Monday, January 14, 2013

is blood thicker than water?

I've always been a bit envious of those people that have a ''strong circle of friends''.  You know, the kind where all the wives are besties, the husbands are mates, the kids play happily together, and it's all rather ''F.R.I.E.N.D.S'' like.

I'm also rather envious of those big families where there's lots of strong bonds - family get togethers, singing round the barbecue, and all that.  Sure, I get that it's a cliche.  I get that I watch too much American TV, but I still like it.

I'm lucky enough to have a circle of friends that kind of fits the description above, and I do come from a large family that (on one side anyway) has amazing annual get togethers.  And I have a close relationship with my parents and siblings if not the extended family in general.

This week I have had conversations for four different people who have all been lamenting the disconnect between their commitment to friendship (in particular) and that of the the friends involved.  Some people are really good at maintaining friendships with people they seldom see, and others just don't seem to want to put in the effort.

I suppose it's like any relationship, in that you have to both want success.  And it would seem that longevity is also not enough to guarantee the health of a friendship.  But the other observation I have made, is that for those people with very strong family ties, or a strong circle of current friends, there seems to be less need to maintain lasting bonds with seldom seen friends.   And for those that don't have good family relationships, the energy is put into friendships instead.

The problem comes of course, when one person values the friendship more than the other.  Or at least puts more priority on it than the other.

My guess is that if you have really strong connections with your family, it is impossible to understand what it would be like not to have that.  It would be difficult to understand why someone would put as much store in a friendship as they put into their family relationships.  It might even make the family-light person seem a bit ...well, intense?

Perhaps, but I would argue that friendships can be, and are, just as rewarding as the relationships we have with people we are biologically connected to - in fact sometimes more so.  After all, one is always related, but a friendship requires a real commitment from two sides.

Here's the question/challenge for you:

Do you value your friends as much (or even more) than your family?
What would happen if you had to choose one over the other?
Do you consider your friends an extension of your family?
How much effort are you really prepared to put into maintaining friendships with people you have known for a long time?

Friday, January 11, 2013

the power of friendship

This week I had the pleasure of meeting my SO's two closest friends, both of whom live overseas and are seldom in NZ.  It was a wonderful day, with kids and wives, extended family, lots of food and music and plenty of laughs (and ''remember when'' stories).

These guys met when they were only 14, and 25 years later still clearly have a strong bond that can only be formed through the trials and tribulations of the teen years.  There was a fourth in the group, who sadly died as a young man, and part of this day of gathering included a walk up the mountain these boys spend much of their time on as young people.  Some others joined us and we sat at the top of the hill enjoying an amazing NZ vista and slugging back quintessential kiwi refreshments (Schweppes Sparkling Duet anyone?).

It was great fun to see them in action, and be able to piece together a little more of SO's life pre-me.  And they (and their wives) made me feel so welcome that any potential awkwardness was gone before it even appeared.   Even though we had never met - in fact had barely even seen a Facebook photo of each other - it was fun, and relaxed, and conversation flowed easily. Social media is all well and good, but nothing replaces the joy of a real life conversation!

But of course there's a downside to the 'see you every two years'' kind of relationship.  By living so far apart from each other we miss all those important events - weddings, birthdays, funerals, the birth of children - that were once the things that drew a community together.  Perhaps it shouldn't matter.  Perhaps its a matter of quality not quantity when it comes to friendships - but I still have this feeling that giving the choice, most of us would like to be surrounded by those people that mean most to us, and shared some of our most intense experiences (as only early-adulthood ones can be).

I too have a group of friends from that time and it has been many many years since the four of us have been together.  When we do, the friendships pick up right where they left off and time falls away.   That's the power of friendship.  But I can never quite decide if it's a wonderful thing, that the world is so small we can relocate to another country with such ease - and commute half way round the world for Christmas - or if in fact this is a tragedy: those incredible friendships that we develop as young people, despite remaining strong no matter how far apart people can be, could surely be so much more if we lived nearer each other?

