“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.'” ~C.S. Lewis
I think everyone has felt the kind of electric moment of finding that we have some special thing in common with someone else that C.S. Lewis is talking about. There’s an instant sense of connection that takes place in that moment, and the more unusual or deeply felt that something is, the stronger the connection that is formed by that recognition.
I have certainly had that experience many times over the years where friendship springs to life with the discovery of a shared interest, experience, or trait. Sometimes the feeling is stronger than other times. Sometimes the friendship formed becomes an abiding connection, sometimes it’s only a momentary highlight of my day. But the deepest, most earth-shaking, longest lasting of these friendships have almost always been with people I’ve never met—sometimes even with people who don’t even exist!
You see, books are my dearest friends. My human friends laugh when I say that, as they rib me about the way that books and book shelves tend to fill every spare space I can find for them, but it’s true. I tend to walk just far enough outside the norm in our culture that there are parts of me that I don’t see reflected in any one I know in real life. The fact that I’m an introvert who tends to spend her time alone whenever she can doesn’t help with this. I do have real, human friends, and I treasure those friendships. I am grateful for each and every friend in my life and would be bereft without them. But books are still a special kind of friend.
Books give me access to a much greater world where I can find other members of my tribe from other centuries, other cultures, other places, and other lives. I have many nonfiction books whose authors were able to speak to me in words that resonated more deeply with my lived experience than any person I’ve ever met. I’ve met characters in fiction that mirrored back to me some lonely, unseen part of myself. The validation that comes from that kind of recognition of my experience the description of another’s (whether real or fictional) makes my soul leap with joy. It helps me to own and value my own experience even when I have no fellow journeyers in “real” life.
Most people I know would find this sad, I think, but I can’t imagine wanting it to be any other way. The beauty of finding myself reflected in a book is that it helps me explore my inner world with the joy and richness of a shared experience with another without that other placing any pressure on me to change who I am to be even more like them. I can celebrate the beauty and delight of discovering the accurate parts of the reflection without being distracted by the places where differences seem to distort the mirror image. I can be inspired to change and to grow without ever feeling pressured or forced. It’s the kind of purity of presence I mentioned yesterday that I have found nowhere else. The joy of those moments when it occurs is unspeakable.
I have books that have been such deep, long-lasting friends to me that I can’t see them in a bookstore or a library without reaching out to touch them reverently in gratitude for the joy and encouragement they have brought me. In fact, being in a good bookstore is one of the most holy experiences I know. Browsing my bookshelves at home can be a nearly ecstatic experience as I delight in reminder after reminder that I do not walk this path of life alone.
I consider myself to be an incredibly lucky and blessed woman to have a life so surrounded by friends who are always available to me! Go ahead and laugh, but books really are my friends. Are they yours?
A Note on Comments: A chrysalis is by nature a very fragile place, and it takes a good deal of vulnerability to share this personal journey of transformation so openly. Therefore, I need this to be a safe place for exploration and sharing for me and for my readers. Comments sharing your own journey, even if your experience is different from mine, are always welcome and encouraged. Expressions of support or encouragement are also welcome. Comments that criticize, disparage, correct, or in any way attempt to undermine the validity of another person’s experience or personal insight—or the expression of that experience or insight—are NOT welcome here and will be deleted.