Friendship. What is friendship, really? According to Merriam Webster, friendship is defined as:
One attached to another by affection or esteem; A favored companion.
There are many definitions actually but I liked this one. I’ve had friendship on the brain because, well, I think about friendship, often. In a longing way. A gratuitous way. A confused way. So, I’m finding these definitions helpful in shedding a little light on what friendship is, and what it isn’t.
You see I’m the type of person who, as I’d put it, doesn’t make new friends easily. But, the friends I do make, I keep those forever. I’m loyal but I’m also skeptical. Skepticism can hinder friendship, I have found. I’m trying these days to be more open, more trusting, more forgiving – of myself mostly. I realize friendship relies heavily on the willingness to be authentically and shamelessly imperfect. A concept that scares me most of the time. But, I’m getting there. I’m on my way at least.
I tend to look around and see the wealth of friendship in the lives of others and conclude a lack in mine. Comparison. The death of trust and vulnerability. When I sink into this hole of comparison it takes me quite some time to crawl out. And by the time I do, it seems everyone else has moved on. Except me. So comparison, you are not my friend.
What friendship is NOT…
I’m deciding to look at friendship differently. I am deciding friendship doesn’t mean you have to talk every day or every week. It doesn’t mean you like all the same things, think the same way, or wish the same dreams. It doesn’t mean you attend every event or otherwise risk the danger of being left behind. It doesn’t mean you have to be “on” all the time or even fully present each time you show up. I’m deciding friendship doesn’t mean you need to be more or less than anyone else in order to be wanted.
What friendship IS…
I’m deciding that what friendship does mean is offering yourself in your truest form to another person because you want them to know YOU. And, likewise, receiving another person in this way because you want to know THEM. I am deciding friendship means you show up how you are simply because you want to be there and you can be there. And knowing that when you can’t, you’ll still be welcomed back next time. I’m deciding friendship is a safe place to come as you are: good mood, pissy mood, sad mood, any mood. I’m deciding friendship means true, utter bare bones acceptance. This sounds like meaningful friendship to me.
Acceptance sounds a lot like friendship.
With these new parameters in place I can say I am grateful to have many friendships in my life. All different shapes and sizes. Some I’ve had the pleasure of keeping for 20 years (I don’t feel old enough for this, but these are the facts) and some I’ve had for much much less. It is quality over quantity for certain. Yet also, there are different qualities. One friendship marked by frequent phone calls or texts does not imply it is better or more important than the one less frequented. It only makes it different. More present at the current time, possibly, but not more valued in the whole of your life.
It is tempting at times to want to throw out friendships that seem used-up or use-less at the current moment. Maybe this is out of hurt, fear, or sadness. Better not to mark the relationship as “over” but rather to see it as paused. You never know when you’ll come back to it or when it will come back to you. Letting go of the expectation that friendship must look or act a certain way frees you up to enjoy it for what it is instead of what you think you need it to be.
I’m learning, always learning, about friendship, acceptance, trust, authenticity, letting go, and on and on. In my process of learning I keep finding my assumptions, my fears, are quite inaccurate. The fear of not having enough friends? False. There is no correct amount. If I am brave enough to show up and be seen then I have friends in all these places. How I show up, see, and reflect the same courage in others? Well then, that makes me a friend to many.
Friendship, then, cannot be measured by time, amount, or type. Allowing myself to experience friendship in all its varied forms makes my life taste all the more rich. So, go and enjoy all the shapes and sizes of friendship in your life. What you find in others, and in yourself, might surprise you.