With only a few texts and online messages, a friendship between people who have not yet seen for years is seemingly starved for attention and nurturing. This friendship may fray, and in the future meeting an awkward feeling rises and wrestles with a realized irony that seeing again a friend is like meeting a stranger. It is a dilemma of reaching a friend’s heart through your memory like trying to grab a wisp of smoke. The person you have once called a friend has changed over years – cells and tissues have shed and an evolved person is before you, a person you now know only by name.
An old friendship like this is not hypothetical. Almost all of us, who have called someone a “best friend”, a barkada or a tropa, have had such kinds of friends whose hearts have slipped from our grasp. We used to come to their homes, eat with them lunch prepared by their moms, whom we lovingly called tita or auntie, and play video games or talk to them nonstop about everything under the sun. We were so close that we share our secrets only our pillows could hear them. We once promised years of growing much closer like brothers and sisters, who will be ninong and ninang of our future children.
We are not all lucky, though. We have “friends” who have changed so much we cannot recognize them. Again, they have only left remnants of their memories and we wonder, What is friendship made of? We have fossilized these friendships even after years of going to the same school, eating together at the canteen, choosing the same major, working at the same company, traveling the same places, doing the same hobbies. But anything we share in the past, anything outside of us ends at some point. Parting ways as we inevitably end our common goals weakens the bond. Close friendships finally close.
We have never thought of a friendship that develops from inside. It seldom happens, only to a few people dear to us. We just don’t open secrets; we also open our inner selves into seeing the many layers of their being. We gaze on their eyes seeing more than just what is same and similar. We see what is something shared: a shared self of pain and sorrow, a shared self of joy and gratitude. Friendship is like an internal marriage – it is not a closing, neither is it about being close. It is an intertwining of separate selves by a paradoxical opening – of baring what is really inside, of being truly vulnerable to and faithful with each other.
Friendship is a mutual witnessing, of being open to reveal your ever-evolving, loving selves.
I am blessed to meet my open friends. Some of them I just met recently. Two years have passed until my recent meeting with my old friends who are school teachers was again filled with laughter and stories while enjoying a heap of French fries. Three years have passed, with only a few texts and lost mobile numbers, I also met again another friend who finally has transformed his life from many hardships to unbelievable bliss; we shared our stories sitting on a small lawn in the front yard of his new home – his dream three years ago that is now a reality. Time flies and still feels like it was just yesterday. This is the yardstick I always tell people: if, after many years, you meet again as if it is just like yesterday, then you have had a very good friendship. A very open one.
I realize my open friends are the best ones – I see them grow as they see me grow too. I mirror them and see how they have undergone their own metamorphoses. I listen to them again, how their voices arise from the echoes of their spirit-filled happiness. We have defied time and space. We don’t need so much words to explain our years of absence, though stories bring life to our meeting and instantly those years disappear. Those moment are always magical.
You are open friends for many profound reasons. You give yourselves. You give your presence. You are peering to each other’s soul like a kaleidoscope and see the ever-changing patterns of thoughts and feelings, observing beauty. They never force you to change, not even force you not to change. They are there, allowing you to be what you ought to be yourself. With no attached or hidden agenda, you grow together, a testament of Love among people who were once strangers, always enduring, always unconditional. Friendship is a mutual witnessing, of being open to reveal your ever-evolving, loving selves.