Gdynia. First such cold afternoon this year, a Vietnamese lunch in surprisingly good Good Morning Vietnam and a magazine to make the time before the beloved spring rolls come pass faster. A hot brew of ginger and orange and ‘Wysokie Obcasy’ magazine. It used to be mine Saturday’s ritual, now it’s more like an accidental situation or a ‘comforter’ on long trips. As always, I start with THE LETTER OF THE WEEK. I love them, they make me think and sometimes I can’t forget them for the next few days. In some cases, it’s ME who doesn’t want to forget them…
That’s what happened on Saturday! Maybe you still have this issue somewhere, covered with other newspapers, maybe your child has already tried their Picasso skills on it, but still – try to find it. Letter of the week is short, but it precisely reflects mine, our thoughts, contents of night’s conversations at home or at a party with friends somewhere. Subject that might be painful, that we sometimes forget about, because there’s so many other important things going on.
The author of the letter starts with her Facebook post. In it, she described a short encounter with an old man who walked his dog alone. He told her, that his wife passed away a few years ago, that he doesn’t have much of a will to live anymore. Because he doesn’t have anybody to live for. He’s alone. His kids are either too occupied with their own lives, families and carriers o spend some time with their own father or too far away. He’s got no friends, no close neighbours. The author finished her letter with a strong statement. A statement that I keep thinking about since last Saturday:
‘Do you really believe that having a family means that you won’t end up alone in the future? Are your kids here to pass you a glass of water when you’re old? It’s FRIENDS who decide on whether you’re alone or not. If you have them, you won’t be alone. If you only have family, I’m pretty sure you might end up on your own.’
That’s heavy, isn’t it? I mean, everyone keeps telling us that it’s the family that matters! That people come and go, that you can have arguments about world views, money or a guy with anyone but the family will always stay close to you. Children, husband, wife, sometimes siblings or parents. We live for the family, we sacrifice for the family by sometimes working more than a dozen hours a day and forgetting about everything else. Do we also forget about friends who once used to be important for us, without whom we once couldn’t imagine a week or a weekend? We do so more and more often! Because of work, carrier, new projects, demanding bosses, kids, whatever. No time for anything. You’ve got work, home, kids, more work, more home, more kids. Alarm clock, route to the office, racing with time, in a traffic jam on your way home or to kindergarten. A few hours to play with your child, miraculously produced out of thin air. Then, go to sleep or work a little more since you have shitloads of work. Every moment that’s not spent with your family is spent at work. Every moment free of work is spent with family and kids to see them at least for these 2-3 hours a day. And then, the weekend comes, we want to give it up to our kids and family after an absent week. Stay at home together, visit grandparents – they haven’t seen their grandchildren for a while, right? You’ll say that it’s normal… That’s just how it is… In high school or during student years and shortly after it was friends who were the centre of your lives. Then, the real life came. Everyone chose what was important to them. There’s no time. The family is the most important.
Friends become second class citizens. We don’t party at night or go out like we used to, we don’t eat lunches together cause we don’t have time for it and suddenly it turns out that we pretty much stopped seeing our friends. Do you know how many times have I heard people complaining about that? Especially childless people?
‘I’ve got no friends anymore. All go like that: kids, work, home. They won’t even go for a beer anymore since their wives do not let them! We once set up a meeting so I’m waiting for the call as we were supposed to go for a beer… finally I make the call myself and get his wife on the other side who says that Tomek is washing little Johnny… before he finishes, it’s already too late cause there’s work to do in the morning’
‘I left because there’s nothing going on in Warsaw. Nobody cares anymore. Nobody parties until early morning anymore. All lock themselves up at home or work. There’s no life here!’
‘She’s gone mad since she became a mother! How can we ever meet if she’s starting to prepare her little one for sleep at 6 pm and I finish work at 5???’
‘My friends don’t have children yet but despite that, they’re always tired after work and prefer lying in bed and watching TV. It’s always me who comes with the ideas!’
Don’t you get the feeling that you hear more and more of such things lately? It gets more and more difficult to get someone out. A party? No, there’s nobody I can leave the kid with! Let’s meet with the kids on Friday! No, I’m feeling too tired after work! Coffee after work – no way, I need to get my little one! Maybe a meeting during the weekend? Cool, but I need to go to my parents, clean the house, make lunch and play with children.
Family. It’s the family that counts. It’s the foundation, the backbone and gives us the power and the understanding. But it’s not the only one. Do you know this quote: ‘Friends are silent angels who pick us up when our wings forget how to fly’? I totally believe in it. Even though I sometimes find it hard to find time for everything, I don’t want to stick to my family only. I want to have friends. You never know if you won’t lose your beloved husband/wife in 5 or 10 years. I know, it’s painful to speak about it, but that’s the brutal truth. What then? Who will teach you to fly again if you didn’t have time for your friends in the last few years? If you forgot about your friends? And even if you both survive together, won’t it be boring and sad to be there just the two of you when the kids fly out of the nest?
The kids? They’re lovely and I’m sure they’ll stay the same in their adult lives. But do we really want to limit them with the necessity to care about the ‘old mother’ or parents??? I want my son to conquer the world. If he wants to live in Madrid, I’ll be happier than ever. Same if he chooses New York. I don’t want him to think: ‘I would like to go, but I can’t leave my mother alone!’
I want to spend my future happy. Not alone, not even the two of us. I want to drink wine or hot chocolate with my friends and talk about the old times. Take walks and chat when we all have to support ourselves with walking sticks or walkers. I know that I’m already working on it. And even if I sometimes forget o call back (sorry!), or also run out of time, I know that it’s worth trying, proposing, caring about relationships and meeting as often as possible. Because like the letter’s author wrote, it’s friends who can keep us company in the end… even when the husband leaves you for a younger one and the kids are scattered all over the world… 😉
Now think how much time a week you spend with your friends and how much at work, with family and kids? How often do you call to ask ‘how’s it going?’ Too rarely? Maybe they haven’t forget about you yet?! There’s still chance! Maybe it’s not too late to change it!? Do it today!