Occasionally I stumble across great books in the library that end up being just want I needed at the time. I found one such book recently called Friendships Don’t Just Happen by Shasta Nelson. I admit, as I started reading it, I felt pretty lame reading a book about how to make friends. That just screams, “Loser!” Certainly not the sort of book you want to be caught reading in public lest people judge you. :-/ At any rate, this book has really opened up my mind to a new way of thinking and I’ve been wanting to get my thoughts down about it. Please pardon the randomness of my thought process.
First off, let me say that I do have lots of people that I call friends. I’ve got friends near and far. People that I can ask for advice or help. I’m certainly not completely friendless. But what I do lack in are close friends, that I share history with, that also live nearby. Over the years I have had the pleasure of getting so know several ladies and gotten to spend enough time with them to develop close bonds. But life is ever changing and every single one of those friends have moved away. (And some have moved again and again and again!) I always thought that with enough effort, that long distance friendships could remain strong. But through reading this book, I’m learning that friendships go through stages and evolution and that’s OK. I think it’s certainly possible to stay close with far away friends and when you visit with them it can be easy to pick right up where you left off. And that’s great, it really is. But people need close friends that also live near by. *I* need close friends that live nearby.
I’ve discovering that as I get older it’s becoming a lot harder to make those sorts of deep, meaningful friendships. Close friendships require A LOT of time and effort to attain that special bond. If you don’t make the time and effort to spend with friends then you’ll always remain at a casual friend status. For example, when you’re young and in school, you spend about 7 hours a day with people the same age as you and close bonds more naturally form. Fast forward to when I first became a mom, I spent a lot of time with other moms on play dates. I had the time to invest in friendships. Now that I have 6 children and limited time, it is a lot harder for me to carve out the time to invest in forming those close bonds of friendship.
I just read a chapter in Friendships Don’t Just Happen discussing how we have to make friendships a priority in our lives. Here’s part of what the author says in this chapter:
“Priority means choosing something over something else. That means it will always involve a “no” to something else, be it sleep, tucking your children in that night, productivity on a project, or a TV show. It’s impossible to prioritize a friendship and not sacrifice something else.
Accordingly, every Tuesday night that I’m in town, I go to Girls Night, where five of us gather in rotating homes for supper. I don’t ever ask myself on Tuesday afternoons if I want to go. Some nights, I fear, I’d vote against attending if I raised the question. I find when I’m sad or stressed that I am more prone to want to cancel plans, withdraw, be alone, or simply vegetate in front of the TV. Typically when we feel depressed or have low energy, our desire to interact wanes. Sometimes all I want to do is spend an evening curled up on the couch with my husband, a man who easily wins my title for best friend.
So I choose to set a rule with myself that I don’t connect with people based on my moods, but rather based on my values.
Anyone who has had any success with regular exercise knows the need for that rule! If I only went running when I was looking forward to it then I probably wouldn’t make it out there all too often!
Consequently, for the sake of my health, my happiness, the things I value, and the life I want, I will connect. I just go. It’s scheduled into my life the same way I wake up and go to work, brush my teeth, meditate and pray, watch Private Practice on Thursday nights, eat pizza on Saturday nights, show up in spiritual community every weekend, and check my email. We routinize those things that are significant to us, those things that matter. And friendships is one of them for me.”
I absolutely loved this part of the book! It made me realize that I can’t just sit around and say that I want close friends or that I wish I had close friends and then put forth no action to it. There are many times when there are activities scheduled into my calendar and when the day comes I just don’t feel like going. I make excuses. But more often than not, I drag myself out there because in the end, I usually have fun and I’m working on making those connections that I want and that are a priority to me.
I’m still really struggling to find the time that is needed to form very close bonds. You can’t just hang out with some people for 2 hours once a month and expect to become the best of friends that way. Sure, you’ll make friends, but not close friends. Those sorts of friendships require a lot more time. I’ve got to find that time and make it a priority in my life.
Friendships Don’t Just Happen is a great book for any person to read, though it does only focus on female friendships. The author of the book also is the founder of GirlFriendCircles.com which is sort of like a dating site but it’s for women who are looking to make friends in their area. I do think it’s kind of funny how the author occasionally plugs her own website. But I guess it probably is a great resource for meeting new people because the people that sign up for the service also want to find friends. At any rate, I’m still learning a lot from this book and remembering how important friendships are. Now I’m realizing what I need to do to foster the sort of relationships I want in my life.