Friends, the real ones, are the people you can count on long after the romance fizzles.
“You’ve Got to Have Friends” is not just the title of this week’s editor’s letter; it’s a lyric from one of Bette Midler’s first hit songs from the 1970s, where she sings a joyous tune celebrating an overlooked treasure in our lives: friends, those people who know us better than anyone, sometimes even better than our closest family members.
I’m talking about real friends here — not casual acquaintances. Those special people in our lives who give us a comfortable place to be ourselves, despite the fact they are often pushed aside when our intoxicating romantic relationships take center stage. Yet when “he” or “she” does us wrong, our friends are there, standing by when we scratch at their door, ready to wrap us up in their arms and lend a sympathetic ear.
I once had a roommate by the name of Ann who worked hard to nurture and develop her friendships. She set aside time every day to call them on the phone; when she traveled, she sent postcards; she remembered everyone’s birthdays and she spent time with them — even when she was balancing her schedule with a “him.” She tended to her friend garden with a “green thumb” that was truly admirable.
My aunt Dorothy was the same. I remember how she would handwrite a note to everyone at Christmas (no photocopies no cut and paste e-mails). She even sat down every couple of weeks to write, in longhand, a letter telling me everything that was happening in her life. Her address book was one of the most valuable items in her possession. She knew every cousin, in every county across America. Me? It’s all I can do to stay in touch with my Dad and my sister!
I don’t think I’m unique in that respect. These days, it seems we don’t have time for friendship nurturing – and at what cost to our quality of life? When we’re single, and trying to do it all, maintaining our friendships is even more challenging. With little spare time, we often focus our energy on finding “the one” or when we work a 60-hour week, we’re just too tired for socializing. After all, they are “just friends.”
Still it’s our friends who are there for us through thick and thin: When jobs begin and end; when marriages start or stop; when we lose family members; when we celebrate (or commiserate) turning 40 or 50 or 60; when our pets must be put to sleep; when we’re sick; when our kids get in trouble; when the car breaks down; even when we need to set aside all pretense and be our genuine selves.
Yet, despite being the bedrock of our earthly existence, for some reason we neglect and undervalue our friends despite them being the most enduring treasure in our lives. And as such, they deserve our attention in good times too, not just times of need.
As a single woman, I do enjoy my times of quiet solitude and the freedom of my independent lifestyle, but I’ve also come to appreciate the intimacy, enjoyment and companionship of my true friends. Today, I’m going to take a just a few minutes out of my crazy day to tend to my own friendship garden so my precious friends don’t become “just friends” — but are acknowledged and appreciated for the treasures they are.
After all, as the song goes, “you’ve got to have friends…” as the Divine Miss M sings in this live performance from 1975.
Copyright © Kim Calvert / 2013 Singular Communications, LLC.