Monday, October 24, 2011

31 days || twenty-four: friendships.

I have this little pit in my stomach that never leaves, and I have diagnosed it. It is friendship guilt. 

The pit manifested itself right after college graduation, when distance separated me from the handful of kindred spirits I’d met at school, when my engagement with Jordan happened, and when life became more about the 8 to 5 and less about coffee meet-ups and weekend getaways. 

That friendship guilt, I’m sorry to say, has only expanded over the years as more friendships have been made, and Facebook has convinced us that somehow it is, in fact, possible to maintain all of our friendships at the exact level of commitment of which we have always been capable. 

Of course, that’s not true. Just as we’ve all watched our parents’ friendships come and go over the years, our friendships, too, are sometimes meant to come and go with the seasons of our lives. Social media may try to tell us otherwise, but you try to keep up — genuinely keep up — with all 300 of your friends and acquaintances, then get back to me. It’s just not possible. 

Last week, Kelle Hampton wrote about the friends she treasures, and how, just like with anything else, those relationships take time. They must be maintained and manicured. They must be met with gratitude and with grace. 

And I wondered: What have I been doing with my own little tribe? With both the friends who live far away and the ones who are right down the street? 

I treasure them, but do they know? 

As a little girl, I was a good friend. The best kind you can have. I was devoted and opinionated. I would tell you what I thought, but — I hope — with love. I would defend your honor. I would invite you to my house and my family would become your family. When it became evident that our friendship was no longer your priority, I would gracefully bow out and move on. I was imaginative and silly, stubborn and kind. 

I was not the perfect friend, but I very earnestly tried. 

Now, I’m not so sure. 

I have forgotten birthdays. Left emails sitting in my inbox. Ignored texts. Looked at my calendar and, in the blink of an eye, given up. 

I, quite simply, do not know how to do it. 

I do not know how to keep up with everyone I love. 

I quit Facebook with the hope that I would be more motivated to keep in touch with the friends I love. To some extent, I think my strategy has worked. I’m no longer pursuing superficial relationships. I don’t know everyone’s business, and it is glorious. 

For a while, my lack of Facebook interaction inspired me to send more emails, to respond to texts in a timely manner. But that hasn’t been the case for months now. 

So I made a list. (Lists are what I do best.) 

In five years, who do I still want to be a member of my “tribe”? (Is tribe a term Oprah made up? I feel like it is, which means I need another word, and stat. Ideas?) 

Who do I want to be able to know I can count on in five years? Who do I want to call if Jordan and I have children? Who do I want to cry to, to elicit prayers from, to laugh with? 

I wrote down the first names that came to mind. I did not self-edit. I did not think practically. First, I just wanted to see how many people my gut wanted to keep in touch with. 

I will not be sharing that list here — I’m not entirely convinced it’s complete — but I will tell you that it consisted of 10 names, and one of them was my husband’s (because he is my best friend, and let’s face it: Marriage takes time and effort too). Surely, with all of my responsibilities and hobbies and duties and to-do lists, I can manage 10 friends, 10 people who I want to share my life with in the coming years. 

The list was a start. It helped me realize that really, my community is manageable. Ten relationships are manageable. 

But the question remains: How can I best cultivate these friendships? 

Many of the names on that list belong to people in a different time zone. How do I handle those who I love long distance? 

A handful of those friends live right here in Tallahassee. What am I doing on a daily, weekly, monthly basis to show my love and appreciation for them and for their friendships? 

How can I be a better friend to those who are mothers? 

Those who are single? 

What does friendship with another couple look like? 

Realistically, what do my friends expect from me? 

What do I expect from them? 

What do I want out of these friendships? 

What do I want to give to these friendships? 

I want friends who don’t contribute to the pit of guilt I’ve created in my stomach. Friends who show me grace when life gets hectic. I want friends who make time for a monthly dinner or a weekly breakfast. I want friends who will actually call and tell me when they need something, who know I mean it when I say I’m there for them. I want friends who will plan road trips and pray for me and will put in the effort friendship takes. 

Most of all, I want to be that for the people I love. 

And I’m trying. 

This wedding has taken up a lot more time than I anticipated, but I am trying. 

I’m trying to respond to emails in a timely matter. 

I offer to babysit and remember to send birthday cards and gifts. 

I’ve got a beach trip planned for one set of friends, and Jordan and I are working hard to schedule another weekend vacation with some friends from college. 

I’m trying to initiate breakfasts and get back on track with friendships that have fallen by the wayside. 

I’m trying to celebrate these friends because they are worth it, and because I need them in my life. 

