TeaI have been thinking some strange thoughts about friendship lately. Or the way we define “friendship” typically.

Everyone cherishes a good friendship. It is comforting, full of good vibes and warmth and understanding and bonhomie, and it makes us feel loved and wanted. Knowingly, no one will let go of a good friendship (whatever one defines it as). But I wonder — can a strong friendship rob one’s freedom? In order to keep the friendliness and good cheer intact, do we compromise on our independence? Yes, I think we do. Yes, I have.

I once commented to my meditation teacher, “It feels to me that either everyone is a friend or no one is. Either everything is personal or nothing is.”

Friendship isn’t unconditional, as I have come to realize. It certainly comes with strings attached. Even the most generous and understanding friend may find judgment creeping into the relationship. Suddenly, the ties that bind feel constraining. Now I yearn to break free. Oh, what about my friend? Their feelings? Should I risk the lessened warmth, the sudden strain and unsaid disapproval and frostiness? Will they continue caring for me? Well, did they actually care, or was it pure happenstance? Does anyone really care, unconditionally?

Herein lies the rub. How does one maintain an even balance between community and independence? A community is based on some kind of a shared commonality — be it culture, values, ideology, what have you. Even the most open communities likely have some unsaid customs. You cannot flout them, really. No one will necessarily tell you off, but you get a clear sense of having crossed a line somewhere.

Sigh.

(This may be an uncomfortable situation but it is, by no means, painful. I find it an exhilarating conflict. To me, this discomfort signals growth and expansion. It forces me to confront my individual truth, all trappings removed, plain and bare.)

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