Thursday, 3 May 2012

Great Expectations

“There is the solitude of suffering, when you go through darkness that is lonely, intense, and terrible. Words become powerless to express your pain; what others hear from your words is so distant and different from what you are actually suffering.”  
(John O'Donohue) 

I was originally going to title this post "Faux Amis". Literally "false friends", this is a grammatical term for  pairs of words or phrases in two languages or dialects which may look or sound similar but can have contradictory opposing meanings:  "equisito" in Spanish means exquisite, special; "esquisito" in Portuguese means strange or odd. I was intending to demonstrate how varying definitions of friendship can lead to actual division and ultimate disappointment; I was trying to be too smart for my own good.
I wrote the poem "Humbug" a couple of years ago when a dear friend of mine was continually being let down by people who had no idea she might feel she could, or should, depend on them. In recent weeks, I've felt that I was living through very dark days indeed. No particular details are necessary, but money, career, health and hopes have been depleted or even dashed. I told one longstanding friend that I didn't recognise myself and wondered where I'd gone! She immediately said she wanted the old Gigi back: the one who's always first with a laugh and the last to admit defeat; the one she's always depended on. Her words were sweetness to me, but they brought home the sourness I've been feeling. What happens when the Dependable One crumbles, when the broadest shoulders are hunched, when everyone's best friend suddenly needs a best friend his or herself? My admission of being shaky seems to have upset some friends' equilibrium; some have been short with their advice and impatient with their hugs.
Of course, the answer is that my own perception of the relationship between us was flawed. I've almost instinctively turned to those I've given time and emotion to in the past months, during their own dark times. I'd forgotten the golden rule of giving: there is no "returning the favour"; one doesn't give a favour, one gives a gift. It simply isn't giving if you expect something in return. When I was little, my favourite auntie told me I had a talent for friendship. Certainly, the Irish side of me sees all strangers as acquaintances who could be your new best friends. And yet there's nothing wrong or lacking in being acquaintances. Essentially, there are no bad friends, just false expectations. Expectation as a judgement on friendship is the mother of all disappointments.
My heart tells me that a friend is the nicest thing to find and the best thing you can be: my experience now shows me that the two need not be intrinsically linked. I may have been a friend to those who now don't feel the need to respond to me in kind. That doesn't negate what has happened between us; it doesn't prohibit the situation altering in the future. And far from being Billy-No-Mates, I have dear friends who love me and have become family to me; some I've known for more than half of my life, others I've met more recently,  yet the bond has been as instant and strong as Superglue. The late Catholic mystic John O'Donohue said: “Real friendship or love is not manufactured or achieved by an act of will or intention. Friendship is always an act of recognition.” True friendship can't be bought with gold, nor earned by kindness.  I know I will carry on giving and will try my darnedest not to expect anything back: then any return will be the wonderful bonus it should be. There is an old Scandinavian proverb which asks simply "Love me when I least deserve it: that's when I need it most."
My blogger friend Ramon read my poem and immediately sent me "Solitude", by Ella Wheeler Wilcox. It's a clever little poem: the complex shades of friendship are coated in a symmetrically melodic rhyme. I've happily reproduced part of it here. I find it rather poignant at the moment, but it doesn't illustrate what I truly feel. People often say you should be your own best friend: ultimately I believe God will either give you the strength to walk your street unaccompanied or He will place those He intended to be part of your story along your way. We can't dictate who we will love or when, nor whether or not someone will love us. True love should always be unconditional, whether it is the romantic idyll of soul mates, the love of our "besties" who are the friends of our soul, our blood-relatives, or the love of God living through us. Our original soul mate will always be God: the way of God in others can inspire and encourage us; His way in us will sustain beyond any expectations.

From "Solitude"
(Ella Wheeler Wilcox)
Laugh, and the world laughs with you;
Weep, and you weep alone.
For the sad old earth must borrow it's mirth,
But has trouble enough of its own.
Sing, and the hills will answer;
Sigh, it is lost on the air.
The echoes bound to a joyful sound,
But shrink from voicing care.
Rejoice, and men will seek you;
Grieve, and they turn and go.
They want full measure of all your pleasure,
But they do not need your woe.

"I Won't Let you Go"  James Morrison

“You have travelled too fast over false ground;
Now your soul has come to take you back."
(John O'Donohue)


  1. Hi Gigi, I know exactly where you are coming from xxx

  2. Hi Chrissie - you are one of the souls I hadn't heard from for so long and it seems like yesterday really - when we were in grey knee-high socks and our little kilts and boaters! I'm so glad we're back in touch. See you soon xxx

  3. Hi Gigi, - doesn't time fly!!! The good ole days!!! Im glad we're back in touch, mind you over the years we seem to have floated in and out of each other's life!!! It's great that we are back in touch xxx

  4. I know! We still seem to be quite similar even though life's taken us along different paths and thrown different things at us! Let's maybe not wear the kilts and boaters when we meet up in London...! Love to you and Colin honey xxx

  5. OOoohhhhh I was reaaaallllyyy looking forward to wearing the kilt and boaters !!!!

  6. How many boaters were you going to be wearing? More than one seems somewhat excessive, even for an Ursuline... : ) x

  7. Love that Scandinavian proverb. That is what God does for us. He loves us when we are unlovable.
    And I love what you said about God being our original soul mate. God bless!

  8. Thank you Colleen; and Welcome! I love your blog - it's been quite inspiring. God bless hon x

  9. As many as I could get on (dont ask)!!!