A year ago, if you asked me to describe my friendships with people, they would be sharply divided into two categories: those who are my friends and those who aren’t.

A year later, a good bit of therapy, and some significant changes in the lives of those around me have added a great deal of diversity to the answer to that question today. In other words, there are more than two categories of friends that I have.

There are friends who seek to spend time with me. These are almost always the people I am closest to (and also seek to spend time with, it is a two-way street). A year ago, I would be hard-pressed to think of anyone who sought to spend time with me, despite the fact that they did exist.

There are friends who “show up.” That is, they are people who don’t make any effort to see me, and I also don’t make such effort towards them, outside of normal weekly/monthly occurrences. These people are close to me, but not as close, though there are always seeds of potential for deeper friendships and to move in that direction with a great amount of ease that I am very comfortable initiating.

Then there are people more easily named acquaintances, casual friends at best, who are really friends of friends. These are people who I see or spend time with by happenstance. They might be visiting with someone I know and we happen to meet only as a result of them visiting with that person. Should their visit not happen, I would likely never see these people. Folks who assume I’ll be around, take my presence for granted in some fashion, or those who seek a friendship with me once all other things are taken care of or seen to would also fall into this category. These also have potential for deeper friendships, but the start up is somewhat different than those who “show up.” It would probably involve the person in question first showing a genuine and clear interest in spending time with me apart from the person they are primarily visiting with. Me making that move is also a possibility, but that is an area of great difficulty, particularly if the other party clearly shows no interest in doing so.

Then there are the people who I simply don’t know. These have the greatest potential for growth, of course, but that usually requires me to get off my ass and meet people. That’s something I don’t have a great deal of skill in.

There’s something remarkably freeing to be able to see a friendship that is growing or deteriorating and be able to place it in more nuanced categories than friend or not. It’s okay to have people moving in and out of these places with fluidity and to be free to focus my attention where I’d like to and not feel guilty about the fact that others may not be getting the attention others would give to them. And to know that there may be other types of relationships besides these four that I have yet to discover.