But distance also refers to emotional connection at times too. If someone is acting distant, it evokes feelings that they aren't making the effort to maintain that tie that makes people friends or that makes a family member more than just family.
The two are not entirely unrelated. Over my 32 years of life, I have found over and over again that the people that I physically see the most are the ones that I have the strongest bond with, the ones that I share the most with.
This goes without saying as a child, since you typically play with either your friends at school or your friends in your neighborhood. There are other cases that you play with your parents' friends' kids, but it is really cut and dry- you are a child, you have no little to no power over who you play with, so your friends are the ones you see. I would say that this holds fairly true through high school too.
College was tough for me. I had some good friends in high school, but many were a grade younger than me, and when I went to college, I allowed the physical distance, the not seeing them every day during school and after, to cause emotional distance. My closest friend that graduated with me didn't go to school near me, but we actually kept up pretty well over e-mails, at least for a while. Sadly, I didn't realize how far apart I had allowed our connection to stretch until I was asking my friends to be my bridesmaids. Most said yes, but one said no, that she would attend, but didn't feel like we were close enough to be my bridesmaid. Honestly, it hurt, really bad, to hear that. But reflecting back, more than ten years later, with more maturity, I see it. I can acknowledge that whatever intangible thing it is to be close friends with someone had stretched further than any friendship should, and I hadn't done my part touching base, even though I could have. Even though I went to a university less than 20 minutes away from my former high school, I didn't meet up with them just to hang out like old times, and it is one of the things I would do differently if I could.
Out of college, as I started teaching professionally, I made friends with fellow teachers and with women the same age as me in my Bible Study group. I saw these women often, and we bonded, we cried, we prayed together and they heard my struggles with getting pregnant, the arguments with my husband, pretty much any and every problem I faced during this season of life. I had women that I felt comfortable with pouring out everything to, and I heard their problems too. I am so thankful for everyone that got me through some of my hardest seasons I have faced. During this time I had problems with my family, but the biggest gut wrenching trial was my desire to be a mom going unfulfilled for year after year. I don't know what I would have done without my coworkers and Bible Study group women getting me through it.
But here again, that pesky physical distance struck when I became a stay at home mom. It is partially my fault, again. Life with one quickly followed by two, and I didn't keep up with most of my former coworkers. I didn't go back and have lunches, or meet up for dinner occasionally, and I lost many of these ties too. Our Bible study group was strong, and tight and we knew each other so well, having prayed for each other so often, but as time went on, it fractured physically with some moving away, and some simply not attending or attending a different study (I'm guilty of this). I am so thankful for the few friends from group that I still see, on a regular basis, and again that physical tie- we make the effort to get together, so we are still close.
I write all this today for a reason. The previous breaks were my fault. I wasn't even too far to hang out, I just didn't make enough of an effort (though to be fair, they didn't either), and without seeing these people on a regular basis, when it was easy, the relationships didn't keep up. But I am now in a season of life that people I care about are moving away from me- physically.
First, it was my sister in law, and now my cousin in law, and I know of some friends that might move away too, and it brings me down. See, what the paragraphs above are trying to illustrate is that while friendship is easiest when you are physically with the people enough to talk and share, it doesn't have to be. You can be friends, even with distance, if both people are willing and able to make the effort to continue to talk, continue to have scheduled time together, continue to bond over struggles.
My good friend Erin is a good example of how friendship bonds can be repaired, and hopefully she doesn't mind me sharing our story. She was one of the ones from high school that I let drift away, that I didn't keep the friendship strong in college. She was a bridesmaid, but I think we will both admit that was one of the weakest points in our friendship. After her wedding, I first learned that she was pregnant with her first child... not from her. Instead, I learned it from her mother in law, who happened to be my co-worker. This was my wake up call that I had let our friendship get away from me, and I was determined to get that one back.
Now Erin didn't (and still doesn't) live super close to me, a 30-40 minute drive away, which is doable, but far enough to be inconvenient (no "Let's get a coffee" distance). But from that point until today, we have both made an effort to see each other and catch up every couple of months or so (more than just social media surface level interactions). As a result, our friendship is strong now, and she is one of the people I know I can call when I am freaking out over something, or just need someone to talk to who is older than 4. I have held her kids as babies, and been to their birthday parties, and swam with them every summer since my kids arrived.
To any friends reading this who fall into the first section reading this. If we had a bond, but we haven't talked in forever, it is never too late. Let me know, reach out to me, and we will work together until we find a time to hang out (even if I might have to bring my kids).
To those moving away physically (or who have already moved), please don't let our physical distance damper our emotional one. I want to be someone you call to talk when you need a friend, and I want to know I can still touch base with you too, time change or not. Friendships can be hurt by distance, in more than one way, but it can be prevented, and repaired if needed. Call me, text me, e-mail me, and though I might delay, I will respond, I will set up a time to talk.
Perhaps you are reading this, and are hit with a longing for a friendship that you used to have, with someone else, and you haven't made the effort- do it now. I wonder how many friendships are out there, ties broken, but both people wishing they weren't. Someone has to be the first, so why not be you?
Ecclesiastes 4:9-11New International Reader's Version (NIRV)
9 Two people are better than one.
They can help each other in everything they do.
10 Suppose either of them falls down.
Then the one can help the other one up.
But suppose a person falls down and doesn’t have anyone to help them up.
Then feel sorry for that person!
11 Or suppose two people lie down together.
Then they’ll keep warm.
But how can one person keep warm alone?12 One person could be overpowered.
But two people can stand up for themselves.
And a rope made out of three cords isn’t easily broken.