Today I am thankful for friends: friends of all shapes, sizes, classes, colors, and status. Status? I have a couple of really fun friends that I joke with, Alisa and Donna. I don't know how it came up, but one night we were joking around (as it is pretty much every time we get together), and someone mentioned not being invited to something or another. Alisa said, "Oh, so I'm just your mediocre friend, then?" It's an ongoing joke now if someone forgets to tell the other something, the response is always, "Yeah, I know. You don't have to remind me. I'm just a 'mediocre' friend. I'm not on the A-list, the 'inner circle'." It makes me laugh every time.
I don't know if it's just because I'm a "grown up" and I have learned to develop a lot more "layers of defense" or what, but it seems harder to find close friends than when I was younger. I find that it takes much longer to develop deep frienships now than it ever seemed to before. Maybe I've gotten more jaded, a little less trusting, I don't know. Or maybe it's in part because of the hectic societal pace we all maintain. There's not a lot of time to develop deep and meaningful friendships because we're always in such a hurry; all we seem to have time for is a quick "hello" or "nice to see you."
Part of making stronger friendships, or relationships in general, is about investing. Most people are struggling just to hang on, and don't have much energy left to invest in anything other than their families and jobs. I understand that. It's just a shame that we get so overloaded with life that we deny ourselves the beauty of what a great friend mean to us! It's having someone to be there when you can't keep up with everything. It means there will be another person who "gets" what you're going through and wants you to feel okay about sharing so your burdens aren't quite so heavy. It's also someone who shares the happy memories of your life with you, especially when you can't quite remember.
In order to have a friend like that, you have to be one. I know it's been said a million times, but it's true. You have to be willing to let down your guard a little bit and share yourself, trusting that the other person will handle with care. You have to reach out and show the other person you care about them, too--that you are interested in the important things in their life. It's not easy. It can be daunting, uncomfortable, and sometimes even downright overwhelming. But, I know it's worth it. I know, because I have had some great friends in my life! I don't always keep in touch with them as well as I should, but I would hope my great friends know they're always in my heart and prayers.
One of my very best friends ever is Dee Dee. Dee Dee moved to Missouri, where I grew up, when I was 12 years old. I don't think I ever needed a friend as much as I did then. My dad was raging in alcoholism. Abuse and sadness were not uncommon in our home. Although my mom was a strong and faithful church-goer, and took all 7 of us children to church every week, that didn't necessarily make things easier at our house. When I was 12, maybe with the changing in hormones and whatnot, my depression began to set in. I wasn't diagnosed until many years later, but looking back, it was evident. Life was so difficult! Dee Dee became such a good friend to me! Her mom seemed to understand how things were for me, and was always generous about letting me come over to hang out or sleep over at Dee Dee's house. She taught me a lot of things about life and growing up that I wouldn't have learned at my house . Some things were simple (like how to use a knife and fork to cut food.) Other things were more complicated (like how to believe in myself even though I felt like a "loser" for coming from the family I did). Some of the biggest life lessons came from my friendship with Dee Dee, as did some of my happiest memories!
Now, as adults, we live in different parts of the country. We're both married and have busy lives of our own. But, I have to admit that even though I don't call or write as much as I should or would like to, I think of Dee Dee at least once a week, if not more often. Sometimes I'll see something humorous that will make me giggle and I think to myself, "Dee Dee would crack up at that!" Sometimes when I'm having a specific challenge or feeling a little bit low, I think about how she would say something like, "Don't believe it, Cheryl. You ARE great!" The most important thing, though, is that I know, that no matter what, I could always call her and she would be there for me, as if no time had passed. We'd pick up right where we left off. Sure, there might be some details we'd have to catch up on, but the feeling of support, encouragement, and love would still be just as strong as it ever was.
I'm trying to develop more friendships like that. Right now I may only have a bunch of "mediocre" friends, but I'm working on making them lifelong friends. I need to let my grattitude for friends inspire me to action! Instead of waiting until New Year's Day, instead, this upcoming Thanksgiving holiday I resolve to spend a few moments calling or writing "old" and "new" friends to let them know how thankful I am for their influence in my life.