Monday, January 07, 2013

call me loyal

This question was posted on a Facebook thread today:

Is "Loyalty" (to your partner, to your job, to your ideals, etc.) important? Is it a key ingredient of you as a person? Did it get you hurt in the past?

and I replied with:

I  think loyalty, much like leadership - in fact they are probably very closely related, is earned. That's about demonstrating those core values that people want to follow. What I'm suggesting though is that it can be easy to be loyal to a person (in particular, as opposed to a product) because of guilt. eg I will stay loyal to this person because of something that happened in the past or because I will feel guilty if i betray them (even if it opposes my core values) or maybe pride - I can't stop being loyal because I said I would remain so.  

In consumerist society, loyalty is the buzzword of the moment. I must have at least 20 cards in my wallet that are testaments to my supposed loyalty - cafes, takeaway, a supermarket, DVD shop, clothing store, even the hairdresser. Do they engender my loyalty? Not really. Most are places I would go anyway and - as an example - spending $50 on coffee over the course of 3 months, just to get a free one is certainly not my motivation for returning. On the other hand, by having that 'loyalty card'' in my wallet I am subconsciously reminding myself to return to the same stores over and over. Some are rather clever and offer me a reward even if I don't remember my card. 
Of course, the reason I return to those stores time after time is because of the quality of their product and/or service. They take the lead and I, encouraged by what I receive there, gladly give them my money.

Loyalty to a job - does this really exist any more? I am sure that there are many older people who are long time employees of an organisation, and who would consider themselves ''loyal'' to their employer. But most people these days don't stay in the same job for years and years - they move happily and readily to a better opportunity, and rather than viewing longevity in a job as a good (read responsible, sensible, loyal) option, would see long time employment as a sign of apathy or even incompetence. 
Loyalty to ideals - well maybe that's another story. Absolutely we should be loyal to what we believe in. Assuming loyal means to stay true to, rather than to cling on in vain hope? My thesaurus tells me loyal means unswerving or faithful. Sounds good to me. Provided its tempered with good sense. Why be loyal to something, or someone that is dishonouring to you? Why be loyal to something, or someone, just because they've been in your life for a long time? Doesn't loyalty, like respect, get earned in relationships too?
Yes, I'd say I'm a loyal person. I will be faithful to that which I believe in most soundly and those whom I love most. Have I been hurt by this? Oh yes, many times, and in some ways it has made me a little more judicious about the things I now defend. Not all in all I bad thing I think.

Loyalty, alone, in my view is unsustainable and unrealistic. It cannot be demanded, or given without far deeper motivations. 

Your thoughts?

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

well that's the plan, anyway...

2012s goals plans and resolutions
this was my not so private to do list for 2012.
When I read through it now there's an awful lot of things on there that haven't got even close to fruition let alone completion.  But there were a few other things I really wanted to do in 2012 that I DID achieve - little things mainly - and I'm delighted about them.
I went in a dancing competition (did terribly but that's not the point....)
I learned to play a board game I'd been wanting to try for ages
I visited a part of NZ I had never seen before, and revisited one of my favourite cities
I got my wish of (more than one as it turned out) a really fantastic dinner date
I got a pay rise and secured some more work for 2013, but managed to wind down two other contracts
I finished the next round of house renovations and got the spa I'd wanted for a long long time
My children finished their school year well and happily, and both had developed new talents and skills
The Dancing Queen made it to double digits and survived her first school camp, marae stay and Guide camp
The little Engineer perfected the art of bike skids and  formidable belly flops into the swimming pool
I said NO more, and have worked on feeling less guilty about it
I started going to the gym and found I actually quite like it
I got a whole nights sleep (yes just the one but that's momentous)

There's been some other things too, not necessarily for public consumption, and overall I'm feeling pretty good about my year.

I firmly believe in the ''write it down and it will happen'' theories.  Its absolutely true that once a plan/goal/dream is shared, you feel more accountable and more motivated to make it happen.

And so, will a little trepidation, here is a pared down version of my plans for 2013

- renew my passport (you never know...)
- upgrade my car
- keep focused on getting to the gym at least twice a week
- do the cheese making course I never got to in 2012
- spend a night in the tipi on the West Coast
- get a whole nights sleep (yep that's still on my list) more than once this year
- drink a Maitai, try a new ethnic food, find a new perfume I adore
- make a dent in my ''I want to see that'' movie list
- finish the books on my waiting-to-be-read pile

Do you make plans? Resolutions?  Set goals? Why or why not? Are you prepared to share?