I have intended to post these thoughts for several years, 4 to be exact! I originally started drafting this post in April of 2014. Along the way I got busy, and other things became more important in life, and maybe the thoughts just weren’t completely speaking to me. But today, today they are.
The past eight years I have been through many life changing events. Events that you know are going to change your life in many ways, but ultimately affect you in ways you would not have imagined. These events and life changes have caused me to think a lot about one of the major things that was affected by each. Friendships.
8 years ago I got divorced after a rough marriage of 10 years. I became single again, began dating again, got remarried, and had another child. All good and exciting changes! But each of them in their own way brought on changes to friendships. Some good changes, and some changes that truly make me sad. In the end though, life changes help you to see who your true friends are, and show the colors of those that you thought were friends. For better or worse, this changes your life in some drastic ways.
Often times the reality of what truly goes on in one’s personal life is much different than what they lead others to believe. I’m sure we have all seen this to some degree through social media and the people that you really know. Sometimes it’s intentional, and sometimes it’s not. Sometimes people just want to pretend that everything is great, even if it isn’t.
Years before the divorce, in my first marriage, I was forced to deal with a very personal situation that was terrifying, heartbreaking, and life changing, in a very public manner, not by choice. The third party involved took that choice completely out of my hands, sharing her side of the very personal story, which was padded with much untruth. She tried to destroy my life, and my husbands life, all out of vengeance. Those who knew me, even those who knew me pretty well, had no idea the turmoil that had been occurring in my marriage and my life. First hand proof that you just really don’t know what someone is dealing with in the privacy of their home, or their relationship. It was devastating to me, and caused a lot of pain and anguish. Even though the events that had occurred were not my doing, and were shared by someone outside of my marriage, in order to specifically hurt me, it changed the way friends, coworkers, and fellow church congregation members looked at me. I was hurt, deeply, by someone that I had called “friend”.
I know we’ve all been there, we’ve all had those people that you considered a friend, and somehow, some way, they hurt you in ways that you couldn’t forgive them for. As much as I try to be forgiving, this was one of those life changing moments. From that moment on the way I looked at “friends” became completely different.
Going into the divorce I clearly knew that many friendships would change, and that some would be lost. Obviously friends that were “our” friends through my ex would likely no longer be “my” friends. That was expected. And I knew that other friendships that were “our” friends because of a mutually obtained couple friendship would change because they would feel torn between the two of us, and each side of the story. Or they would feel uncomfortable being around both of us, or as it were for me, I would be uncomfortable being around people who were friends with my ex.
What I wasn’t prepared for was the existing friendships, “my” friends, that would change. Most of these friends were married. And I wasn’t. I was single. I think sometimes they think you will feel like a third wheel doing things with married couples, which is opposite of how I felt. And aside from that, a lot of these women just completely disappeared. Women that I had hung out with just as women, not as couples. I’m sure there are a myriad of reasons existing friendships changed, kids getting older and lives getting busier, and social groups changing. At that time it didn’t matter to me if the group consisted of single people, married people, or just girls. After going through a difficult divorce it was nice just to have a support group of friends, and people to be social with. It was nice to be out, or just have relaxed social gatherings with friends. It was nice to just be busy, especially on the nights that my kids were with their dad. I was used to being with my kids all of the time, and that was a major adjustment for me. Being busy and spending time with friends was a good way to keep my mind off of missing my kids, and help me get through the major changes that had occurred in my life. It was very saddening when these friendships disappeared at a time when I needed them them most.
I also was not prepared for the group of people who clearly were not true friends. No matter what phase of life we are in, we all make mistakes at times, we all make at least some bad choices in life. None of us are perfect. We all go through difficult times at one point or another. And sometimes when you have been in a situation that was not good for you for so long that you have lost yourself, lost your way, you do things and make choices that you wouldn’t normally make. And hopefully you learn from those choices. Those that are your true friends try to understand, listen, stand by you, encourage you, and help you get through the rough times. They help you to see the path you are headed down, and encourage you towards a better path. And those that aren’t your true friends, well, they aren’t there for you, they don’t try to understand, they judge you, and they don’t help you get through the rough times. Sometimes those “friends” talk about your choices behind your back instead of discussing it directly with you. Sometimes they just choose to no longer be in contact with you. Whatever the case, these changes can also have a dramatic impact on your life.
Through the course of all of the life changes, you are bound to meet new people and develop new social groups. Sometimes these new acquaintances develop into true friendships, and sometimes they turn out to be just like the old “friends” you had. Sometimes they fill a void during a time when it is needed most, and sometimes they turn out to be distractions keeping you from the path and life that you know you need to live. But nevertheless, there are a host of new people in your life at any given time, especially during times of transition and change. I quickly came to realize of my new “friends” or renewed friendships, which ones were healthy and which ones were not. More life changes.
