Friends Forever….or Maybe Not

I am not a big collector.  I love windup toys and definitely have more of them than the average person.  (Most from my friends the Bradys, some I have bought myself.)  And I love things that glow in the dark.  I don’t have a real big collection, but probably more than you.  I love kitchen tools and dishes, but that collection is always limited by my amount of my cabinet space. I love cookbooks, but read them like novels.  I usually don’t end up cooking recipes from them.

At this point in my life what I have been most fortunate to collect has been friends. They say you get to pick your friends, but I am not sure that has been true most of the time in my life.  Most of mine seem to have come into my life by circumstance and stay there.  They sat next to me in a class, they worked with me, we had common friends. Some I met through common interests, some from church, some from volunteering or community activities. 

In this day of crazy communications, some I have never met in person.  Some are friends of friends who were first on the email mailing list of a mutual friend (and generally did “reply alls” with snarky comments), some are internet friends, and others now I have met via Facebook.  Some of you bond with people that way, too.  I often get asked by friends how certain other Facebook friends (who the person has never met) are doing.  You see them comment and feel that you know them. I find that to be very cool.  (Does anyone have a “best friends I have never met” list like me?  I keep knocking people off the list, and they become “best friends I have met”, but then find more to add to the list!)  Some people would roll their eyes at me for considering these people friends…..but I know that we have shared our lives in some ways, support each other, and have a bond.  One that I define as friendship.

But though some friends come in and out like seasons, sometimes a friendship needs to die.  If they do not celebrate when good things happen for you and if they’re not there to hold you up when bad things happen, then maybe they aren’t the people you need in your life.  If they make jokes at your expense about something you are sensitive about….and they know that you’re sensitive about it….maybe they are not your friends.  (Note that this may require you actually outright tell them at least once that it is an issue, because sometimes people just aren’t as intuitive as you….and it’s your job to enlighten them if you are their friend.)   If you seem to always bore them, or annoy them, or you just don’t feel good about you after you are around them (and it’s not a situation where you are wrong) ….maybe they are not your friends.

It doesn’t matter how long a person has been in your life.  True friends you have had for years are treasures, but people who don’t treasure you are like that outfit you haven’t worn in a year…. regardless of how long you have had it or how great you looked in it at one time, sometimes it is time to just throw it out.  I admittedly have a difficult time getting rid of that outfit, so I definitely have a difficult time getting rid of a friend.

It doesn’t have to be a big major deal confrontational breakup.  Actually there are few times that it does.  Sometimes you just have to make a mental note and realize that certain people are not capable of being the kind of friend that you need at a certain time.  Some people are just not good at friendship.  Some people just don’t want or need more than one or two friends.  Some people are not able to maintain friendships by long distance, or if they are at a different life stage than you.  Some are not able to maintain friends with their single friends if they are in a relationship, or with their coupled friends if they are single.  Some are embarrassed if they are less successful than you, or don’t feel they have much in common with you if they have more.  Some were around you at a bad time in their life, and are uncomfortable being around you now.  There are a lot of reasons for the division….and honestly some don’t really have much to do with you.

I’ve been surprised over time at treasured friends who have so willingly left my life with seemingly no regret or looking back, and others who have miraculously stayed in spite of obstacles.  I love when people come back into my life from my past and we get to reconnect the friendship.  For many of my friends, time and distance don’t seem to change us.  Give us a few minutes together, and it is just like it was 20 years ago.

While I can’t think of anyone who I have had a major breakup with (Well, except one friend who had drug issues and I couldn’t stand by and watch him change who he was and could be.  But even though he is out of my life, I still consider him a friend and would welcome him back with open arms if possible.), there are some who I have had to just release on the level of “If you love something, set it free.  If it comes back to you, it is yours.”  Some have come back into my life, and some haven’t.  At some point you have to just let yourself be OK with that and take it as it comes….and be thankful for those who have stayed.

Most friendships are journeys.  Some you share the path with for a long time.  With most you venture in different directions and your paths merge in and out.  Some friends you need to lead, some you follow.  In most you will walk side by side.  But all friendships, like all relationships, require a bit of commitment, a bit of work.  All friendships should encourage you to be better, kinder, more fulfilled, more joyful.  All should see your potential and purpose and push you towards that.  While they should accept that you have weaknesses, they shouldn’t encourage you to be weak.  If they do, maybe you’ve gotten confused about the definition of friendship.  And that is something that you need to work on.  Because great friends are your biggest supporters…..and want your life to mean something.  Those are the kind of friends that you deserve and need to collect close around you.  The rest…..it’s OK to let them go.

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