Be The Long-Term Friend

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friendBeing a friend today is hard work! The investment into another human outside of those we are committed to is challenging and requires a level of patience and understanding I am not always sure I am capable of. I find myself listing the “do’s” and “don’t” of a friendship, but question if I am holding myself to the same expectations.

For me, I believe that friendships should entail celebrating the purchase of a new home, navigating the realities of a career change, and mourning the process of an ending relationship. But oftentimes, these situations create a sense of feeling alone. As a woman who has resided in various zip codes, worn many different career hats, and failed in numerous relationships, the opinions of others have become isolating and demoralizing. I often feel I cannot compete with what seems to be the societal “norms”. I also find that friends have good intentions, however, lack of background knowledge, limited experiences, and social media influence support unsolicited advice that when shared, can compile the feelings of helplessness and depression.

As a single mom, AGAIN, I often find myself in tears by the “advice” given to me by my well-intentioned family and friends. Suggestions of praying more, increasing medications, and eliminating self-care rituals that bring life to my weary soul top the list. Other opinions such as placing my life aspirations over those of my children in the name of “self-preservation” carry the heaviest emotional weight. Sitting alone becomes a more favorable experience when weighing the alternatives. I would rather sit alone with my wine over the option of attending dinner with friends that seem disappointed by my frequent, unpredictable life changes. Many fail to understand or ask about the undercurrents that warranted the abrupt decisions.

Opinions are difficult to keep to ourselves. It is easier to provide advice to an individual that is abruptly ending a relationship versus questioning the emotional safety of the marriage. It brings joy to share the advice of how you navigated the start of a new career but failed to evaluate the resources and experiences that aided in your job transition. When finding that friend is moving homes again, we rarely give thought to situational factors that provided our friend with limited choices in a potentially traumatic situation. We use evaluation systems that align with who we are and what we believe and hold our friends to the same measurement tools. Often, our conversations open with a celebration of accomplishments that leave little room to share the details of our struggling adult children, teenage parenting woes, or the weariness of a slow-developing toddler.

Negating these factors requires intentional effort. Friendships must be rooted in empathy and humility. Space must be held for mothers to give voice to where they are and not be bombarded by where we think they should be. The strongest friendships are cultivated in the sloppiness of life where it is understood that opinions are not always needed but shared tears, joint mourning, and collective celebrations are always welcome. Challenging our friends to be a better version of themselves should be rooted in understanding the various dynamics that structure their current reality. A lot of work, but I have a few “ride or die” friends that prove it is possible.

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