Elizabeth was my first true friend. We met as children and lived around the corner from each other. Some of my most precious childhood memories involve Elizabeth. We were together all the time, would beg our mothers for sleepovers and would pray that they would say yes. There was no one else like her. She will always have a special place in my heart.
As we entered puberty we started to drift apart. She would go away during the summer and I would miss her terribly. Then, one summer while she was gone, my cousin Dawn visited and we started to hang out with the boys. Liz returned from her summer vacation to find that I had changed. I was more interested in watching the junior high school boys play baseball than anything else. We started to see each other less and less and we both felt the loss, and to be quite honest it was a very confusing time. Years went by, and my family moved out of New York. The distance between us became permanent.
About two years ago, Liz and I reconnected through social media and met for lunch when I was visiting our former hometown. There we were, over forty years old, laughing and smiling as if we were seven again. I am still amazed that we sat and laughed as if we had been in touch the entire time. It was magical.
I believe that it was so easy to reconnect with her because we knew each other when our hearts were so young and so pure. I love seeing the woman she has become! Childhood friendships are different than the ones we make as an adult. As we are exposed to more and more people, situations and life challenges, we forget that there are key ingredients that go into a true friendship. This forgetfulness can contribute to a lapse in judgement and can expose us to friendships that are not healthy or true. Here are some thoughts on friendship that have been spinning around in my mind and heart.
- Courageous. Courage to be yourself, courage to open your heart, and courage to show who you truly are.
- Intuitive. If you feel sick about a certain friend, that’s something you should listen to.
- Trustworthy. If you don’t have trust you don’t have friendship.
- Supportive. Friendship is a give and take, it is not one-sided.
- Honest. Tell the truth because if she is your friend she will know that you are coming from a good place.
- Accountable. It’s important to say the words “I’m sorry, I was wrong,” and “I understand how you feel.”
Friendship is not:
- Controlling or abusive.
- Exclusive or clique-like. Leave high-school behind.
- Driven to hurt another for a perceived slight or transgression. Friends don’t punish.
- Judgemental. We are all messed up in one way or another. Focus on tending your own yard.
- Competitive or catty. Friends help each other improve, but they don’t turn life into a competition where one person is placed over another.
- Selfish. If she’s friends with you when you play by her rules but turns on you when you deviate from her world, that’s a warning sign.
- Jealous. You can envy a friend but jealousy is an emotion that causes pain for both parties.
Some people throw around the term frenemy. I believe that a “frenemy” is someone who may be insecure, mentally unstable or just plain unhealthy. This may drive this “friend” to engage in certain behaviors that negatively affect you. Be honest, understanding and courageous and tell her that the behavior doesn’t belong in your friendship. If she is a friend she will stop. If she does not, it’s time to let her go with love. The trick is to be at peace with letting go. Sometimes we try so hard to help a toxic friend and sacrifice our own sanity in the process. Be a friend to yourself.
Not everyone can be your best friend. Some people you are just “friendly” with and that’s OK! Life is so precious and time is short. Choose your friends wisely, find the friends that will be as good to you as you are to them. Everything else is just noise.