I don’t know the statistics but I feel like I am in a minority when I say I have the greatest friends with whom I have enjoyed friendship for years. My dearest friends are those I share memories with for 2 decades or more, and I’m only 31. Other friends, I made later, in college, and have still keep in close touch with despite distance and change. I have felt strongly, ever since high school when friendship turbulence blustered around my tightly knit group of girlfriends, affecting other souls but never us directly, that I was very lucky indeed to share company with such loving, kind, smart, hardworking, and supportive women.
Friendship starts out all about fun and I see now as I become ever more an adult that it is more about love, encouragement, and weathering the storms of life with and for one another and the fun is the cherry on top.
The list I will share below will be incomplete and evolving but it is a starting point for anyone who wishes to cultivate or strengthen existing friendship.
- Assume the best in people. I am so fortunate that my friends assume the best in me when I forget birthdays (I’m ashamed to admit I’ve done it more than once), arrive late, change or cancel plans, forget to return calls or texts, can’t attend, and share my copious feelings at inappropriate times. My friends know I’m busy, chronically tardy, and managing a lot in my life. I’m an imperfect person, and so are my nearest and dearest, and that is okay. I always know they mean well and are doing the best they can. It sounds simple but it is a crucial choice of the mindset that can affect your relationships enormously.
- Accept change. This is probably hardest for women moving from the metaphorical apartments with friends to homes with marriages and mortgages. One of our dearests had children earlier than the rest of us. Was it a bummer that she moved and missed out on lots of fun college capers? Sure, we would have loved to have her around but were we angry or offended by her absence? Obviously not because things change and that is the way life works. Do I feel a little wistful hearing about my childless and more carefree friends going on weekend adventures while I toil away washing tiny toddler clothing? Of course, but feeling resentment would be silly. Life changes at different paces for everyone and soon enough you might find yourself in the slow lane. Just be grateful that when your turn there comes, your friends will be there for you when things change yet again.
- Be friends with their friends. I love my friend’s friends. The gals my besties work with, went to college with, and have met in times and places I wasn’t a part of are just another element of my dearest to be appreciated. It is so much easier, and so much more enjoyable if the circles of friends can overlap. Make a genuine effort to extend friendship to those your closest pals have befriended. I have been warmly welcomed into a pod of UC Davis girls despite being a Chico State alumna, and included in outings full of nurses despite being a teacher. I can add nothing to their chats about work but you know what? They love my friends so I love them too. Their relationships don’t threaten yours; they complement it.
- Plan time. I don’t spend time with anyone who would declare that they aren’t busy at all and that they have all kinds of time available for socializing. No matter your stage of life, Wildflowers, you and your friends are going to be busy. Plan time to see one another and enjoy one another. If a member of your girl gang can’t make it then no big deal; you will see her next time. I think that part is key: If you wait until the time is perfect when no one is going to be inconvenienced, you might still be waiting. The time spent together doesn’t have to be fancy or choreographed. Think quality over quantity.
- Build each other up. You know those days when it feels overwhelming that you are doing a terrible job at everything? Or when you feel undeniably fat, like a total failure, like your house is a wreck and your choices leave a lot to be desired? DO NOT be another voice in the crowd telling your friends that they stink. People rarely are asking for advice when they share their feelings. We speak in order to be heard, so listen when your pals vent about their family, their work, and the choices that may or may not have been the best. I’m a lover of quotes from all sources, and the Bible has it right on; “As iron sharpens iron, one [wo]man sharpens another.” Our role as friends is to build each other up, to celebrate our success and encourage when the sailing isn’t smooth. We sharpen one another, in the most powerful sense, and being a whetstone for our dearest friends is a duty not to be taken lightly.
- Love. When heartbreak strikes (and it will, sadly) your dearest, respond with love. There have been times that I had no idea how to help a friend experiencing something awful but I know that I did my best (see #1 above) by admitting I didn’t know how to help, offering and then doing what I could, and by hugging, crying, and laughing. I have theorized (on my own, privately, as I drive and wash dishes) that growing up has nothing to do with bearing children as popularly believed but with realizing, facing, and experiencing our mortality. When a friend’s strength is physically or metaphorically sapped by issues of mortality, be that strength for them, as best you can.
Rejoice in your friend’s successes and ache and then act for them in times of trial. Assume they are acting as best they can with what they have and do the same to them. Spend time together and treasure it, rather than the rating or quantifying it. Be each other’s cheerleaders and plan on a lifetime of love from one another.
I’d love to hear what you’d add to this list, Wildflowers. Share in the comment section below!