Packed to the Rafters. Season 4 ended a while ago now, but there was one episode that really got me thinking. It involves the nature of friendships.
I had been watching the development of Julie's new friendship with Donna with great interest. After initially getting off to less than a good start, the two middle-aged women were starting to bond. But the turning point really came when Julie received a phone call from a rather distressed-sounding Donna, asking if she could come over early in the morning. Julie was puzzled, but went and was starting to realise that some of Donna's behaviour was quite bizarre. It was then that Donna confessed to suffering from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
I think this is true for many adult friendships. We meet many people we get on well with at surface level. But there comes a time when the friendships are put to the test. Will the friends go deeper and share more of themselves, and be willing to ask for help if needed? Or will they remain at superficial chit-chat level and revolve around fun activities?
Friendships often mirror dating relationships in many ways. On the few first dates, both parties are usually trying to impress each other. Charm is employed. Weaknesses are hidden. There is a lot of 'sussing each other out'.
But as the dates go on, one party is going to have to make a move. They are going to have to drop their mask. They are going to have to risk exposing more of themselves. Otherwise, they might have met their potential mate but have the relationship never go any further.
Donna took that risk. She knew she needed a good friend to help her, and she suspected that Julie might be that friend. She dropped her mask. After the initial shock, Julie responded by being a good friend to Donna. Her efforts to help Donna manage her OCD culminated in a hilarious scene in a park where she showed that sometimes the best way to cope is just to let out a huge scream...right there...in the park...in front of many onlookers. Julie put herself out there for her friend.
There seems to be an unwritten rule that you shouldn't expose yourself emotionally too early in a friendship in case you scare your new friend away. There is meant to be a period of shallow acquaintance-level conversation before more deeper topics are broached. Donna acknowledged this in the episode by saying, "I know we haven't been friends for very long..." When I moved here, I felt the same. I knew I had to go through the casual "How are you?...I'm ok" type conversations and that was what made me feel so weary. I was down, I'd just lost my Nan, our house was a mess, it was my second big move in 2.5 years...I didn't feel like conversations that didn't have a point. I just wanted to find someone here who I could be honest with straight away.
My prayer is that we will drop our masks and foster environments that encourage others to do the same. And I pray that I will be the kind of friend who'll just stop and scream with my friend when they're going through hard times.
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