Anais Nin said, “Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.”
My husband Hugh was an extrovert, gathering up friends like a music aficionado collects CDs: always on the lookout for the next one that might appeal to his evolving tastes while staying loyal to his favorites by playing them often. Oh, the multitude of worlds that swirled in that man! Because friendships were essential to his existence, he had great advice to offer about them.
“When you first meet someone,” he would say, “that’s the easy part of friendship. But when you’ve known someone for a really long time, when you know each other’s quirks and personality flaws, that’s when you really have to dig in if you want to be in it for the long haul. Because we all have them, right? Imperfections. You stick it out and that’s when you get the good stuff. True friendship.”
What does true friendship mean to you?
This can vary so much from person to person; perhaps this is why we find ourselves in conflict with our dear friends from time to time.
A few years ago I was taking a course on the seven chakras and our spiritual yoga instructor said something about friendships that whacked me upside the head. I believe I was going on about how easy it is to maintain friendships, you know, you just do this, do that, like use social media, show up, make an effort, cut people slack, etc. She said, “Well, what if I’m the kind of friend who likes to give gifts?”
That simple line that has stayed with me for two reasons:
1) I have some friends who are unbelievable at giving gifts. Well-thought out, well wrapped and timely. Breath-taking in their beauty and appropriateness.
2) I absolutely suck at giving gifts. It feels like an awful chore. I have no patience for wrapping. I could spend hours searching, for the right gift, the right card and then feel bitter about the time wasted, and the money spent if it turned out to be a bad choice.
Of course, I had to get to a certain age to recognize this about myself. I used to try to be a good gift-giver, but then I read Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project. “You can choose what you do; you can’t choose what you like to do.” Hugh’s death, and the other deaths that occurred around that time, prompted me to view material things as cumbersome and I began placing a higher value on intangibles, like time, love, expression and experience.
I’ve become the kind of friend who likes to experience things, like say climbing a mountain, going on a Habitat build, doing Jazzercise, that sort of thing.
When you look at friendships in these terms – that one side places a priority on this and the other on that – you can see why misunderstandings abound. The experience-seeker thinks, Selfish bioche. She doesn’t even want to go to a sweltering, typhoon-prone country to build houses for the poor with me? And the gift-giver thinks, Selfish bioche. I brought that rare, aged and expensive red wine that pared so nicely with the steak to her dinner party, even wrapped it in that exotic wine bag, and she brought these wilted grocery store flowers for me?
Whether you’re the kind of friend who likes to give gifts, or the kind of friend who likes to share various experiences, or the kind of friend who likes to connect on Facebook, studies find that people with close friendships are happier people. I think good friendships, long-lasting friendships, can equate to the unconditional love we share with family, yet with the added element of choice. Which brings us back to Rubin’s quote on happiness, which has to do with choice. As we are constantly evolving as humans, at various rates, perhaps it’s worthwhile to evaluate our friendships from time to time, to ensure that their quality continues to enrich our self-esteem, self-confidence and social development.
Aristotle wrote, “The excellent person is related to his friend in the same way as he is related to himself, since, a friend is another self; and therefore, just as his own being is choice-worthy for him, the friend’s being is choice-worthy for him in the same or a similar way.”
Choose wisely, love deeply and, having chosen, always forgive her when she brings you wilted grocery store flowers.