Enjoyed a good discussion with one of my children today, regarding friends. Specifically, how to manage competing interests. One friend wants to do one thing, another something else, and another nothing at all; how to balance that to please the majority, while also remembering to prioritize personal well-being. Good question. And one I hardly feel qualified to answer.
Growing up, I had one close friend. One person I hung out with 90% of the time. The other 10% I was either up to my elbows in household chores, or horse, chicken, and rabbit dung. More often than not, my friend helped me get my livestock chores out of the way, because we were in some instances partners–we each owned rabbits and chickens and caged them on my property, bred the bucks and does, hens and roosters, and sold the kits and chicks at auction–and because in exchange for helping, my friend had exclusive access to ride one of my horses. But time changes everything. And everyone.
By the time we were eighteen, we each had serious boyfriends. From different backgrounds and friend groups. My parents had separated, and my mom sold my childhood home; I had to sell most of my animals, taking with me only one horse (boarded out) and my dog. My friend and I hung out less often, wrapped up as we were in our new boyfriends and their family/social groups. Not to mention full-time jobs. Eventually, we each married our respective boyfriends, and our visits were even less frequent. Then I had kids. She didn’t. My marriage broke up. Hers didn’t. She had kids. I remarried and moved away. Had more kids. My friend and I went from hanging out daily in elementary and high school, to not seeing or speaking to each other for months. Sometimes a year or more. And yet, when we did finally manage to coordinate our personal and family schedules to visit, it was like we’d never been apart. That’s friendship.
The same is true with most of those people I consider true friends.
We don’t talk or text every day. We don’t hang out every weekend. And we’re not all in the same group. Or lifestyle circumstances.
My friends are spread out. Only two live within ten minutes of me. The others are anywhere from an hour, to twelve hours away. Some are married or in long-term relationships. Others single. I see some more often than others. And they all mean the world to me.
Friendship isn’t about how much time you spend together, or how you spend that time. Friendship is in the heart. It’s a feeling, and it can’t be charted.
I’ve made mistakes with regards to friendship. Looking back with age and wisdom, I realize people I thought were close friends, were actually, In The Moment Friends. Meaning, that in that moment in our lives, we needed each other. We each served a purpose for the other, providing emotional or physical support. Shared lifestyle. Children of similar age, or on the same sport’s team. And when that moment in our lives passed, or we outgrew the need for the other person’s support, developed new interests or hobbies, or entered a different stage in our life where that person no longer easily fit, or filled a necessary role, like a black hole collapsing inward, the relationship imploded. It happens.
What I also learned, is that true friends forgive. They actively strive to resolve differences. As my childhood best friend and I did. Many, many, times.
We threw rocks at each other. And hurtful names. Hung up on each other. Refused to answer the phone when the other called. And yet somehow, we always found our way back to each other. Our way back to putting our friendship above petty differences.
So, when it comes to managing competing differences among friends, I have no hard, fast answer. I don’t know that there is an answer.
I think, however, when you’re happy in yourself, in who you are and what you do, you’ll attract like-minded friends. People with whom you can safely share and exchange ideas, interests, goals, and dreams; people who support you, or, at the very least, give you the freedom to do what you need to do, to be happy. People unafraid to challenge you if, or when, you veer off path, or attempt to sacrifice important values or goals for less-important or easier diversions; people willing to be honest, and who value your honesty in return. Friends care. Even when you don’t do what they want you to. Even when you don’t like some of the things they do. Even when you want something they don’t. The same is true in reverse.
Friendship is about empowering those you care about to be authentic; to be true to themselves. To their goals. Their dreams. Their values. And perhaps, that’s the answer.
Check your values. Do they align with the people you consider friends? Do theirs align with yours?
Our friendships are a reflection of who we are. In the moment. At the time. Where we are in our life. Where we’ll end up. Some friendships flow, change, and grow with us our entire lives; others last only until the harvest. The key to recognizing the difference, and appreciating each, is to spend time with, and know, nurture, educate, entertain, love and empower, the very best-friend you’ll ever have: You.
To be capable of steady friendship or lasting glove are the two greatest proofs, not only of goodness of heart, but of strength of mind. ~William Hazlitt