Sunday, October 05, 2003

Melissa left yesterday to eventually end up in Beijing, where's she's accepted a new job--yet another friend made in Taiwan who moves on. That doesn't mean our friendship is over, of course. I have some friends whom I stay in touch with with more when we're in different countries than when we are actually in the same community. Thank goodness for email and instant messaging systems.

P.J. Hamel, the editor at King Arthur Flour, wrote this in the latest Baking Circle newsletter:

Rachel Carson and Dorothy Freeman, Katharine S. White (that would be E.B.�s wife) and Elizabeth Lawrence� While each of the women in these two famous letter-writing pairs considered the other her closest friend, they spent very little time together, meeting only occasionally. Instead, letters flew back and forth regularly, taking the place of face-to-face (or telephone) conversation in an era when communication wasn�t nearly as simple as it is today.

Perhaps it isn�t communication that�s simpler these days, but merely the technology that carries it. Has it ever been easy to speak what�s in your heart? Or to put down on paper what you truly feel, and then mail it to someone? Opening your hidden self to the scrutiny of others can feel dangerous. What will she think of me? Will he still like me?

Here are some things I�ve learned over the years. Set fear aside. Tell the truth about yourself. Admit your shortcomings; we all have them, why pretend otherwise? But don�t criticize your friends. (As a line from one of my favorite movies has it, �Only God can point the finger.�) Take care that your own garden is well-weeded and watered before hopping the fence and working on someone else�s. If you�re invited into the garden, however, make your pruning very gentle; advice doesn�t necessarily need to be preceded by criticism.

At work, praise lavishly, and deflect kudos onto your co-workers; but take responsibility for failure onto your own shoulders. Do more than what you think is your fair share; the other person is probably doing likewise. Accept different work styles; there are many paths to reach a common destination. If it crosses your mind to criticize a co-worker, think before opening your mouth; if, after thinking about it, you still feel like opening your mouth�think some more. And, above all, work willingly, and with a smile on your face. Imagine how stress in the workplace would disappear if we all just looked happy!

And this, I promise, will be the very last on a series of musings on friendship. For a while at least, anyways.

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