Reach out. Ask. What can it hurt? Would you like to go for a cup of coffee or tea? I’m going hiking. Would you like to go?
Sometimes life feels so lonely but it does not always have to be. Yes there are those times where it comes and remains for longer than seems necessary. But it has its purpose, if we listen to it. It can draw us or drive us to face ourselves, to cry out to a God that we don’t fully understand or believe is there. Loneliness can connect us. It can move us out of our comfort zone, away from our common distractions. It can propel us toward others. So many people just hope, long really, for someone to hang out with, to take on new adventures, to laugh with so hard your abs still hurt the next day.
My group of friends are so eclectic. If you had asked me to read their interests and backgrounds before meeting them and to say whether I would have become so close to some of them, I would have thought not. The differences on paper seem incompatible. Acquaintances maybe, but not ‘completely at ease, hang out anywhere, anytime’ kind of friendships. One of the best things that has come from this path that I’ve taken is that it exploded my ideas of who would be the kind of friend whom I could be comfortable with, and who I know ‘has my back’ and I have theirs.
The common thread in these friendships is stronger than cultural or language differences, interests or education, age or gender. The friendships that have become closer and stronger are about mutuality. Mutual authenticity—getting real with each other. Mutually giving and receiving trust. Mutual respect. Mutual investment of each person—staying in touch, traveling to see the other, choosing to spend time together.
It doesn’t matter if one person is in their 20s and the other in their 40s like me and my friend Nadine, or if one person has young children while the other’s are grown like me and my friend Lesley, or if one person spends time practicing folk and classical music on the piano and the other creates heavy metal music like me and my flatmate… when it works, it works.
The thing that we must remember is that life goes through seasons. Friendships do as well. The people who are in our lives are there for a reason and it is wise to invest our life and love in them. Too soon, our paths diverge and they may not be so near as new chapters open for them and for us. We tell ourselves that we’ll do something together soon and before we know it, three months have passed. Too late we discover that we actually were blessed with a luxury of time–24 hours each day to choose where we make time–to linger over a cappuccino or take a leisurely walk by the river with them.
Sadly so often we are too busy or something else demands our attention. Yet over and over I witness people who have extraordinary demands on their time making time for their friendships. The reality is that we do order our lives for the most part. We choose our jobs and lifestyles, our interests and hobbies. For most of us, we are slaves to no one when we step out into adulthood. We are given freedom to choose what to do with our time; what to do with all of our resources.
The hallmark of a great friendship: mutuality. If mutuality is absent, the relationship is something else. If I am honest, how many people are really more acquaintances than close friends? Am I investing in my friends? Are they investing in me?
We can love without it being returned and that is what love requires—to be given without assurance it will ever be returned. But to have a great friendship is something different. It means that both are in, even if not entirely equal, but both are giving to it, honoring the relationship and each other; there is an ebb and flow, a mutual giving and receiving. The stories of how time got away and things were so busy are infrequent. Life is forever busy and time ceaselessly marches on. But in the midst of this, good friends feed and grow their relationship with mutual time and commitment… not finding time, but making time.
May I remember where my treasures lie. May I order my life to make time and make commitments. May I give and receive. May I share my heart and listen. May I be a good friend.
‘Rings and jewels are not gifts, but apologies for gifts. The only true gift is a portion of thyself.’ ~Ralph Waldo Emerson