“I wonder if you are really a friend of mine.
If i were lying in jail wouldja get outta bed and pay my fine?
Time stands still for everyone
You never really know who your friends are.” — Al Kooper
That’s the song that was playing on Radio Diane tonight. As some of you know, I tune in to the songs playing in my head and try to get a feel for what Life Itself is trying to tell me.
This one was pretty easy to figure out, though while it relates to the words of the song, belies what I think Al Kooper was trying to convey. I think he was saying you don’t know who is a friend, and who is not (with his various tests of friendship – “If I were dyin of thirst, would you be my wine” et al).
But I think it’s going through my head in another sense – that we don’t know, at heart, these people we call friends.
This came to mind because this morning my new friend Myra commented on my post “Are we dead or just sleeping? A lament for America.” I know Myra through Facebook – she is a friend of my stepbrother Joe and I loved her comments on his page and friended her. I’ve discovered we have SO much in common – it’s almost uncanny at times.
But what we don’t have in common is that Myra’s husband was killed in the Gulf War. It stunned me, truly, to read that in my comment stream. I knew she was a widow, but this very personal fact wasn’t one I knew about her. We’re new friends, and online friends and she lives in a different part of the country. So it sort of makes sense that I don’t know all the details of her life – those things unfold as friendships grow.
But it got me to thinking of how we all assume things about one another (when I learned Myra was a widow I assumed “early heart attack”). Sometimes, it’s something innocuous (when people hear of all my family members on the East Coast they assume I grew up there. I didn’t – they all ditched the Midwest, which is where we’re from).
Sometimes, we miss something profound – like how Myra became a widow. And sometimes that opens a whole new window into one’s understanding of a friend.
With friends since we are predisposed to like one another, I think these unexpected learnings primarily deepen us. “Ah,” we say! “so THAT’S why Candace rides a motorcycle.” Or, “oh! Now I see why Patrick speaks flawless French.” As the saying from the past decade goes “it’s all good.” (or, in more recent colloquial terms ‘no worries.’).
But as Harry Nilsson singing Al Kooper’s song ran through my head, I thought “we never really know who anyone is” in some deeper ways. That’s sad, intriguing – and, sometimes, dangerous.
I’m very lucky because I have family members who are politically and religiously my polar opposites. Why is this lucky? Because when people rail against Republicans, or the religious right I can step back and say – hey there are people I love very much who hold those views. It has deepened me. Will I change my views – I very much doubt it (as in, it’s about as likely as me sprouting wings and flying). Will they? Seems equally doubtful to me.
But I strive to learn a bit more about people and to see them in a fuller way. It’s easier, I must say, with Jeff whom I love, than Dick Cheney for whom I have ZERO affection.
There’s so much we don’t know about one another. Not just our histories, but what makes us tick. I’ve mentioned that astrology has been my longtime hobby – and it’s for that reason – to give me another window into understanding myself and others.
It still sometimes surprises me how different we can all be, how unique each human is – and yet, how we all have struggles that are similar despite all of that.
Once, years ago, I went out with a gang of women that I used to spend Wednesday evenings with. We were at Baker’s Square eating too much pie, drinking coffee and bitching about our mothers. Everyone had a tale of woe. I laughingly suggested that we each write our mom’s name on a slip of paper, throw them in the middle of the table and then pick a new mom.
It was interesting that the talk suddenly got serious with everyone quite uniformly agreeing that they’d keep their own moms, thank you very much.
So here’s another song from long ago and far away. On good days I remember it:
Joe South – Walk a Mile in My Shoes
“If I could be you and you could be me for just one hour
If we could find a way to get inside each other’s mind
If you could see you through my eyes instead of your ego
I believe you’d be surprised to see that you’d been blind
Walk a mile in my shoes, walk a mile in my shoes
Yeah, before you abuse, criticize and accuse
Walk a mile in my shoes.”
Maybe I’ll make that my goal for this next quarter – to deepen my connections with friends new and old. To find out why people ‘do like they do’ instead of criticizing. To look for the good, and the brave and overlook (as well as I can – I am such an impatient woman) the annoying.