- “Alright class, we have a new friend joining us today, let’s all say hello and make her feel welcome”
- “We are all friends here, let’s take turns sharing”
- “Our kids are the same age, we should get them together for a playdate”
- ”Reminder Parents, party invites must go out to all of our friends”…
I’d be willing to bet you a scotch bonnet pepper (both exquisite and locally elusive) that at least one or maybe all of these sound familiar to you and it’s even quite possible that they’ve come out of your own mouth. Well, this is how most of us are introduced to the idea of friendship and the notion that hospitality, generosity and similarities are enough.
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I’ll raise my hand first and say back when I was a child and even now as a parent of young children, these simple lessons are not only appreciated but indubitably provide the comfort they were likely created to promote. It can be tough transitioning into a new stage, worrying if the peers in your child’s world will truly SEE them, if they’ll be embraced for their commonalities and respected for their differences. So yes, this widely accepted coaxed version seems pragmatic because it means they’ll get the opportunity to feel the warmth of an un-biological friendship, even if short-lived. Unfortunately though seemingly constructive in its infancy, once we enter early adolescence this same model can quickly become problematic. It’s around this time that we painfully learn that what we were taught about the foundations of friendship was really the foundations of social development and wasn’t strong enough to survive exposure… to…well anything beyond the stage it was developed in.
The same fears that cause us to worry about the social health of our children is an echo of what we yearn for in our own relationships. The difference is that we’ve likely had our fair share of social opportunities and are now far too conscious to accept short-term, superficial relationships as a cultural norm.
And so begins the journey toward redefining and seeking out a new and improved version of friendships (2.0) according to what we have ultimately discovered is much deeper than a juvenile desire, but by God’s design, an innate need.
After a lifetime of being a social butterfly who seemed to make ‘friends” effortlessly, it became extremely uncomfortable for me to be anywhere- “alone”. The insecurities that suddenly came flooding into my mind was both paralyzing and baffling – ‘cause y’all 9/10 of my disciplinary reports are for what I like to call “unsanctioned fellowship”! Now here I was young and independent but wishing I was back home because I felt too out of place in a room full of my peers to make conversation! So what changed? Who had I become and why now? Surely it wasn’t because I was single, it’s always been easier for me to start new relationships when I wasn’t already in one. Couldn’t be that although in my 20’s I was a real “professional”, the work environment has enough social structure to develop something sufficient for casting a variance from home life. Wait…my home life changed. I became a Mom. I was 100lbs when I got pregnant with twins so the body changes alone hit my self-esteem harder than I was willing to admit. Add to that my inability to consistently remain objective about falling into the stereotype that I was a minority single mom and then just for good measure consider my social unavailability due to the sum of those factors. This seemed hopeless and since through the redefining process I became wise enough to no longer believe one of the most common lies amongst females,” that we don’t NEED to befriend other women”, I needed to find friends that were suitable for my new life and more specifically for the new me. Here’s what helped me grow closer to myself and to my relationship goals – because self-efficacy is a big part of Friendship 2.0.
Making and Keeping Friends
- Determine what you like and want for your social life
For me this meant re-learning myself, who I was becoming and then liking her. I know that last bit seems like an easy choice but we’re often toughest on ourselves when we change and acceptance starts with us! A big one for me was night life, it was my regular hangout with my fun circle of friends and then it just wasn’t. I would go, I would put on a smile and even enjoy a cocktail or two but inside I always felt like it was time misspent. I just wanted to BE with my friends at all costs. Don’t get me wrong, I still loved to dance but the “new” me didn’t want to spend my time in a sweaty night club doing so and/or really do it a room full of gawking strangers. I recognized it, I called myself out on it and eventually spoke up about it but still it took time for me to not feel guilty about declining offers to go. It wasn’t because I believed the digs that I was becoming “lame” or “boring”, it was because I knew that this change was going to leave me left out and foreshadowed the unwinding of those once tight relationships. I would spend the next few MNO’s going to the jazz club alone, still enjoying that cocktail but most importantly enjoying myself. I chose to say “Yes” to the things I wanted to do because my time is most valuable to me and this takes the desperation out of the equation.
