I was never the kind of person to have a bunch of friends.
Growing up in a small town, I had my childhood friends that I would hang out with on a regular basis - and their parents and my parents were friends as well. In high school, I had a few close girlfriends who were part of a "group", ironically comprised mostly of guys (who were all like brothers to me). I think that was my way around what I may have considered the "cliquiness" of girls - how there could always be two, but never three - three meant one was always on the outside, and of course I thought that "one" was me.
I apparently have a lot of self-esteem issues.
The college years, when most people were singing with sorority sisters and getting drunk with dorm-mates that would be their alumni compadres for life, I hopped from college to college, never really making those life-long memories and friends. (Shoutout here to the few I did make - Nadine and Carol, you know who you are.)
After college, the friends became a little jumbled. There were work friends - those who I spent eight or more hours a day with and would get together for an occasional happy hour; then there were the "couple friends" I made when I was in a relationship and married and doing all those fun, pre-kid things like volleyball, wine tastings and road trips. Then there were the post-baby friends - those who you clung to because they were in the same situation as you were and you held this incredible common bond and were sure that your babies were going to grow up and go to prom together.
As I got older, it seemed like the whole friend dynamic changed. We were all so busy; so transient. If we were the same ages we were somehow in different stages of our lives. Some were still single, which made it tougher to hang out with the married friends. Some were pregnant or had little kids at home and rarely got out of the house. Some went through divorces and sides would be picked. I felt as if I really should have appreciated having the friends I had when I was younger because we were all in the same place in our lives. Having friends in my 30s and 40s was hard work. And I think because of that, I kind of pushed them down my priority list - below kids, career, husband, housework, errands... you get the picture.
Stupid, stupid me.
The other night, I had four girlfriends over. Four. I think that's a record for me. One of them just had a baby not too long ago. Another is recovering from a double mastectomy and about to start chemo. Another has endured major medical issues with her children. And the fourth - she'll kill me for this but she's like the matriarch that seems to hold everyone together, simply because I believe that she knows the power of friendship and has made it a priority in her life.
I learned a lot from these women in just that one evening. I learned what I already knew - that everyone has their "shit", and that what you perceive to be someone's "awesome life" isn't always how it is. I admired these women before, but after hearing some of their life stories, I had a new-found respect for them, and it made me realize that their strength and their support of me and of each other was what was truly getting me through life.
I don't know what I would do without my friends. And the thing is, it's not like it was before. Yes, there are a few that have been around me the longest - we've been through some great ups and horrible downs together and they're the ones you let see that bad side of you and you know they'll still love you. But these people I used to think of as "peripheral" have now become an integral part of my life; a very appreciated and honored part of my life.
There's this message that I'm sure you've heard or gotten some chain email about that you have to "forward to 11 friends in the next seven minutes or everyone will leave you". Anyway, though I hate those things, it in itself is incredibly poignant and true:
"People come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime. When you figure out which one it is, you will know what to do for each person.
When someone is in your life for a REASON, it is usually to meet a need you have expressed. They have come to assist you through a difficulty, to provide you with guidance and support, to aid you physically, emotionally, or spiritually. They may seem like a godsend, and they are! They are there for the reason you need them to be. Then, without any wrongdoing on your part, or at an inconvenient time, this person will say or do something to bring the relationship to an end. Sometimes they die. Sometimes they walk away. Sometimes they act up and force you to take a stand. What we must realize is that our need has been met, our desire fulfilled, their work is done. The prayer you sent up has been answered. And now it is time to move on.
Then people come into your life for a SEASON, because your turn has come to share, grow, or learn. They bring you an experience of peace, or make you laugh. They may teach you something you have never done. They usually give you an unbelievable amount of joy. Believe it! It is real! But, only for a season.
LIFETIME relationships teach you lifetime lessons: things you must build upon in order to have a solid emotional foundation. Your job is to accept the lesson, love the person, and put what you have learned to use in all other relationships and areas of your life."
No matter why my friends are in my life, whether they are old, new, rekindled or even cyberbuddies, I have a new respect and appreciation for them all. So I ask of you: cherish, nurture and cultivate your friendships, whether they are close or fair weather. Be there in some capacity when you see a friend in need, and know that when you are in the same position, you will realize who your friends truly are - and it may in fact surprise you. Never think that you aren't "close enough" to someone to reach out to them in friendship. Again, you may be surprised. And amazed. And grateful. And blessed.
As I am.