I’ve been doing some thinking lately about friendship. In doing so I had this thought I’ve been exploring:
I’ve always hated funerals because they seem so fake to me. These ceremonies are often packed with people who didn’t stop what they were doing long enough to check in, grab lunch, send a message, or really get to know the deceased yet seemed shocked they didn’t know they were sick or struggling. Even in the funerals that are tragic due to unforeseen events, you often hear that people hadn’t actually seen or interacted with the deceased in years. Tears fall from folks who didn’t even know the deceased’s beyond what team they rooted for and it seems to trivial to me. This always made me wonder about the future of a society in which superficial relationships are becoming the norm. More and more, funerals are packed with people who had strong text conversations but can’t recall the last time they actually saw one another face to face. This is the way of the day, partially because of work-life balances being skewed toward income as people try to attain some dream that few actually achieve (it’s why they’re called the 1%) and partially because this is now how people get close to one another since they can share emotions in text without having to learn how to actually process those emotions as you have to do when you have an in-person relationship.
Why do so many people wait until tragedy strikes to reach out? Why do they not speak what they would like to speak or ask for time while folks are still alive?
An observation many people I know make about me is that I have a very diverse and plentiful group of friends and associates. This is true because I put a lot of work into selecting my peer group and ensuring I am surrounded by people who I influence and who influence me. I have taken time to consider the various levels of friendship and how much time I spend with people. I have done my homework and thought through how to best live my life so I am both giving to and taking from others in a way that ensures no one person feels drained at any time. But mostly this is true because I actually have a very small team of friends and a smaller inner circle. The rest of the folks I associate with are colleagues, acquaintances, and social media buddies. Many of the people who folks observe me associating with through social media are people I haven’t seen in years or who I communicate with through Zoom and other technology. Very rarely do folks from my inner circle or group of friends interact with me on social media because we are talking outside of social media.
In a recent study my Elevation Church eGroup is doing, we have been learning about Building Friendships that Fit (through the book by Holly Furtick). Instead of falling happenstance into friendship, this study challenges us to intentionally consider our friendships and what type of friend we are. It discusses various zones that you can place friends within so you ensure you are not entertaining toxic relationships. As I have been going through this study, I have learned that many women enjoy friendships in which you talk every day, share the special moments in life, and are super close. It has made me think about the friendships in my life that I nurture and find most helpful to me, and hopefully to the other person. As I have reflected on these friendships, I realize that for me friendship is less about quantity of time and more about quality of discussion and time together when we do spend time together, and for the majority of my friends that time together is spent talking on the phone or through text because of life.
You see, for me, it is more important to have people who understand (and me being able to understand for them) that between kids’ soccer and gymnastics schedules, doctor’s appointments, and work, taking care of the house, trying to stay sane with some self-care time, and all of the other commitments moms and other working professionals have, there isn’t a lot of time to get together. However, texting from the some of these places is very possible and works well. Being able to spend time together in ways that fit schedules while also being there in person when it matters is my definition of quality. For example:
- When I went through my divorce, I had a friend who would send me flowers and check in with me to see how I was holding up emotionally. This friend would ensure I didn’t go more than two weeks without checking in because if I did, it meant I was withdrawing due to struggles I have having with my youngest and acclimating to life as a single mother with a teenager and a baby.
- When I was getting ready to move to Florida, I had four friends who showed up without question to help me clean, pack, and organize my POD so it would be easy to unpack on the other side. Since I gave folks less than a month’s notice that I was moving it is amazing anyone was able to help me.
- When I was in Florida a couple who are both friends needed someone to watch their kids for a week while they went to film a documentary. My daughter and I moved into their home and had a blast hanging out with their kids and seeing what life would be like as a homeschool family of six. While it was a great time and I learned so much, I definitely saw that having a large family and homeschooling them wouldn’t be my best use of talent.
- When I came home from Florida with less than a week’s notice, four friends showed up during their lunch breaks and between commitments to help me unload the UHaul. A friend paid for my trip home and another couple I am friends with paid my rent for the last month I was in Florida. Talk about unexpected and coming through when it matters!
