Be the Friend You Need

Someone told me once, “If you want to have friends, be friendly.” I’m pretty sure I shot him a dirty look and rolled my eyes. And I proved right then how SUPER friendly I was.  This was years and years ago, when I thought I didn’t need many friends, and if I am honest, understand the full scope of their value.

And then life happened, and it flattened me out like a steam roller. I can see myself now, splayed on the ground, all limbs pointed out, with a look of open-mouthed surprise, as my feelings oozed and puddled on the asphalt.

“I wasn’t expecting that.” Anyone???

Kids happened. Divorce happened. Remarriage happened. Friendship endings happened. Kids graduated, married, had babies, moved away. And there I was, running running running, trying my hardest to stay two steps ahead of that steamroller so I wouldn’t be squashed.

I’ll tell ya, I think friends are the brakes on a steamroller. A conversation with a friend can slow the steamroller down and a friend that makes you laugh? Well, that grinds it to a halt. All those things that seemed insurmountable at first suddenly look doable. A friend gives life and hope and love. They remind you, you are a bad-ass and you can conquer the world. They are the ones that sit with you while you cry because you just aren’t sure you are cut out for motherhood, or marriage, or maybe even life. They shop for bathing suits with you and make sure you don’t look like a watermelon trying to fit into clothes for a peach. They give advice when you’ve lost all your answers and tell you when to get a grip because maybe, maybe, you are losing it for all the wrong reasons and it’s time to grab those big-girl panties and hike them up to your push-up bra.

We KNOW how valuable friends are and yet, somehow when we are mama-ing or grandma-ing or aunt-ing, we close ourselves into a circle of isolation and darkness. We become afraid and full of pride and we don’t want to give words to the struggles that boomerang inside our heart Every. Single. Day.

Am I doing this right?

Am I the only one fighting with my husband all the time?

Does it really matter if my kid eats more than peanut butter and jelly?

Why is it so hard to lose this weight?

Does anyone really date their husband after kids?

Sex or sleep? Sex or sleep?

Can I get some help please?

We forget that if we did, we would find, everyone is struggling and we are not alone.

…..

Here’s what I have found: If you want to have friends, be friendly.

Turns out, that guy was right.

Here’s what else I have found: People want to be invited.

To coffee, to lunch, to a quick trip to Target, to pedicures, to a phone call, to your house even when it’s overrun with laundry and dishes, and sweatpants are the only thing keeping you sane because when the struggle is real, who needs to be reminded their jeans don’t fit anymore?

A few years ago I had a friendship end, and let me tell you, I cocooned myself away from women for a long time. A lot of it was based off fear. I was so wrong about this relationship and the type of friend I thought I was, how could I be sure I wouldn’t be wrong again?

I began to second-guess every word I said.

I avoided any type of conversation that required anything more than small talk.

I felt like I was not worthy to be anyone’s friend.

And then guess what happened?

First, I stopped feeling sorry for myself. It’s easy to jump in that pool and float around for awhile but eventually, if you don’t start kicking, you might drown. If this is where you are, consider this your life raft. YOU ARE WORTHY – of love and laughter and the joy of friendship.

Next, God brought me a friend. Someone I had known for years but was always on the peripheral. Suddenly, here she was, inviting me to her home, to coffee, for a pedicure. She gave me hugs, a listening ear, a few well-placed curse words, and lots of prayers. We would laugh later and talk about the timing and how crazy it was but really, was it crazy? I don’t think so. I think God knew all along how we would need each other one day and that seed was planted far in advance so that when the time was right, a sapling would poke through the dry ground, and it would grow.

Since then, other people have come into my life in new ways. And here’s the thing – I LET THEM. When they invited me over, I said “Yes!”, and I did not cancel. Here’s what happened – we laughed and ate and talked about things that concerned us and cried, and the best thing, the BEST thing?

We are nothing alike. We are a misfit trio. Our marriages are in varying stages of trial and error. Our place in life is so very different, and yet, it’s ok, more than ok. It’s SO GOOD. (kinda like the way God made it from the get-go)

And again, seeds that I never thought about were suddenly blooming flowers.

My point, Mama, is to allow your heart space – space for friends that are different from you, friends that you find unlikely, friends that you didn’t expect but show up anyway. Oh, and mama? Be the friend that shows up for someone else. Be the one that invites. Even if it’s awkward and weird and you worry until the second they show up if you did the right thing. You did. It’s always the right thing to hold out a hand and open your door. Courage is when we do the things we think we cannot do.

Whatever stage you are in in mama-land, whatever hurts you have lived with, whatever wants swim inside you, KNOW, God sends us all the right people. Be ready for them. Be ready to be that person.

XO

Shannon