In Britain we generally expect our friends to be there when things go wrong, to us this is the basis of friendship, that you not only appreciate, but you give and you take. When in France, I asked somebody I assumed was a friend, why nobody had visited me when I was ill, he replied, “We French think friends are for fun, you turn to family in times of trouble.” That shocked me, particularly because he knew we had no family in the country.
Today most people move about a lot, hence our circles of friends shift as we go from one town to another. Along the way we lose some, gain some. Yet certain figures are there throughout the years. Although they are no longer near by, we see them or phone them. However, they and we get a potted version of our various lives so this adds to their not being as close as they once were.
Back now in England, I do wonder if our friends have grown a little distant because we were in another country for twelve years. We had expected things would pick up again as before, as they had during our yearly visits, but this hasn’t really happened. Twelve years is a long time and people’s lives have changed, we weren’t part of those changes and hence we are less relevant to their current situations.
We have also found that in some cases, our once shared values have slid apart. With some people we’ve discovered we don’t see eye to eye anymore. We’ve then tried to make new friends, but this is slow, for everyone has their circles and you are an extra to be considered... or not. The result is that you often feel lonely.
We are used to being the centre of our social scene, but this requires energy and my ill health can’t sustain such effort, thus our situation is compounded. What to do? Feeling sorry for ourselves only makes things worse, so one has to dig deep and relish one’s own company and wait, perhaps one day a friend or two will appear. At least we have one another.