- Since I have been back from Florida, the people I have closest to include:
- Someone I text with several times a week and am an emergency contact for her daughter so I can pick her up from school. We are there for one another when it matters but don’t get together as often as when we were first friends because we both have kids with insane schedules.
- A friend I get together with for breakfast at least once a week and talk about work and life and goals and hold one another accountable for progress.
- A friend I met two years ago and her husband. We all are entrepreneurs and artists and love getting together and talking about millions of subjects. His mind fascinates me and his spoken word is one of my favorite lyrics to listen to. She is super intelligent and I love hearing about her experiences. Together, I love their goals and dreams. They live hours away and yet came down to support my daughter’s play and come down just to have dinner or I go to them. Since I don’t have many friends from further away who travel down here to spend time with me, that means a lot because it does get expensive always being the friend to travel out where others are when everyone lives hours plus away.
- A friend I used to write with each week and then my schedule changed and now we ensure we get together every few months even if it means hanging out on my deck and enjoying the silliness of my daughter and the dog. We make time to celebrate each others’ successes and support one another’s art.
- A friend with whom I can talk business, faith, and community with for HOURS and establish deadlines and goals and work out projects. Each time we speak, I feel energized and ready to tackle the world and I saw a difference in my life when we had taken a break from talking for a while due to some life situations.
- A group of women I met when I joined the Elevation eGroup. We talk daily through a GroupMe chat and encourage one another through life. We meet each week on Zoom and see one another face to face and discuss the sermon and the book study and pretty much anything else that comes to mind in a 2 – 6 (I may be exaggerating slightly) hour time frame. Between meetings, we have random conversations about life and faith and scripture. We read books together as if the library is going to close tomorrow. We do life together and support one another despite a 40 year span in our ages, collectively.
I share these variations to show that it isn’t about the amount of time spent together but how the time is spent when we do get together. My inner circle, sisters that I couldn’t imagine doing life without, and I have a strong spiritual connection and while we don’t talk often usually, we are there and talk when it matters. We go in spurts where there will be conversations and speaking life into one another and other times where it is just a card here and there to say hi. I value them because there is no small talk or pettiness and never has been. One of them I see once a year and the other two live out of state so I haven’t seen them since 2015 in person – only through technology. (Thank you FaceTime and Zoom.) But if there was an issue, and one has shown this when my father had a TIA back in 2014, trust me when I tell you they would be here in person and support me without question. They continue to prove this as we support one another’s families and each other as we all do this life and fulfill our callings.
So getting back to my thought about funerals, I don’t think it’s important that you physically see someone often but I think it is important to check in with them and send a message or pick up the phone and see how they doing. Send a card to say you are thinking about them. Order flowers and surprise them. Ship a random set of stickers to them of their favorite bird so they know you are missing them. But don’t let people you care about go months and months without any discussion.
And for those of you who want close friendships and feel like you aren’t getting them: Go after them. If I had waited for invitations, I wouldn’t have received any because most people know I hate crowds and going to gatherings that other people throw. In fact, last year I went to a couple’s Friendsgiving gathering and it took everything in me to walk in. I just hate walking in places alone and having to do small talk and such. I had to get over my pride and be willing to ask for invites and invite myself places and as I started doing that the invites to events and gatherings started becoming more frequent. It didn’t happen overnight. And it doesn’t always work. But if you really want to make friends, you do what you have to do to get to know people, and sometimes that means you get out of your comfort zone and show others they matter to you.
Think about the people in your life you haven’t seen but have been meaning to. Reach out and let them know that it isn’t that you don’t value them but that you have to make time for one another. Talk to them on the phone or FaceTime them. Don’t limit yourself to just eating a meal together. Find other ways to get together. In Florida the way our little circle of friends got together most was by doing community events and softball games together. When the kids had events, we would support one another at the events. The kids loved the support and the adults got to chat while supporting their kids. Get creative and stop putting friendship in a box that has to fit certain time constraints and styles. You may find some of your best friends are people who don’t know your favorite color but would be there for a moment if you were in a tragic accident and needed someone to speak life to you while recovering. Any day of the week I’d take the latter.
Until next time,