To Be Seen and Known

“Friendship marks a life even more deeply than love. Love risks degenerating into obsession, friendship is never anything but sharing.” Elie Wiesel

Weeks ago I wrote the words that became the title of this piece.  I’m already not sure what led me to write them down or what I intended to write about them (so they may show up in another post later).  Tonight when I came home from a nice evening spent with friends old and new, I happened to see these words and I felt the impulse to write.  

Women need time with our girlfriends.  I’m not sure if men connect the same way that women do, but that is for a man to write about.  I’m not qualified without doing some research.  This piece isn’t research but reflection.  

It is often through hours spent with friends that we make sense of life.  It is how we think things through, how we feel less alone on the journey, and how we heal.  Friends allow us to be seen and known. 

Having time to sit with a friend, to talk and laugh and to share what is happening both good and bad in our lives is a blessing.  It can be something as simple as grabbing a cup of coffee.  It can be meeting for lunch or dinner.  It can be time to drive and yack and get away from everything.  Whenever time and our busy schedules allow, we need to be intentional and make the opportunity to gather with our friends.  And we need to be more purposeful about not letting our busyness get in the way of the friends who enrich our lives.

Friendships take work and intention if they are to enrich our lives and provide the connections, love, and support we all need.  I have friends who have been in my life for years and years.  We have made it a priority to make sure we have time together.  We have worked to help each other in times of need whether it was packing up and moving to a new house, giving support through the deaths of loved ones, picking up the kids and taking them home, or just being the good ear and soft shoulder.  We have celebrated with each other through all of the major life transitions and some of the small victories that no one else would appreciate. That attention to each other has given me a much richer life.  These folks stopped being friends at some point and became family. They are the family I spend holidays and birthdays with.  They gave me the children in my life who think of me as a grandmother.  I cannot imagine my life without the richness they add.

There are times when I feel adrift and need to connect.  I’ll call Denise, Karoline, or Mary Cay to grab a meal.  My group of “Ex-Freds” friends who worked together at the library will gather to catch up and gab.  I’ll call Dani and just tell her I’m on my way over.  We may discuss deep feelings and troubles.  We may just catch up and laugh.  We might spend a couple of hours together talking and not be able to tell you what we talked about.  No matter what the topic is or where we have met, whatever happens at these times is really important.  It is these times with my friends that allow me to feel connected to others.  It is when I know that there are others traveling this path with me. There are people who are always in my corner.

A couple of years ago Karoline, a good friend, invited me to go along to the Bible study at her church.  I went and found that I really enjoyed it.  There was such a welcoming group of ladies, and we had some thoughtful and stimulating conversations.  I look forward to time spent there.  We take off for the summer, and a week or so ago, I found myself searching for the date we start up again.  A day or two later, someone threw the question out on Facebook asking when we were going to get back in the swing of things.  It takes a commitment to say you will attend something every week, but we’re missing that time together.  I have really come to value those mornings of study and conversation with the ladies I’ve met there.

Tonight ladies from the church were invited to spend the evening together.  It was a lovely, laid-back gathering.  We had homemade pizzas cooked in Robin’s outdoor pizza oven.  We were able to build a fire outside, and we gathered around and talked.  We shared stories of things that happened over the summer – some of the stories were lovely and touching, some really funny, and some heartbreaking.  What was wonderful was touching base with each other, feeling the love, and feeling the camaraderie of friends who could say, “Oh, girl.  I’ve been there” or “That had to be hard” or “How wonderful!”  We could just laugh and enjoy each other’s company – and get a warm hug.

It is easy to allow time slip by without seeing friends.  We all get busy with the job, the house, driving kids here and there, and attending to all of the other things that demand our time.  I had a friend I dearly loved.  She was the first friend I made when I moved to this area.  We were in each other’s wedding and our boys were each other’s first best friend.  There were times when we would go for months and months without talking to or seeing each other.  We were too good at saying, “We have to get together.”  What we became lousy at was pinning down a day and a time when we said that.  We had been doing that dance for awhile when I got the message from her sister that she had died suddenly.  One of my regrets in life is not being intentional enough, not saying, “Okay, what day are you free next week” instead of leaving it up in the air.  

And all of this reflection leads me to some conclusions and resolutions:  

  • We need our girlfriends.  Our families – the spouses, children, parents and siblings  – are extremely important.  But often it is with our friends that we can just be us, be ourselves without falling into old history and patterns.  These are the people we have chosen to add to our lives.  They see who we are right now and the possibilities in front of us.
  • When you think of that friend you haven’t seen in awhile, connect with them right then.  Send a card, send a note, or better yet, call.  At least spend a few minutes together on the phone.  When you are tempted to say, “We need to get together,” change that sentence to “When are you available?  I’m free on …. let’s take a walk or have some lunch.”
  • Look for opportunities to make new friends and connections.  The older we get, the harder doing this seems to be.  After working full-time for so many years, I was left sitting in my house at retirement wondering how to fill the hours.  Meeting the ladies at a part-time job, joining the Bible study, volunteering at New Hope Ministries, and joining a book club have helped me build connections with people who may be younger or older than me, who come from a wide variety of backgrounds, or who have a wide range of opinions and beliefs.  Socializing with them stimulates my mind, creates a feeling of connection to others, and provides a great deal of enjoyment.  
  • Work at friendship.  It is too easy to take it for granted or become lazy.  But our friends are vital to a rich, full life.  Make the time for each other.  

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