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Thursday, May 23, 2013

How to be a friend

I have a new friend. Well, technically she's not new, but we have a new relationship. One that I have learned a lot from. One that has helped me through a really hard year.

You see, now that I am older and less wise, making and keeping friendships has gotten hard. And after my brother's death, it got even harder.

Gone are the days of making a friend by simply sharing a fierce love of My Little Pony and Care Bears. Gone are the days where you would just ask someone to come over to your house and play without having an anxiety attack before you ask. Gone are the days that sharing your Fruit Roll-up would earn you a friend 'til the end.

We are all so busy with our day-to-day lives that we seldom take the time to nurture old friendships or build new ones. Because we have families. And jobs. And mortgages.

But we still need friends. In fact, we need them more than ever. We need friends to remind us that we are more than just moms and wives. We need them to be there to pick up our broken pieces when we fall apart. To cheer us on when we need encouragement. To root for us when times are tough, and celebrate with us when times are good.

So I thought I would share with you what I have learned about friendship.

Stay in Touch
This sounds obvious, but seriously, think about how often you check in with your current friends. Once a week? Once a month? I know life is hectic and we barely have time to think, but meeting a friend for a quick drink, or lunch or just catching up over the phone is good for both of you. Consider it free therapy. That sometimes includes guacamole and chips.

Get Even
Don't be the only one whose life you talk about and don't only talk about your friend's life. That isn't a friendship. I have noticed that a lot of my friendships have become one-sided and that is not good. Yes, I care about my friend's lives, but they should also care about mine. Friendship is a two-way street. Treat it as such. Make sure to ask your friend about what is going on with them and tell them what is going on with you. Again, free therapy.

Check In
If you know your friend is going through something, whether joy- or sorrowful, check in with them. Send them a card, or a text, or an email. Let them know that they are on your mind and that you care. Because you should. If you don't care, move on. That person doesn't need a friend who doesn't care about them and you don't need to keep a relationship that is merely for "old times" sake. I have kept many of those for too long and it doesn't benefit anyone.

And I don't mean stare at your friend's face while they talk but really be thinking about what you need at the grocery store. Really listen to your friend. So you actually know what is going on with them. So many times in life we just zone out or wait to talk. I am one for the worst offenders in that category. But I am getting better.

And I mean really talk. About the good. And the bad. Your friend can't be there for you if they don't know what is going on. Don't be afraid to be honest when things are bad. That is what friends are for. It is OK to vent and let them know that you have feelings.

Don't Be a Therapist
Yes, getting what you want off your chest is wonderful, but sometimes that is all you need. Same for your friend. You don't always have to provide an answer to your friend's problems. You just have to listen and be there for them. And provide tissues and beer. And maybe guacamole.

Express Yourself
Every friendship will have its tests. Times when your friend says or does something that hurts your feelings. Tell them about it. Don't run away from it or sweep it under the rug. Because no matter how hard you try to brush it off or forget about it, it will always be there, lurking. And then you will add more things under the rug until you can no longer stand on it. So be honest. You will both feel better after. And it will make your friendship stronger.

Be That Guy
Be the buddy that everybody wants but nobody wants to be. Help your friend paint their house. Drive them to the airport. Babysit their dog while they are on vacation. Bring them food when they are sick. Clean their house after they have a baby. Help them move a body. Or just their furniture. Whatever. 

Say I Love You
Tell your friend how much they mean to you. Tell them that you love them and appreciate them. Because you do. And you should.

This is what my friend has taught me. What have yours taught you?

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