Sunday, June 12, 2011

Being a Friend

I know we're all writers and this is a writer's blog, but here's the thing. We live such a solitary existence that we need to keep our friendships strong. I have friends who write and friends who don't understand writing. I need them all. But I think sometimes, we get so caught up in the minutia of our lives that we forget that our friends are still there.

You know that saying, "It isn't all about you?" I've come to discover that while we need to keep that healthy tidbit in mind, it is possible our friends don't. What I mean is, your friend has a death in the family, they work solid day job hours and overtime on weekends, they have a sick puppy, and are struggling to keep diabetes at bay. Generally they are so used to juggling this, that they don't realize how much of their lives revolve around the details. That's okay, because that's when you get over yourself enough to help.

But say a day comes that you're having it rough. Things just aren't working out, and you don't make a phone call to that friend. She's forgotten that her problems aren't the only ones, and she gets upset with you for not calling her to talk about them. While she may not understand what's going on with you, you need to put yourself on the back burner.

What you were thinking was, "Hey, she's got enough going on. I don't need to burden her with my problems." What she's thinking is, "She can't even be bothered to call." Or, "Why won't she let me help her with this?"

Now, I'm not saying your friend is self-absorbed when I say that she's caught up in her issues. I'm saying she's thinking that you are caught up in yours, when you don't communicate with her.

Or say you have another friend you cherish who seems grateful to everyone but you, despite the time and energy you spend helping, or offering help. That you begin to feel taken for granted, and remind yourself that person has other things going on in her life. Maybe you did slip through the cracks, but maybe the people she's remembering really need her more than you do.

Friendships can often feel like a slippery balance. Good friendships don't keep tabs, though I do believe human nature allows us to forget that. We don't know every aspect of everyone's life. By nature I'm not going to tell any friend every detail of what has me down because I know it will bring her down too. I'm also going to apologize if I miss a call, but I'm going to wish that friend remembered that I have my own, different set of problems, and cut me some slack.

That maybe migraines effect my speech and my memory. That maybe telling you again how hard I'm struggling isn't something any of us needs to dwell on. And sometimes, I'm going to remember that just because you don't think of me now, when I want you to, doesn't mean you won't down the road.

I'm a firm believer that the friend who sits by, being a friend despite her own insecurities and woes, despite being overlooked, will be the friend who is remembered for her constancy.

What kind of friend are you? What kind of friend do you need to be for others? Are you someone who seeks accolades? Do you need to brag and be told how wonderful you are or can you switch gears and do that for someone else? Reach out and tell your friend how awesome she is, how important she is to you, how talented she is. Keep your own accomplishments quiet. If your goal is to be noticed, you missed the point of friendship.

Are you someone who can take criticism without lashing out? Can you support your friend when she seems to have forgotten you? Are you there when she calls, at whatever time, for whatever reason? Can you tell her how you feel without getting snippy, or verbally attacking her?

Friendships are so valuable. You have to protect them like the treasure they are. Don't let your doubts color how strong your relationship is, overcome the doubts. It's impossible to overlook a friend like that. If you're still worried about recognition, it'll come. Just don't stomp your feet in the meantime. Value what you have. Friends are our life lines. And to a writer, they keep us connected on a very fundamental level. It's humanity at its best and it is the cornerstone to all the relationships we write about. It's also what keeps you grounded when you look outside yourself.


1 comment:

J.C. Hanks said...

It's funny that you should write about this. One of my younger friends asked, just the other day, how do you define friendship. I'm fortunate. My closest friends understand my extreme need for downtime and are also in a different time zone. I've gotten into the habit of calling my BFF anytime I'm going grocery shopping and if he's not available, I start the round robin of calls until I find someone who wants to catch up while I shop. (I know, it can be annoying to other shoppers, but what do I care? I hang up before check out!)

My closest friends are the ones that I may not speak to or see for some time, but when we're together it's as if no time has passed since we last chatted or saw each other. We don't keep tabs, we're comfortable in knowing that when the shit hits the fan, we're always - ALWAYS - there for each other.