In the wake of Valentine’s Day and the glorification of romantic love, I’ve been thinking about friendships. Romantic relationships are wonderful, but I believe loving friendships are profoundly important for emotional and physical well-being. I think I make friends pretty easily. I don’t typically roll with a group, opting more for one-on-one connections, even if we are part of a larger group. Since I’ve made the decision to break from the status quo, I’ve noticed changes in some of my friendships. I’m sure I’ve changed, and some of my friends have too. Perhaps they see me differently. It has me thinking about the pieces of a friendship. What’s the perfect mix? How do you find new friends when you want them? How do you elevate your circle when you need to?
My mother used to say “birds of a feather flock together.” Our friendships reflect us and we reflect them back. I saw an old interview with Maya Angelou where she talks about Malcolm and Martin like they were her homeboys. James Baldwin was friends with Medgar Evers. Toni Morrison and Angela Davis were friends for over forty years. In my imagination the whole Harlem Renaissance was a crew. Heck, even Cardi B was dating Offset long before she blew up. Basically, my mother was right. Mothers usually are. It matters who you spend your time with. You exchange not only words, jokes and information, you exchange energy.
I’ve had conversations with friends that have left me drained and upset, and others that have left me inspired and uplifted. I know nobody’s perfect, but I choose the latter when I can.
I spent the past week on a retreat with eight other women. We planted small seeds. But what takes a friendship beyond a mere acquaintance? Are we too old for new friendships in our 30’s, 40’s or 50’s? Are we stuck with the friends we already have? I found a few articles on the topic. One narrowed friendship to four key elements: reliability, deep listening/nonjudgment, optimism and service. I would add mutual trust, authenticity and vulnerability to the mix. We trust our close friends with our hearts. We show up with them as our true and flawed selves. Without those components you don’t have a friend you just have “someone you know.”
People sometimes think I have a lot of friends. What I have is a long list of acquaintances. Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful for every sweet seed of a friendship, including the eight that were planted last week and all the future seeds to come. However, I am most in awe of my true friendships that have grown over years of nurturing.
I know people who have lost friends to death.
I know most relationships don’t last forever.
I know some friendships are only for a season.
With this knowledge of endings, I wonder about beginnings. How do you start a new friendship or relationship? What are the ingredients? I’ve decided friendship is a lemon tree because they smell great, they’re delicious when you add a little sweetness, and lemons can help with just about anything. So how do you make your lemon tree grow?
– Common interests and bonding experiences are the seeds that bring us together. I think that’s why most friendships are born in work, school, neighborhood, military, camp, etc.
– Trust and vulnerability grow our roots. That’s where you go from acquaintance to the potential for friendship. I read once that being a teetotaler hinders work relationships. I think this is why. Many people only let their guard down when they’re under the influence of alcohol. Unfortunate, but probably true.
– Time and interest nurtures us to bloom. Just like any relationship you have to want it and make time for it. I remember the day one of my workaholic friends told me she decided she was going to make time for our friendship. We’ve grown an amazing friendship since then.
– Humility spreads our branches far and wide. Sometimes we hurt each other. We’re human – it’s unavoidable. Long friendships last when you can say, “Sorry I hurt you. I didn’t mean to. It won’t happen again because I’ve made a change in me.” That doesn’t mean you have to become a new person, but you commit to change the offending behavior, or at least to try.
I know there are a lot of us who would like more friends, whether it’s because we’ve relocated to a new city, we’ve lost friends along the way, we’ve outgrown our existing crew, or we just have room in our lives for more connection. Wherever you are, I wish you beautiful relationships that blossom, fill your spirit and inspire you to your highest most authentic self. You deserve all of that and more.
I wish you Freedom, Alignment and Effortless Abundance!
P.S. The photo is a quote on friendship from Michelle Obama. I thought a lot about whether to post it. It seems a bit harsh. The reality is we have limited hours in our day. She hit the nail right on the head. Make space for those who inspire and support you. Retreats are a wonderful way to plant an initial seed in common interests and bonding. I still have 2 spots left for my “Courage to Dream” mini-retreat on March 7. Sign up at honeybutterflyz.com/about Mark your calendars for my “Black Vegan Life Fall Retreat – for Women Only” December 11-13, 2020 at elohee.org I’ll be posting details soon.