What do you want in a friendship?

friendshiplist

We’ve all heard that stupid advice: You are the combination of the five people you spend the most time with. I hate that advice because it lends itself to social climbing instead of developing meaningful connections. In 2013, I realized that while I had a lot of professional acquaintances, I didn’t have a ton of actual friends. Close friends from high school and college had drifted apart as we all moved to different corners of the country to pursue our lives, and I no longer had much in common with the people I used to work with. It was time to enrich my life with people I really love, so I started by writing this list of qualities I want in my friendships:

  • Openness: Feeling like we can be honest about our lives.
  • Intellect: Exchanging ideas and making each other think!
  • Laughter: Pure, simple fun.
  • Acceptance: Feeling OK together, not judged.
  • Adventure: Going places, trying things, meeting people together.
  • Support: Being able to talk to someone about what’s on my mind and feel heard and understood.
  • Encouragement: Getting excited about each other’s ideas and opportunities.
  • Comfort: Feeling cared for and loved.

I didn’t spend a ton of time thinking about the list once it was written, but looking back over the year, I can see that I navigated my social life differently after writing it. I invested more energy in relationships that meet most of these desires, reached out to old friends, and took the risk of seeking out people I thought might share my interests and intentions. In some cases it worked out, and in others it didn’t. Here are some of my favorite results from this new approach to friendships:

  1.  Got to know some incredibly cool people in San Francisco through my husband. I don’t get to see them often, but we stay in touch online and have a great time when we do meet up.
  2. Reconnected with best friends from high school — we had the BEST night in Lafayette when we were all home for Christmas.
  3. Emailing and Facebook messaging old acquaintances to rekindle an exchange of ideas — you don’t have to be ultra close with everyone to be able to appreciate them!
  4. Meeting Jenn and starting the derby experiment and a host of other adventures.
  5. Bar hopping in DC for Stan’s birthday with a bunch of new friends. (Stan is actually another Jenn, but The Ladyfriend Committee has renamed her for practical reasons.)
  6. Girls movie night — we watched The Little Mermaid and drank … a lot.
  7. Coffee dates, book exchanges, and anime nights with a lot of new people I’m grateful to have in my life.
  8. Developed a very special friendship with a feminist friend in Bolivia — we’ve never met in person, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be friends!
  9. Reconnected deeply with my husband and fell in love with him about a dozen times. After all, he really is my BFF.

I’m extremely grateful for the people who’ve come into my life and for the old friendships I’ve been able to renew. My social life is now a much more accurate reflection of my real values instead of being just a list of people I kinda know from work.

This year, I encourage you to seriously look at who is in your life and what kind of give-and-take you have with them. Do your friends support you and make you feel like your best self? Are they people you want to give back to? Do you get excited when you see them learn and grow? Try making a list of the attributes you most want in your friendships, and see how that changes the way you interact. And remember to always act with love. :)

xoxo~

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What I’m Reading: Ada by Gertrude Stein

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Ada
by Gertrude Stein

Purchased at Third Eye Comics in Annapolis, MD.
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I don’t want to ruin it by trying to tell you about it.

I think it’s about finding a way to love and be happy. The writing is hypnotic, and Stein’s sparse language points out just how much we don’t have to say. Every time a character says nothing, they say everything.
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The artwork throughout is beautiful, but I want you to see that for yourself.

 

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A Different Gratitude

Homeless_on_bench_stencil_Melbourne

I’ve been feeling unusually grateful lately because I’ve come to realize I have just about the best husband, family, and group of friends a woman could want. But yesterday, I had an experience that humbled me, and made me feel a different kind of gratitude.

My friend Katie and I planned to meet up at Starbucks. I was running early because I expected traffic to be worse than it was. She was running a little behind. So I sat on a couch and fiddled with my phone while I waited for her. An older black woman shuffled in. She moved slowly, carried two reusable grocery bags full of stuff, and wore two hospital bands on her wrists. The weather had been just above freezing and rainy for over 24 hours, and she had clearly been out in it. She asked if the couch across from me was taken, took a seat, and at a fast food sandwich from one of her bags.