Last week, these words from Kelle Hampton kept ringing in my head: 

I think in this enterprising, demanding time of life when kids and family and paying bills are our obvious priorities, we constantly make efforts to trim off excess responsibilities. When we're busy and stressed, we lighten the load of our ship by jettisoning things that aren't necessary in our schedule--T.V., naps, long showers. I think sometimes though, in "Time Triage," we cast off necessary things, thinking the trade-off preserves more family time. Sadly, precious time with friends is one of these.

Let me tell you something. Friends. Should. Never. Be. Abandoned. If your ship needs to drop weight, throw the clothes overboard. Chuck your cell phone. Hell, get rid of necessary food. But friends? They are the life raft on the ship. The one with the big yellow sticker that says "Do Not Tamper." And, God forbid, if your ship ever goes need them. 

When my life gets busy, I don’t want my friends to be part of the “unnecessary.” 

I want to show them love and grace and acceptance and loyalty. I want to remember them and to celebrate who they are and what they mean to me. 


So I’m wondering: Am I the only one with friendship guilt? How do you stay in touch with your long-distance friends? What about your in-town friends? How do you maintain these relationships? 

What are some things you do to make sure your friendships are celebrated and not ignored? 


Purposely at Home said...

great post, annie. you are so inspiring...

TefMarie said...

Wonderful words. Good reminders and something that we can all relate to definitely.

One way I try to always remain in contact and show my friends I appreciate them is by utilizing the mail system, you know, the real one. I'm a big supporter of the USPS and people complain about rising stamp prices, but certainly a friend is worthy of a 44 cent stamp on a card you made or handpicked at Hallmark (another favorite). I don't always have money for road trips, but I want to send something to my friends that shows I'm thinking of them, whether it's a funny card or a sweet note or a fall mix cd. And I've learned not to be discouraged when I forego birthdays or occasions, people love being remembered even when it's late.

That's just my own way I feel like I invest more time for friends who live far away or right beside me.

Sending notes and cards is an art our generation is losing fast.

Vicki said...

Another great post, sweet Annie. I bet those 10 people on your list DO know how you feel about them, and DO feel like you are a warm, loving and supportive friend.

Shannon said...

Thanks for posting this- I know for me it is a hard thing to think about let alone write about since many of those friends read my blog.

The trap I fall into is having the "well, she hasn't tried to get in touch with me either" conversation with myself. It isn't and can't be an excuse as to why I can be passive in my relationships. It does show my heart in the matter and that I simply need to pick up the phone- even if it feels like I'm giving up the battle. I was the first one to have a boyfriend, first one to get married, first one to graduate and jump into the "real world" so relationships changed quickly and we didn't seem to understand one another's life phases anymore.

Thanks again- looks like it is time I made a list!

Kelli said...

YES! You are right on with this. You have given me a lot to ponder and that's a good thing. Thank you for sharing.

Sabrina said...

Sigh....I appreciate this post though it was difficult for me to read. Mainly because it is a very sensitive topic for me and one where I am constantly messing up. All of the time...I am surprised my friends don't throw me overboard. Anyway, to celebrate friendships is something that means so much to me. I try to explain it that the strand of communication runs deep between my friends and I. So calling some friends is the bond that has grown us to new depths. I know that I need to hear them more than they prob. need me. Praying for my friends helps me feel connected to them no matter where they are. Sending cards and random Facebook messages also helps me let people know that they are still on my mind. It is different for each person and style. The 10 on your list are lucky people:) Continue to treasure them and the good things they bring to your life:)

Megan Elizabeth said...

holy crap annie. this is so amazing. you just get better and better as a writer!
maintaining frienships are so hard the older we get, and especially when you get married. but, like you mention, the time has to be made for those friends. i love the list idea you had, because realistically all the fb friends aren't going to be there at my baby shower. thanks for this great post!

wilderlamb said...

I saw your 3 links ago from other blogs. I am totally inspired to look more deeply after reading just 2 posts. It's so weird to me how God puts things in your path right when you need them. I have been totally pondering friendships lately and how to be a better friend. I love your idea of just writing them down without thinking about it.

Annie said...

oh, i struggle with this. between classes, homework, and juggling several jobs, i feel as though i hardly have time to send a quick text to a friend, much less send an entire email. Lord only knows how i've kept up with 31 days in the midst of the crazy.

getting rid of facebook helped me, too, to be more intentional about keeping up my friendships. i think it's just because it's so easy to click the friend request button or the like button, but any other form of communication really requires at least a little more thought.

Kristin @ The Chronicles of Kristin said...

LOVE this post. And what a great idea with your friend list... I've been thinking about it and it's funny how immediately certain names come to mind. Thank you for inspiring me to be a better friend today. :)