Take diamonds, for instance.
I have always loved diamonds. My birthstone is diamond. I am drawn to light, and I am attracted to sparkle.
For much of my life I could not afford to buy diamonds.
To adorn myself with gems of light and sparkle, I treated myself to the alternative I could afford.
While embarrassing to admit I wore too many rhinestones, while when asked, professed that they were real.
Stay with me.
I pretended to myself that they were real. When I discovered cubic zirconia, I was thrilled, as those gemstones appeared even more genuine. There was an unconscious equation between worth and the sparkle that adorned my physicality. I pretended to believe that I deserved diamonds, and so I bought large quantities of fake adornments just so I could flash and shine and appear to be appropriately accessorized for a person of my caliber.
Rhinestones and cubic zirconia do not have the strength or durability of diamonds. They cannot sustain time, wear, or chemicals. They can not stand up to the rigors of authentic gemstones. They would eventually discolor and lose their luster. Stones would loosen and fall out. As the years went by, I began to prefer no jewelry to artificial jewelry.
I began to prefer no jewelry to artificial jewelry.
My first real diamonds were gifts.
I still could not personally afford diamonds, which made the gifts even more precious. They represented to me objects of love and generosity. They were real, as were the relationships from which they were bestowed. Or at least they seemed to be. The jewels outlasted the relationships, and I eventually sold the gems. They still had plenty of sparkle, yet they also represented plenty of pain.
Now I can afford a few diamonds, though most of my jewelry remain gifts. I have real diamonds, and I admit to loving to see them shine. I do not have the volume of diamonds that I did rhinestones. Yet the diamonds are real and can sustain any amount of time, wear, and chemical.
The same is true of my relationships.
Though I am a lifelong introvert I went through periods in my lifetime when I accumulated acquaintances that at the time, I called my friends. In my younger days I especially courted so called important people, thinking it somehow gave me clout and gravitas. Now I see I was collecting rhinestone relationships, cubic zirconia’s that I called my friends.
Let me be clear that I am not referring to the depth of people. I am not describing what is Truth. I am describing a certain level of relationship that I thought would add sparkle to my life. I frequently suspected that they had no depth or reality. I at the time could not “afford” the process I would have to endure to be authentic and open to more priceless relating. The cost of meaningful, sustainable relationship is high. And it is the most priceless of gifts.
Over time, wear, and challenge these rhinestone relationships lost their sparkle, and proved to be unsustainable. When I needed them most, their artificiality was revealed. The quality was revealed, the shine was lost, and the relationship passed on.
Now I have perhaps fewer real friends than I do diamonds. I no longer pretend that people are friends when in fact they are not. Friendship is precious and indeed priceless to me. I do not confuse quantity with quality. I do not equate social media acquaintances with real, sustainable relationships.
I have a few high-level friends who are genuine and that have sustained the tests of time and wear. They really are of the best quality. They are multi-faceted. They add shine to my heart and to my life.
I feel no need to accumulate more friends, anymore than I feel the need for more diamonds. What I have are real. They are beyond carats that can be measured. As I think of my diamond relationships, I know how truly rich I am. They are my true birthstones, and I am grateful beyond measure. And I am clearer than ever that as I have become more real and genuine so have my connections.
These few diamonds are forever. I pray that I will add sparkle, durability, and sustainability to their lives as well. Our love will outlast time. And our challenges only add more beauty to our shared experience. Because that is the truth of diamonds. And that is the truth of my few priceless gems I call friends.