Last week I heard a discussion on National Public Radio about friendship. A caller stated that she had to start drawing boundaries with a few of the women in her life because they were weighing her down with their negative comments and attitudes about life and the aging process. She felt used and abused.
That started a rich conversation between the host and various guests and other callers about the value of friendship, including when it’s time to call it quits with some people for whatever reason.
That got me thinking about the women and men in my life who I once considered close friends but who have since fallen away (or did I push them away?) for one reason or another–death, relocation, illness, unresolved conflict, an unfulfilled need or lack of common interest. I feel a pang when I think of some of them now. How could such a change occur when the bond at one time was so strong? I can’t explain it. It’s how life goes sometimes. We can’t always wrap up each relationship with a red bow. Some simply go away from neglect, a one-sided passion, or a change of heart. And I see now that just as we let go of some gifts we once delighted in, we also must let go of friendships that no longer serve either person. Sad, maybe, but true.
When I was a shy and quiet schoolgirl, I remember feeling ‘lucky’ when someone wanted to be my friend–as though I didn’t have anything to do with attracting the girl or boy or creating the relationship between us. I felt honored that she or he picked me! Poor little Karen. But that’s not the case anymore.
Now that I’m an older adult, I’m considering Robert Louis Stevenson’s words in a new light. I realize that yes, each one of my friends is a gift I give myself, one to be enjoyed, respected, and appreciated, as well as one to invest in and to be truthful with, as suggested on the NPR radio show. And also one to hold lightly so that if a time comes when we are no longer in sync, we can let go with love and gratitude for what we had.
Sometimes friendships go the other way. Former friends return at a new time and for new reasons. They’re to be welcomed too. I had such an experience after my husband died. A caring phone call prompted a renewed connection between one woman and me. And a couple I hadn’t seen or heard from in ages was suddenly on my doorstep with a meal and flowers and condolences and a new and deeper regard for me. I felt so blessed.
Just as there are gifts for special occasions there are friends for special occasions. I have women to walk with, to shop with, to talk with, to see movies with, to line dance with, to enjoy a meal with, to pray for and with and to hang out with from time to time for no particular reason. Not all of them can be all things to me. Nor can I do and be all things to each of them.
Now that I am living alone, my friends have become even more important to me than ever before. I relish the variety of these women (and some men too) in my life, their warmth and advice and playfulness and curiosity, and their intelligence. I’m richer for knowing each one.
And so it goes. People come and go in our lives, some for a season, some for a lifetime and some as faithful readers of my writing. 🙂 Thank you!
This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends. You are my friends when you do the things I command you.
(John 15:15 MSG)
How does friendship play a part in your life? I’d love to hear your story.