Wanting companionship does not outweigh our need for contentment. So whatever it is, seek out your passions and do what YOU love, you’ll find your people there.
- Determine what you can give and what you need for your relationships
The expectations we have for others and vis versa can either be the cornerstone for a healthy friendship or the catalyst of its destruction. I had to figure out my mental and emotional bandwidth and then be transparent with that upfront without the fear of “scaring off” or even “blocking” any potential friendships. What will they need me to be? How many friendships could I handle and at what levels of intimacy? Would my time be enough to bring them value? It’s fluctuated a few times over the years but I quickly discovered that once I became a wife, my bandwidth decreased yet again. I became most relatable to a “frozen pizza friend”. I’m there if you need me and I’m tried and true. Had a bad day, need to cry? Laugh? Pray? Things are going great, want to celebrate? Whether you want to share or get a slice of my mind, I’m there with encouragement, every time. Sure, there are some weeks when the type of support needed varies but this was the load I could realistically carry. These moments though sporadic are special and both strengthen and encourage reciprocity in the relationship.
Realizing that the gift of consistency in relationships doesn’t demand constancy. So whatever can be counted upon, do those things and be the friend you seek, your people will find you.
- Be Intentional about staying Connected
We are all busy. It’s the American-way. When we’re not busy doing something, we’re trying to rest before we get busy again. If we’re lucky, we love what’s keeping us busy and the only downfall is that we can feel TOO busy for the other things or people that we love. Ironically, it’s in this busyness that we need each other. Having friends scattered throughout time zones with varying work and family schedules can make connecting difficult. I have been shamed by my own delays in replying to text or social media messages, returning phone calls and simply initiating a conversation, I had to make changes because busy or not, my people are important to me. In my phone I’ve set a “check-in” alarm for every other day. No guidelines, whatever I can do. I started reaching out to one friend on these days to say “Hi” and find out what’s going on in their life. Before I knew it, I didn’t need an alarm and I was checking in on more friends at a time. Bluetooth Calls from the car while commuting to work, video calls while doing makeup, texting on lunch breaks, even a simple emoji to say “Thinking of You” can feel like a grand gesture because being remembered in the midst of life’s chaos is especially encouraging. If you use a planner, schedule time. If you make plans, earnestly keep them. This especially applies to new relationships when you’re still building trust and developing rapport, not keeping commitments can be misinterpreted for insincerity and insignificance. Social media is a great prompt but don’t let it be your only connection to one another.
Too often people that we consider our friends are not okay and we don’t know that they need us because we are relying on social media cues and/or too busy or out of touch to notice. Make time and take time to show up, call back and check-in!
So it’s no secret that I’m a praying woman. I pray for others and myself but if I’m really sharing, I’m mostly a praising woman. About 75% of my time talking to God looks like gratitude for all of the things that I’m thankful for and having friendships that have enriched my life is a part of that. These life changes we go through as women can be especially trying and our faith isn’t always protected from the tribulation. Loneliness can birth all kinds of lies about our worth and what we deserve. I am so grateful to have rediscovered myself after children, after marriage and to be so incredibly blessed with the sweetest of friendships, the Proverbs 27:9 kind. c
Each relationship in my garden of Friendship is so special because though many were planted simultaneously, they each bloomed in their most needed season of my life.
So as you’re being mindful of your own friendships, I’ll leave you with this thought. Lilies come in almost all imaginable colors with variegated patterns constituting it innumerably diverse and thus by definition, the epitome of beauty. Partially by their nature but acknowledgedly due to the intentional hybrid process of planting them together and nurturing their relationship so they could become something even more beautiful and vigorous than they were before. They share commonality yes but they have far more differences, even the variance in their country of origin doesn’t inhibit their potential to grow together and with over 90 species each year, there are many whose life’s work is dedicated to making it happen. Admittedly, I am in no way shape or form an anthophile. My name means “Lily” in Japanese and I was intrigued at an early age by this flower- even got a tattoo a few years ago to match but I was unequivocally most inspired to fashion my friendships in the likes of this plant, this lily flower that thrived amongst diversity by coming together. Cause’ full disclosure, I’m always striving to be a more beautiful and stronger version of myself.