This post carries over from my previous post about the Mamma Mia Movie – so please read that post, along with the fabulous comments people posted below it, first.

Thanks so much to everyone for posting comments with such honesty on the Mamma Mia Movie post ! I am really enjoying this dialogue and it is freeing in that it is giving me some more understanding and ideas. First I want to address some of those comments:

Casey, thanks for sharing your feelings. You probably had a double-whammy because not only did you have a fulfilling career, you had a great creative outlet/expression too. I hope you’re finding ways to keep singing now, even if it’s just in your own kitchen! I took my guitar down to the beach with the kids the other day and that was really enjoyable. Gotta do more of that!

Nicole, your perspective is one that would never have occurred to me – but I can certainly see how you (and others) could feel that way. It doesn’t resonate with me at all, but I can understand it. So that definitely helps.

Corey, I’m really glad you shared your perspective too – I had forgotten that aspect of the career-woman thing. And yes, I remember in London how hard it was to get together with some people – you had to book 3-4 weeks in advance because everyone’s schedule was so busy and everyone was working so hard (and no one had kids at that time either). Maybe Tokyo was such a wonderful, unique environment because us ex-pats were so “thrown together by such a foreign culture/language”. In many ways, having such isolating barriers around us, made intimacy really easy and also made it occur rapidly. So, if we all move to Papua, New Guinea, we should be all set!

And maybe that’s the crux: The kind of friendship that suits me best (that I like the best) is to have between 1 – 3 very close, intimate friends – because I prefer deep rather than light. But perhaps those kinds of friendships mostly occur in microcosms that facilitate continual, close contact: school, university, ex-pat communities, communes, religious organizations, etc.

Perhaps the most valuable take-away for me is to stop pining for, or wasting energy trying to re-create a relationship like that in this environment (which is not conducive to intimacy), but to focus on enjoying what is possible in this kind of situation. And perhaps that involves stretching my concepts, or allowing myself to evolve and not just ‘put up with’, but actually find enjoyment in more fleeting, sporadic relationships. A kind of “take it where you can get it” and “enjoy it while it lasts” approach.

So what if that doesn’t resonate with my core self? I know that greater flexibility leads to greater happiness, so I’m going to embrace that here and see what happens.

The other aspect that’s emerged from this discussion is that of loss and betrayal. By the time you reach our age, MANY of us have been seriously dumped by a close friend we invested a lot of time and love into. And this makes us very hesitant to risk that kind of intimacy again.

I went for lunch with another Mum from my daughter’s class and she shared how there were 4 girlfriends she’s had since junior high school. She had remained in the same area she’d grown up in, as had all her close friends, so she really had a “tribe” and they were very close. But by the time each of them got married, one by one, the friendships fractured (one married a loser husband, the other got very wealthy with different interests, etc.) until she only had 1 friend remaining that she’s still close with. She’s now totally gun-shy about investing so much of her time and her self into friendships – having seen how easily they can fracture.

As she was telling me the saga, she kept exclaiming things like, “I can’t believe it!” She was really shocked that this kind of disintegration could happen in such a long-term friendship. At some point I leaned over and said to her, “Honey, you’re preaching to the choir here.” This exact same thing has happened to me with 3 different friends so far – all of whom I’d had deep friendships with for 10 years or more.

So, I think this is another factor that blocks intimacy in friendships. Personally, I’ve come to the conclusion that there are very few people who possess the functionality necessary to maintain an intimate relationship for any length of time. Witness the divorce rate.

If people are not skilled in negotiation, problem-solving and conflict-resolution, they will not be able to maintain a good quality intimate relationship for any length of time. I really believe it’s that simple. And if you weren’t taught those skills by your parents, then you have to take courses in them and practice them – and how many people do that?

So now when I meet people and start to become friends with them, I’ve become quite mercenary about assessing their level of functionality: What’s their romantic relationship like? How do they parent their children? Are they living a fulfilling life they’re satisfied with? Are they healthy?

As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Who you are is speaking so loudly, I can’t hear what you’re saying.”

And that’s how I approach potential friends now. I don’t listen to their words. I look at their life for evidence that they are a functional, self-actualized, well-developed person. Because if they are not, I know there’s no way in hell they’ll be able to maintain a relationship with me.

Sadly, the majority of the time, the person’s life does not bear evidence of integrated personal, or interpersonal functionality. So then I either disengage, or I say to myself, “Well, it’s only a matter of time before this relationship blows up, but she’s fun, so I’m okay with that.” I find that if you’re forewarned that the friendship will disintegrate – or explode – it’s not too hurtful when it happens. It’s still sad and a shame, but it doesn’t cut deep.

Just more grist for the mill……

One last thing: When I went looking for a photo to put in this post, I found this article on the different types of friendships and it’s quite good. Based on this list, it’s obvious that my idea of “true friendship” and what I describe as “functionality” is what the author, Rajyeshwari Ghosh, describes as Self-Actualized Friendships:

Self-Actualized Friends – Friends in this group are the perfect combination and are very rare to find. These friends have an amazing appetite for intellectual conversation, are open to discuss about life experiences, take care of their own needs, have less complaints about life in general and respect others views of life. In addition to that, they will love to invest time to grow emotionally, professionally, intellectually, socially, and spiritually, know how to laugh and enjoy life also. These friends will not try to change others, but will appreciate and respect the differences. Probably, we will grow old with this group of friend. The friends in this group volunteer to give us feedback and advice about different aspects of life, not only because they care about us, but want positive things to happen in our lives.