
So, I want to talk about friendship. I want to take a moment to appreciate the beauty and value of friendship. Because, let me tell you, I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for some truly amazing friendships. There is no greater love than a friend. There is familial love, and while it's true that blood is thicker than water, family love is in place sort of because it has to be. Like Frost said, "when you go there, they have to take you in." Lovers, husbands, wives, etc., sure, those are deep loves. To be someone's mate, to be part of that spark that becomes a flame that says, "only you and no other" is breathtaking. But friendship, true platonic love... if you've ever met it in another, it will blow your mind ten ways 'til next Thursday. To be chosen as a friend is beyond compare.
Plato (from whence comes the word platonic) believed that if we love another person, all that we see as beautiful about them will direct us spiritually, will direct us to a divine love. One proceeds from recognition of the beauty of another to appreciation of beauty as it exists apart from any individual, to consideration of divinity, the source of beauty, to love of divinity. Victor Hugo put it more succinctly, "To love another person is to see the face of God."
Don't worry. I'm not getting all spiritually woowoo on you. It's just that I've been struck by how deep the love runs in the friendships that I have - and always, that's love that goes both directions. You have to be a friend to have a friend. That's what makes real friendships so amazing - it's the choice of the matter that goes into it. I don't have a huge quantity of close friends, but I have friendships that span decades, as well as friendships that are new(ish).
I guess when all this really struck me was over this past weekend. I have a new(ish) friend who really wants to spend some time with me. Trouble is, we live in different states. She sent me an email Friday and said, "You know what? I just want to spend some time with you. I'm willing to pay your airfare if you'll take the time to come and visit." At first I thought, "How sweet, how flattering." The more I thought about it though, I realized, "This is someone who knows the value of friendship and she is choosing me. She is ready and willing to move any obstacles just to spend time with me."
I have another friend who wants to come and visit me this Summer. We've been online friends for about six years now and we've had some deep conversations, share a warped sense of humor, and a penchant for all things art. She sent me a message a couple of months ago and said, "I'm not letting another year go by." I wept when I read those words.
Then there are the few deep friendships I have that span decades. Friends that have watched me go through everything, friends that have been there while I change and grow and get ugly and rant and sing and dance and... just... be. And they're still there, arms and hearts open. They've given me time, and money, and advice and, laughter, and inspiration, and... and love, unconditional love.
I will never forget a moment nearly four years ago. It was after John's memorial. It was dark and everyone else had gone inside. It was raining and I stood in the backyard, crying in the rain, thinking... thinking, "Now what." Timothy came up to me and, without a word, wrapped me up in a hug and just stood there like that in the rain with me for what felt like hours. It was long enough that I found some calm. I realized that John had handed over the reigns of a 31 year friendship. I had been given something precious, something to treasure. John had given me the most valuable thing he had ever known in his life - Timothy's friendship.
Think where man's glory most begins and ends,
And say my glory was I had such friends.
~William Butler Yeats
Yesterday I watched Grumpy Old Men for the g'zillionth time. I saw something new in it this time around. Toward the end of the show Matthau's character looks down at Lemmon's character lying asleep in a hospital bed. Matthau's face softens as he gets tears in his eyes. This time I didn't see an actor doing his job. This time I saw Walt not as an actor, but as a man looking at his dear friend Jack, thinking, "It's been quite a ride, pal. Quite a ride."
When I think of love, I think of the friends whose eyes I want to look into and say, "It's been quite a ride, pal."
It's been quite a ride... and there's always someone cool in the shotgun seat.