Friday, May 6, 2016

some thoughts on friendship

Friendship is something I’ve been wanting to write more about. I feel like I have a lot to say, and I’m trying to find the right stories to say those things. From a very young age, I have recognized that friendships with girls have been an important part of my life, maybe the most important part. I haven’t had many long-term dating relationships, which means that, as a woman in her thirties, most of my years and memories have been spent with friends. In that sense it’s been my collection of girlfriends that have shown me how to love, care, listen, open up, forgive, laugh.

This collection of friendships has grown and shifted over the years. Women move within my circle with their jobs and marriages and places of residence. One or two whom I thought I had lost forever slip back in and it’s like they were never not there. A few I’ve chosen to move ever so slightly away from, and as I get older and wiser, I am able to do this with more generosity of heart — recognizing that neither of us is at fault for the way our friendship took an unexpected turn. It’s that relationships are breathing things unto themselves, and much like with a child, you will always be finding new rhythms for them, and sometimes you must let them go. It is a miracle when they come back to you, whole.

Some of the experiences I want to write about are those painful ones. Parting ways with girlfriends can be as painful as romantic breakups, in part because they are often less talked about. The rhythm of a romance gone sour is a familiar one, and we know the language of comfort or villainizing the new love in the other person’s life or however it is we learn to cope. But how do you explain the strange shifts in needs and desire and love that happens between friends? Because it is there. I still mourn the loss of a particularly meaningful friendship in which I knew I needed to create some space in order to grow in the direction I felt led. I wasn’t convinced this would be a permanent separation, and yet as we pulled away from each other, I realized it was mutual, not one sided, and that there were very deep and real ways in which she was feeling hurt and not seen, too.

I experienced a tremendous amount of loss in our break. The thing about friends is that there is always something about them that surprises you, and in that is such a gift of delight that nobody else can give you. This friend surprised me in the beauty she saw in unlikely places, in me even. To me, our friendship itself, her choice of me, was unlikely (and yet I think she felt exactly the same way about me). I remember sitting in therapy a year or two after we had parted ways, still mourning something about that experience because there was no friend in my life who filled the same place — who understood my desire to write, who was a companion to me in what she laughed at and they things she loved to eat and how she explored the city.

Last weekend, I hosted a brunch for my birthday and invited all of my women friends and their daughters. There was something about life this year that had me feeling like I needed to celebrate with my girls. Leading up to the day, one friend asked if she could lead a time of listening prayer. When the time came, I sat on the floor, around me a circle of some of my closest and dearest friends, at this place and moment in time. After listening - to their own hearts, but even more, to God - each spoke words of affirmation and hope and love. I continue to hold the memory of that time as so precious, recognizing that my friendships with each of these women is a gift that may not always be mine, but knowing they will all remain with me in some form for years to come.

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