I have been very fortunate to hold onto several friendships throughout the many ages and stages of my life. I am blessed with the comfort of friendship in my life. But it didn't always feel this way ...
Yes, I have made friends as I have walked through the varying paths that life has taken me. At no point (until I was nearing my 30's) did I consciously wonder how long we would remain friends.
You make friends as a child based on geography. If you are neighbors, close in age and don't hate each other ... chances are, that you will get to know each other, play together and become friends of some degree.
When you go to school, you tend to gravitate towards people you share some sort of affinity with. Once again, you find yourself thrown together with people you don't know. You share the same school, classes and interests and you find companions to walk through the corridors of school life.
Then comes work. I have made many friendly acquaintances through work but I have found that few of those friendships endure job changes and life transitions. I have felt so close and shared many personal stories with people that I no longer remain in touch with. Yet in that coffee room, during those breaks I felt like I had found a best friend.
There are friendships based on having children the same age, marriage and the interconnecting friendships that occur, extra-curricular interests, neighbors and all of the varying ways that we are thrown together with new people as we walk through our days ...
What is the magical formula that makes some friendships endure?
I was talking with a good friend last night and we started reflecting on the topic of close friendships. As I mentioned, I feel beyond blessed to have such a patchwork array of supportive friendships within my grasp. But I haven't always felt this secure in my friendships. Something has changed ...
I have been fortunate to have a friend at my side throughout the many challenges and joys of my life. But did I always feel safe to pick up the phone if I felt my life crumbling? No. I used to wait for the phone to ring. There were times that someone happened to call when I needed someone to talk to. Often times, it was My Sisters that came to my rescue. A family connection that transcended the miles and silence. I wasn't reaching out ... but they heard me anyway and came to me.
When I moved to Our Current City, I was a province away from the friendships that I had accumulated throughout my life. So I wrote ... I probably reached out more on paper than I ever did in person. I suppose that a great number of my forever-friendships were sustained because I found it easier to write than to speak. Friendships were maintained ... but they were at a distance.
My friend and I sat back and reflected at the true beginning of our friendship that has blossomed from a close group of friends from work. We decided that it was (most likely) sometime around 1996. The month? We remember. It was September.
This friendship was born out of a birthday invitation for one of us among the group. At the end of that picnic birthday gathering, all three of us marvelled at how perfect the occasion was. Then we all confessed our shared 'secret' ... we found it easier to stay within the safe confines of our homes. Alone. Reaching out to a friend and stepping out of our comfort zone was hard for each and every one of us. But we did it. We met at a park, shared a birthday picnic lunch and the seeds of a great friendship was born.
The circle grew a little larger as more friends joined the group. We made a concentrated effort to get together on a monthly basis. The theme of our group was based on 'optimism' and we knighted our friendship circle 'The Optimist Club' (or something close to that ... the name evolves and changes with the years).
Trust continued to grow within this circle of friends. It was a slow and quiet evolution. Life started to throw us curve balls and instead of the group disintegrating because life was pulling us in different directions, we became closer.
Yes, there were ebbs and flows in this evolution. Our monthly meetings dwindled but there was always that one ember quietly burning that simply had to be stoked ... and the friendship came back to life stronger than ever.
I trusted this circle of friends more than I had ever done before. I reached out and told them 'the hard stuff' ... and they supported me in friendship. I still withheld the neediness that I sometimes felt and I didn't reach out in a time of need. I talked to them after I had things all figured out in my head. But even that changed. This is an entry from a journal I was keeping at the time:
Saturday, Aug 11/07 I need a plan. I need to get myself out of this rut ... I need to interact with people. I think I need to reach out to some friends. I should try and initiate an 'optimist group' gathering. I should email our Out of City Member and see if and when she may be up to some company and maybe we could head out to Her City. I need a plan. I am going to email my Optimist Friends right now and see where it takes me ...
That was a time of great change for me. I reached out to friends in a time of need ... and they were there. I didn't have it all figured out. I was still a little bit raw with emotion, sad and lonely. And they were there!
I have never looked back.
This past fall was another time of great transition. I was falling to pieces and in an effort to keep myself in a state where I could face the next day, I picked up the phone and called my friends. I thought I had my emotions in check ... but I didn't. I crumbled to pieces with a friend on the other end of the phone line more times than I can count (okay ... yes I can count the times). In one extreme case, I broke down in the middle of a dance lesson, with my dance instructor and the dance studio's mascot (the owner's dog) as my witnesses.
I reached out ... and my friends listened. I purged my thoughts, re validated my line of thinking and kept moving on. My friendships have long been something that I valued and cherished. The past months tested my belief in myself. But never once, did my friends stop believing in me.
Back to the endurance of the friendships that I have. What is the secret?
Don't lose touch with those that are special to you. A phone call. A quick email that lets a person know that you thought of them that day. Even the annual tradition of sending a Christmas card can keep the embers burning on a friendship-of-long-ago.
Nurture what you have and you never know what your garden will grow. I have a multi-faceted group of friends that I continue to feel close to. A few school friends; several keep-forever-work friends; a few friends from my childhood; some friends from the dance studio;one from my marriage and some from my daycare-days. Not to mention my family that are also my friends ...
I seem to have a friend representing each phase of my life. Some friendships get nurtured more than others. But I do my best to keep connected in some small way.
This past spring, two friendships from my childhood had the opportunity to be nurtured. They have blossomed in ways that I never could have imagined.
This fall, despite all that was going on in my world ... I knew my family and friends 'had my back'. The security in knowing that is priceless.
I am rich in so many ways. I have something money can't buy. Friendships that have endured the years, miles and circumstances that could have distanced us. Instead ... given a little encouragement they have grown into the most beautiful collection of friends a person could ever hope for.
Reach out to a friend today. You will not regret it.