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Posted by Michael Finkelstein | May 4th, 2019

Friendship, A Vital Nutrient

Today would have been the 59th birthday of a dear friend of mine, who tragically was killed in a car accident shortly after his 21st birthday. I was driving; and the ensuing grief was compounded by deep remorse that I carry to this day. The circle of friends that surrounded us were never quite the same, individually nor collectively. It’s taken many years to recognize all that was affected, and many years to recover enough to even understand all that was lost.

One element of the fallout for me was a tendency to be weary of attachments, because the wrenching detachment that I experienced was so painful. My friendships continued, but my heart was torn and connections weren’t as tight.

Over the years I have recognized the personal cost as something missing, as if I were deprived of a vital nutrient. In my work I see how others suffer similarly. But I am creeping back and write this letter in tribute to Brad and to the bonds of friendship that I am seeking to restore. (And, of course, with the intention to share this story so that it might help you much the same.)

Most recently, indeed this past week, I was invited by a new friend to share in a journey. The opportunity to replenish the nutrient so vital to my heart was there, and I seized the moment. It was risky on several levels. The first, as I mentioned above, was the complicated potential of new deep attachment; and the other was the timing — my step grandson was just born, my wife and stepdaughter would have liked my presence and support. Again, I was torn; and I hope and pray they will understand and forgive me, but I was compelled to go, to heal.

The experience turned out to be restorative. I had joined a group of 3 “great friends,” the closest and deepest, most sincere and sensitive men that I have had the chance to be around in my “mature adult” years. A special bond existed among them, and they welcomed me fully. It felt really good, and it touched a spot in my heart that had felt deprived and neglected for quite a while; reinvigorating a spirit and purpose to recover other aspects of what was lost on that gray May day in 1981.

Indeed, friendship is not a luxury. It is essential to our well-being on many levels; especially essential to our families that we have others to support us — who don’t have the needs and expectations of day to day provision — even when it pulls us away from them periodically. It is not fair to call such a trip a vacation, because it is anything but an escape from reality, responsibility or obligation, however. It is the oxygen mask that we all need for restoration of parts of ourselves that are often lost, not only when a tragedy strikes, but when we more commonly drift away from our clear sense of who we are and how “acceptable” we are just being ourselves. We need this reminder regularly, or we risk suffering from a sense of inadequacy, that eats away at the vitality required to be a provider. Our friends are our greatest supporters, because they don’t require anything from us other than who we are.

Cheers to them all!

Mitakuye Oyasin,
Michael

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