I have shared with you, my friends, how to make a cushion, how to make a stocking, how to make a garland, even how to make a brand, just to name a few tutorials found here. I enjoy great satisfaction from sharing how I make things, and great feedback from you. Encouraging others to stretch their own creative skills is an important factor in why I spend so much effort and time creating my patterns.
There is one “how to make” I will have great difficulty sharing with you, however. There is one “how to make” that I have felt called to write about for quite a while, yet I’ve resisted because it is going to lay bare one of the most tender and wounded pieces of my heart.
That is how to make a friend.
Before you start feeling sorry for this loner, know that I have been inordinately blessed with rich, meaningful friendships of rare longevity, which I cherish deeply. These friendships have been cultivated on a steep learning curve and, more often than not, are the result of heroic efforts on the part of my friends. You see, friendship does not come altogether naturally to me.
Driving my Wildflower to school today, she became suddenly very upset. After digging in a little, she shared, tearfully and bitterly, that she doesn’t have anyone to play with at school. This was a shock to me, as she comes home chattering away about several of her classmates. She shared, however, that many of the little humans in her class have grouped up and often play games she isn’t interested in playing. They won’t come and play the games she prefers. She feels excluded and lonely.
She was very upset by feeling unwanted, yet this was a teachable moment I couldn’t gloss over. As we parked the car and prepared to start the school day, I took a moment to explain to her as gently as I could why this was happening.
I told her, “My love, if you want to make a friend, you have to be a friend. That means you can’t just wait to be invited to join in, nor can you expect everyone to come to you. You’re going to have to go to them first, and play their games. Once they know you, they might just want to play your way!” She was none too thrilled with this advice, and was in fact pretty irritated with me when I left her for the morning.
What she doesn’t know is how many years it took me to understand this truth myself.
As blessed as I have been with the friends in my life, I have also struggled with secret heartache over my friendships for many years. I was in fourth grade when the person whom I considered my best friend told me, “You’re my good friend, but not my BEST friend. That’s Kate!” It was said innocently, with no intent to harm, but it sent me down a certain path. I began a naive, disappointing, and confidential quest for my own best friend. I equated having a best friend with a sense of acceptance and security and value, the same way some young girls feel about having a boyfriend. In junior high and high school, I found myself one of a circle of close friends. I was loved and included, but I was almost never the preferred confidant. Always a bridesmaid, never the Maid of Honor. Who could I call when I needed a best friend if no one would call me when they needed one?
I began, very slowly, to realize that I often pursued and thought about different things than my peers. I understood that there was a part of me that was not accessible to them. Even my close friends, who recognized and appreciated my differentness, didn’t necessarily understand it. I laughed when no one else found the humor, I became indignant at things no one else seemed to care about, my perspective was just a degree or two off the norm. It kept a distance between myself and my friends. On the surface, I fit in easily. It was my heart that longed for understanding.
My circumstances haven’t been much altered as an adult, but my approach has matured. I have embraced that it is indeed my own responsibility to be a better friend. I am not one to call and chat on the phone, but I can write a sincere letter to remind those who are important to me how much I value them. Snail mail is fun! I may not always be able to connect over conversations about where you found those cute boots, but I can offer an encouraging compliment when a friend is looking particularly well dressed. Though we often do motherhood in different ways, I can share the same challenges and joys my friends experience in being mamas to their babies.
Here are five habits I have developed to make my friendships stronger and more meaningful:
- Make Plans: I am SUCH a homebody, but when I reach out and make a specific plan with a friend, I never, ever regret the time spent together.
- Don’t Take It Personally: If friends get together and I am not called, if a situation or topic comes up that everyone seems to know about but me, I refuse to revert to my thirteen year old self. It’s almost never really about me.
- Express Yourself: If I happen to have a different perspective then a friend on something that is important to me, I don’t water it down or avoid the topic. I share it when appropriate. I trust that the people who love me are going to keep loving me, even if we don’t see things the same way. And, if there is someone in my life who I find valuable and special, I TELL them!
- Meet Them In the Middle: OK, so I don’t super love getting my nails done. It isn’t really a value-adding thing for me. But, on occasion, I will go get my nails done…with a friend. Because it isn’t really about my nails, you know?
- Invite Them In and Get Out of Your Head: Not everyone wants to make themselves vulnerable-that is so fine! But I do. Inviting my friends in to my insecurities, my inmost thoughts and fears, entrusting them with the things that drive me forward, even asking for validation is far more natural to me than talking about surface level things. Sharing those things is so important to intimate friendships. But sometimes, it is just as important to talk about throw pillows and where to eat breakfast out. That has taken so much practice for me, but I’m getting there!
I am endlessly grateful for the friends in my life who have chosen to stick it out with me, through my dislike of idle chit chat, my off-beat sense of humor, my strong opinions shared freely, my tendency to withdraw, and my general awkwardness. If you have folks who have done the work to be your friend, make sure you let them know how much you appreciate it. Like today…right now! Go!