When Friendship Is Hard Work.
My mama has dear friends whom she is in regular contact with, from her pre-school days. That’s over 60 years of friendships. She and her pals have all shared the lives of their children, marriage, divorce, death, mid-life crises and everything in between. And their connection is as strong as it’s ever been.
They don’t rely on social media to connect, they will pick up the phone and have an actual conversation, or hop on a train, bus or plane to see each other in person. I truly believe it is this face-to-face interaction that has enabled these friendships to grow, change with the seasons and still flourish.
In this day of transient lives and on-line socialising (of which I partake in as well), sometimes it’s easier to write a text message or shoot off a comment on Facebook, than actually looking at someone’s face and conversing. I think we all want to show our best sides and this has never been more appealing than in the era of Instagram grid highlights and tweets of happy moments. Even if those moments are only a few minutes long in a day.
But here is the thing about history – it means something. It’s so very special when you have it, like a rare gem.
New pals are wonderful and exciting and they can expose you to a whole new world of knowledge and wonder.
Old friends hold treasures in jars of clay that have weight and depth, that you cannot measure all in one sitting.
Sharing stories of “do you remember when?” or reminiscing about events and people. Catching up on the present, dreaming of the future, it’s like gold.
Hold onto that gold and don’t just chase the most current and shiniest new kid on the block.
Your history friend will call you out when you are behaving badly and set your feet upon sturdy ground. They know when you are lying or being cagey – because they know you. They are well-acquainted with your heart.
And whilst your new friend will revel in the shape of your hands, your old friend will know the exact imprint by heart. The curve of your palm and the rough edges that are still being refined.
Your new pal and you will be in the first lovely flush of connection and no doubt stroke your ego and hang off every word you speak. They will agree with everything you say and nod at all the right places.
Your history friend will not. And sometimes that can seem like hard work. As though the connection is stale and not worth the effort – the nitty gritty of friendship. You may tire of their ways, as they will yours, and the grass seems so much more appealing and greener with the newer model.
My advice? Do not run to the one who tells you what you want to hear.
Stick with your history friend who builds into your heart, as well as your soul. Allow them space to breathe and permit them much grace to trip and fall. But be the hand that is always available to welcome them back, into the fold of your heart and continued friendship.
I read an article recently by The Pool, written by Viv Groskop. She explains that since they launched the ‘Dear Viv’ podcast (aka old-fashioned agony aunt), at The Pool just three years ago, they have literally received hundreds of emails and letters each week. And the one subject that comes up all the time, the topic that is constantly a subject to be addressed, is friendships.
Often the most asked questions are “what is wrong with me?” and “why has this suddenly gone wrong?”
And whilst I don’t have any easy answers for those friendship questions myself, I do believe that many friendships formed quickly and intensely, aren’t always the ones that last the distance.
We have all had those friends who want to spend every minute of every day with us. And those who will message us numerous times in a 24 hour period to check-in. Sometimes these connections can be stifling, albeit lovely at first, they can stale very quickly. And when that friendship breaks down, over a misunderstanding or a cross word, that can leave a stain on one’s heart. A hurt soul.
Oftentimes it is then that we realise those history friends are the ones that we can rely on and always return to.
I have a dear best friend who lives in Australia. We often say to each other that we are so fortunate to have met and formed such a strong bond. We have adapted to the changes in our lives, parented small children, supported each other through numerous heartbreaking life events, built a business together, laughed until our sides ached, and survived a long-distance connection across the world. We have argued and disagreed and cried and forgiven. Again and again.
We are each other’s greatest cheerleaders, fiercest advocates and true sisters in Christ. I will forever be grateful for her input into my life and her commitment to our friendship, as I am to her. I miss her every single day and long to be able to pop over for a cup of tea in my jammies and devour a block of chocolate together. And I love her with all my heart.
That said however, this friendship is one built on doing the tough yards. Of having those uncomfortable conversations, sitting in moments of silence when we are both unsure and confused about the other’s feelings or emotions. It’s still work on both sides of the ocean for us and remains a deep commitment. However, the rewards, my word, the rewards, are rich, as we both give each other portion after portion of grace and love amidst our own brokenness.
Best friends come with the privileged title of walking, not just in the sunshine, but also the valley.
These connections, these deeply moving friendships, are the keepers. And in this day of transient people and transient friends – your keeper friends are all the more precious for sticking by you.