Getting older is in many ways as marvelous as my young idealistic self imagined. There’s a wisdom that only experience can provide. And while some experiences are as painful as others are joyful, both are even more radiant in hindsight. To look back at all your accomplishments and failures and know that you lived, that you tried, and that you left a beautiful mess of memories along the way. I love that.
One of my favorite topics to write, read, and ponder is that of friendship. It’s such a pivotal aspect to the human life, one that ties together people of all ages, races, and nations throughout time. A bond that can run deeper than blood merely because it’s a relationship of choice rather than birth. Friends are the family you choose. And in much of my life that has been my experience. It is also the heart of many of my favorite stories, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and Emma, to name a few.
Also, the longer you are married, the more you understand the value of friendships. There will always be things that women just need to share with other women. And men, likewise. Women get the complicated mess of wiring that makes up the female heart. We don’t have to spend as much time trying to explain; and let’s be honest, my husband may never understand the odd train of thoughts that make so much sense to me. Then once I became a mother, I knew very quickly that I needed to be in community with other mothers.
My life in recent years has provided a challenging opportunity for growth in this area. In the last four years, I have lived in three different states and five different cities. I have met countless truly beautiful souls that I feel so honored to have shared life with, even if it was just for a brief time. And I have done my very best to maintain the true friendships that I have left behind. But I guess that’s what I wanted to write about, really. Because in my heart I don’t feel like I’ve left them behind, I left the people where I found them but I carry their love with me everywhere, all the time. Which is what makes being forgotten so hard.
I made this unlikely friend somewhere along the way, a city or two ago. She was a ball of fun, full of personality, my twin but exact opposite in every way. She was loud, outgoing, real, with the warmest heart. We were instant friends. Inseparable for months. She made me laugh and was always up for a good time. And while the heart of our friendship revolved largely around her, I was okay with that. I loved being there for her, listening to her challenges, and offering any support or encouragement that I was able. In this relationship, in this season, she needed someone to put her first. And I viewed it as my honor as her friend. (Lord knows I have friends that played this vital role for me over the years!) But then it came time for my little family to move on to our next chapter, and she viewed this as the end of our friendship. I tried to explain that my moving didn’t mean we could no longer be in each other’s lives (especially since it was just a short drive). But since my move, I have become demoted to mere acquaintance, just someone that she once knew. Since I’m not longer convenient, am I no longer important? So when I needed a friend, when I needed her, she was no where to be found.
There’s little that I can do about others’ actions. But through every experience, especially the difficult ones, I ask myself, how could I do that better next time? How could I be a better friend to the next person? This last move was challenging for me, it’s getting harder and harder to accept my fate of being the forgotten. The fear of not having meant as much to someone as they meant to you can be debilitating if you allow it. But I won’t allow the fear of being forgotten to stop me from loving and looking for new opportunities to be a friend to someone else. Because just like the marriage relationship, it isn’t about what I can gain but rather what I can give. Friendship is about giving. Giving parts of yourself to others. You may never get that love back, but then giving isn’t about receiving.
These females friendships have been one of my greatest sources of love and joy throughout my entire life. Maybe it’s because I am an only child that I cling so tightly to these “siblings of choice.” But if you have never experienced this type of friendship, or feel like you need it now, I would encourage you to seek it out. It’s not likely to just fall into your lap. To have friends one must be friendly. If you don’t have the type of Samwise Gamgee or Emma Woodhouse friends that I’m talking about, examine your heart and actions. Are you being the kind of friend that you hope to have? Because typically when I ask myself that question, I’m usually falling short.
Then comes the next challenge. What does this actually look like? A good place to start is asking myself, how do I feel love from friends? This could be as simple as regular texts or phone calls, just letting them know that you’re thinking of them and checking in. Staying in touch with their lives. Also making it a priority to see them, even if you live thousands of miles away. Making time to visit your friends is essential, even if it’s only once a year. This part isn’t always easy or convenient, but it speaks volumes. Basically, the elementary lesson still rings true, treat others as you would wish to be treated. It’s really as simple as that.
So as we close this year, and every year moving forward, I hope to continue growing and giving, to be the friend that I would want to have. And in time, when miles separate us, I hope that they would remember my affections remain. My fondness for them, my appreciation for the time they shared with me, and my delight in the memories we made, remain. Should they ever need my love or support, I remain their faithful, forgotten friend.