Leah Farmer

Personal perspectives on faith, literature, and life.

Defining Friendship…

Each time I move somewhere new I go through a cycle related to friendship, loss, and suddenly seeing things more clearly. I get buried in my own feelings and miss moments of true beauty. I am human…and this is one of my many flaws.

Let me back up…

Less than 3 months ago, I moved to Stockholm after 6 years in Seattle. Like all of my moves to new locales, I chose this. And more than any other move I’ve ever made, I wanted this one.

I was eager to be in Stockholm…I still am.

I was excited to be at Klarna…I still am.

I was energized by the adventure…I still am.

I’ve chronicled on other days how this move has not been easy in many ways. Despite the difficulty, I was surprised to find that I was not homesick and felt pretty well connected to my friends…my people…my so-called framily. Moving into my beautiful Stockholm apartment was an amazing time of settling and comfort. In all the busyness, there seemed to be no time to feel lonely for home.

And then, as I sat in the dumpy little Berlin airport (sorry Berlin…but it’s true) after two very lonely days exploring alone, a wave of regret, doubt, and pain hit me in the center of my chest so hard that I thought I might actually cry out. It felt white hot and hollow in the middle of me.

Instantly I knew what it was…longing.

Longing for my friends. Longing for the ease of my life. Longing for quick 2 1/2 hour flights to my sister and best friends. Longing for the shoreline in West Seattle and texts to say “Do you want to hang out?” to any number of beloved people in my life.

The starkness of my longing was physical. And as I cast about for how to feel different, anger overtook me.

Anger at my own decision to uproot and go somewhere new. Anger that the couple of “friends” I have here seemed always to need pursuing. Anger at my own need for connection and the sheet vulnerability of that. Anger that I don’t have what I need and don’t belong to a community.

And then today, I remembered that I believe in Wonder…and Wonder is what I got!

*I asked a colleague for advice, and he gave me that and offered the words “What can I do to help?”

**I sat down at lunch with a kind giant of a man, and he listened as I poured out my concern over my team, my attachment, and my concerns. He soothed and calmed…and invited me over for dinner with his family

***I carefully admitted that I was homesick to someone that I expected would move right past my statement. And as my eyes flooded at the words I said “I just don’t have any friends.” He said with such deeply genuine care “I’ll be your friend.”

****When a meeting with my amazing peers got cancelled, I cast out a lifeline telling them how bummed I was that I hadn’t seen them face to face in 4+ weeks and that I missed them. In response, one after another after another after another agreed and 5 of us are going to lunch tomorrow at what was going to be the meeting time.

*****The other American simply said “How are things?” and when I said “Hard” he simply nodded his understanding.

My pattern is that in the midst of building a new life, making a new nest, and starting over, I often focus on the pain of my loneliness for my friends somewhere else. I get stuck wishing I was with them. I get in a mental loop that is concerned that I will never make friends like that again.

And in my single-mindedness, I sometimes miss the people right in front of me asking to be my friend, showing me friendship in the ways they know how, and motioning for me to come along.

Each act of friendship today was loving, kind, deeply warm. The word that came up over and over for me as I thought of it was Solidarity.

And in that solidarity, I am able to redefine friendship once again.

1 Comment

  1. Anna Cartwright

    Leah that was beautiful and raw. Thank you for sharing your vulnerability. My son and his wife just returned from a year in China and the isolation and loneliness and longing for connection is very real. Skype is a wonderful thing too but it’s temporary. Plan your next visit home and have someone plan their trip to visit you so you have that to look forward to. Then you focus on that future meet up with anticipation and excitement which replaces the circle of self talk. Hugs. Praying for you

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