“The loneliest woman in the world is a woman without a close woman friend.”
– George Santayana, The Life of Reason, 1905-1906
I’ve been pondering friendship lately. Partly counting my blessings, partly marveling at how different all my friends are, and partly baffled as to why some people make me feel immediately comfortable, while others set me on edge.
I have been blessed with some phenomenal female friends in my life, and these relationships mean the world to me. I moved house and schools a lot as a kid and changed countries too, so I didn’t get to forge bonds which could continue with the years.
In highschool we finally settled in one location and at fourteen I made my first real best friend. The kind of best friend you hold onto for years. The kind of person who becomes a constant in your life. Someone that is part of the landscape of who you are.
GW and I are nothing alike. Seriously. I’m not sure you could get two people more different in many ways.
At times we have drifted from each other’s lives, seen each other less frequently, shared less secrets. But we always come back around again. We are like sisters. Sometimes I am sure we roll our eyes over the other’s shoulder and think “What are you going on about?” But our loyalty is absolute.
My relationship with GW is not the only enduring one I have. Almost all my closest friends have been with me for 15-20 years.
Our friendships have flourished in spite of distance, vastly different personalities, and changing relationships, careers, and motherhood.
Taking Time to Reconnect
Recently I went away for my annual Girls weekend with a few of these long time friends. The weekend away is our ritual – an opportunity to separate ourselves from partners and children, to reconnect as friends, to get back to the young women we once were.
We don’t do a hell of a lot when we’re away, so we don’t travel far. We stay somewhere relaxing near the water and we spend two days and nights basically talking, eating, watching DVDs and drinking. It’s heaven.
This year we added a beauty therapist to the mix and she came for the Saturday to pamper us and ensure everybody really did relax and leave the outside world behind for awhile.
I don’t know how women go about their lives without female friends. I don’t live in the pockets of my girlfriends – most are juggling families and busy careers and live at least an hour away from me – but when we see each other we slot into our own groove. Catching up on all the news, sharing our struggles and celebrating our wins.
We never have to go through an awkward settling in phase and there is little that we won’t discuss. Our time together is easy, fluid, and over all too quickly. But this synergy is not something we can find with everyone.
Friendships have a life of their own. They may be forged through common circumstance or interests, but they prevail because they meet other, more complex emotions and needs.
Recently, I wondered what distinguishes my closest friends from the other relationships I have, or have had, in my life. This is what I came up with.
My Secret to Great Friendships
Mutually supportive, emotionally rewarding relationships take time and you have to make them important. You have to value each other.
People don’t have great friendships by accident. They work on it.
And the older you get and the more responsibilities you have, the more you need to consciously make the time to nurture your friendships. Marriage and kids change things, but that sense of being there for each other doesn’t have to go away.
When I look over my friendships, there is one thread that they all share. The one thread I need above all else, and that is NO JUDGMENT.
I may not always behave in ways my friends will understand, nor make the choices they would for themselves, but in the end they all embrace me for my uniqueness and support me unconditionally. They know I’m a good person – albeit a flawed, emotional and at times over opinionated one.
I know my friends are special because I can be my entire quirky self with them, they listen patiently to my feminist rants, ignore my colorful language, and though some are definitely more outwardly “successful” than me, they would never think of themselves as superior because of it.
Real friends commiserate when times are bad and celebrate when times are good. They know when to let you go and when to reign you in. They forgive your petty foibles, understand when you retreat to deal with an over complicated life, and don’t say “I told you so” when you stuff up.
I love my friends because they are always there. Not around the corner, like maybe I wished. But in my heart. A phone call away. When I need them.
Do you value your friends and make time for them?
What qualities do you look for in a friend?
This post was inspired by the beautiful Trisha, a great friend and a loyal reader of my blog. Thanks for your open heart, willing ear and sage advice. x
Flickr Photo1 by Alireza Teimoury
Flickr Photo2 by Greekadman