When Katie arrived and went to order her coffee, the woman asked me if she could use my phone to make a call. She told me the number, I dialed it for her, and she proceeded to talk on my phone for about 30 minutes while Katie and I sat and talked. She kept saying, “I am sick. I am tired. I need to heal.” She was asking people for money so she could stay in a hotel. When she finally got off the phone, I asked her if she was OK and if I could help her get somewhere like a shelter or a church where she might get assistance. She didn’t want to go to a shelter because they stole her clothes. She didn’t want to go to any churches either. She said they used to sometimes pay for a hotel room for her, but they wouldn’t anymore, and they told her not to come back. But she had a friend up Rt. 2 working at a cell phone store who said he could give her a few dollars. She was sure he wouldn’t give her a place to stay, but “every little bit counts,” she said.

If I were by myself, I probably would have wished her luck and gone on my way, but with Katie there, I felt a little braver. Katie’s a former public defender with the social skills and resources to connect with people in need, like this lady was. I offered the lady a ride to the cell phone store. She said she could’ve waited for the bus, but it would take a really long time and there are no shelters at most of the bus stops here. It was the day before Thanksgiving, and it didn’t seem right for her to be standing around in the rain. So, we drove up Rt. 2 more than half way to Baltimore, and dropped her off at this cell phone store. She didn’t know if the guy there was going to actually give her any money. I did not offer to hang around in case he wasn’t even there or wouldn’t help her.

On the way there, she told us a little about her life. Her name is Linda. She says her mother hates her and stopped her from marrying the love of her life. When Katie asked if she was sick, Linda gave her her hospital release papers, which we didn’t read. We started talking about Christmas movies somehow. Linda’s favorite Christmas movie is the Charlie Brown Christmas Special (mine, too!) and we both hated Scrooge. She and Katie agreed on Miracle on 34th St. I was the standout vote on claymation. It was a silly conversation, but it felt good to find something we could all have in common.

I didn’t really feel good about leaving Linda. I wanted to help her, but all I did was literally move her up the road a bit to an unknown destination. Katie had been going through her mental files thinking of places we could bring her, but if she wouldn’t agree to go to a shelter or church, there wasn’t much we could do but drop her off where she said her friends would be. Her contacts in the court system could only step in if Linda if had been arrested. And although she had just been released from the hospital, she said she had no case worker or social worker to ask for help.

Still, by the end of the ride, Linda was smiling. I have no idea if we helped her, but she certainly made me realize how lucky I am. Today, my family is coming over to celebrate with us, and really, the only thing we’re celebrating is the fact that we’re so lucky. Linda probably won’t have a Thanksgiving dinner. She told us to eat some turkey for her. I don’t normally eat turkey, but what the hell. It seems a little ungrateful not to.

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Monday Night Nonfiction: What I Learned from My Parents

Credit: Paul K on Flickr

What I learned from my parents was to see other people’s suffering.

I didn’t exactly fit in as a kid, and whenever I complained about other kids being jerks, my mom always said, “Poor thing, that person is probably very sad and doesn’t have very many friends.” When I was little, I felt consolled knowing everybody else probably hated the mean kid as much as I did. When I got older, I realized Mom was right. People who were mean were mean to everyone, not just me. Even when a group of kids ganged up on one outsider, they were really the sad ones. Any one of them could be the group’s next target, and they knew it, so they stuck together in their meanness. I felt so sorry for most people that I even tried to be nice to them and occasionally made a friend.

As for my dad, he’s a doctor (still practicing in his late 60s). He loves his patients because they come to him with their problems, they are vulnerable, and all they want is for someone to make them feel better, so he tries. Many nights at the dinner table, Dad would tell us stories about funny things kids would do. Once in a while, the stories would be sad, like the entire family living on nothing but rice. (Of course he told us this without telling the names of patients or any personally identifying information!)

I think Dad was trying to teach us something with those stories. What I took from them was that people can make you laugh and they can make you mad, but they also suffer, so you have to be kind.

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If You Are Worried About Love

Love Me Tender
If you’re worried about love
choose to trust
that people are not lying when they say “I love you,”
because lying about love takes too much goddamned energy.
Instead of worrying
work on being someone you can love.
Know that no one can diminish you.
No one can make you less human.
No one can make you less worthy.
You are as deserving of love as the most innocent newborn.
Furthermore, you are capable of giving yourself the love you need.
In fact, you are the only person who can do that.
No matter how many times they say “I love you,”
or “you’re beautiful,”
you will never believe them until you know it yourself.
Look in the mirror.
See how much you want to be loved.
Could you give yourself that gift?

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