Many years ago when I was in my late twenties I learned that life was too short to have to work really hard to maintain friendships. Any relationship takes work, but if you are the one putting out all of the effort and there is constant strife, or no return effort to maintain the relationship, then maybe the relationship isn’t working for you. I learned back then that friends come and go, and I truly believe that they all serve a specific purpose in your life for the time they are part of it. Maybe it’s to learn something that you will further grow from, maybe it’s the support you needed during a rough time, maybe it’s experiences that you gain. Whatever the situation, every person is or has been in your life for a reason. Sometimes it is difficult to cut ties with friends, and sometimes when it happens, it can be very hurtful.
What I have also learned over time is that there are those people who are your true friends. Or as some people refer to, their “tribe”. People that have been there during the good times and the bad. People that know you as well as you know yourself. Friends that it doesn’t matter how long it has been since you have spoken, when you pick up the phone it’s just like you talked yesterday. Friends that will listen through tears and sobbing so hard that they can hardly understand you. Friends that will cheer for you. Friends that you will do the same for. I am fortunate to have a few of these friends in my tribe.
So what do you use to measure a friendship? How many people are in your tribe? I can tell you that I older I get, the smaller my tribe is. Some of my dearest friends are people that I don’t get to speak to or see very often, that live hours away. Friends that I dearly miss spending time with. Why do I maintain these friendships, and why do I value them so much? These ladies, no matter how far apart we are, no matter what happens in our lives, I know, and they know, that we will ALWAYS be there to listen. We will ALWAYS make the time for one another. We will ALWAYS be supportive. One of my dearest friends has been in my life for roughly 36 years now! We grew up together, were best friends all through school, started college together, lived together, and have seen each other through more stuff than I can even recount! Although we live in the same town and our lives have become extremely busy and we don’t see each other all that often, I still consider her one of my dearest friends.
And then there’s this one. We met in our 20’s through our husbands who worked together at the time. We immediately hit if off, and have seen each other through marriages, divorces, children, moves, job changes, and everything in between! We live three hours apart and rarely see each other, but we keep in contact and are always there to listen. Recently I told her about my upcoming mammogram rescan to take a look at something they had found on the original scan that they didn’t like the looks of. That the thought of the doctors finding something serious scared the HELL out of me. That I was trying to not think about it, and trying to think that it would turn out to be nothing. Surely it’s nothing to worry about. And they can’t get me in for three weeks! And then the thought occurred to me, who would I even ask to be there for me? The one true friend that lives in town has taken on a major project in her life, and wouldn’t be able to be there, although she is helping get my son to preschool that morning. But truly, there is not a single other friend locally that I feel close enough to that I would ask to be there. And then she says to me “I will completely take a day off work to go with you, and to have a glass of wine together to celebrate this new era in our lives – having to worry about mammograms!!” Seriously it was just what I needed to hear, she made me laugh, and I truly needed that. This new era in lives. I never thought about it like that before, but she was totally right! I told her that I would never want her to take a vacation day just for that, that most likely it was nothing. And then, like real friends do, she said “I really will come in. There are some things that moms and husbands just can’t be there for… It’s not about the nothing – it’s about hanging out together. I understand if you want to go alone – I’m fiercely independent too, but think about it and let me know. I know you got this girl, but you don’t have to do it alone. Nothing or not.” (Insert waterfall of happy tears.) At a time when I felt scared and alone, she knew exactly what I needed to hear. And she offered to be there for me at a time when I really needed it. And drive three hours each way to do so. The truth is, I am scared to death that they will find something. And the truth is, that in this moment, she proved to me that she is a TRUE friend. These are the type of people you want in your tribe. My tribe isn’t the number of “friends” or followers I have on facebook, instagram, twitter, whatever. My tribe are those people that really will be there for me in a time of need, or in a time of celebration. Those people that get you, that love you unconditionally. Some days I wish my tribe were bigger. But, I would rather have a small tribe of people that would do anything for me, and that I would do anything for, than a large tribe of people that wouldn’t be there in a time of need.
Sometimes you can pinpoint exactly what happened to cause a friendship to fade, but sometimes you really have no idea at all. Whatever the case may be, you learn that certain people aren’t really friends. That can be hurtful, although often it is a good thing even though it is difficult to see and understand at the time.
Over the years I have learned that every friendship is different in its own way. They all have a different place in our lives. I have learned that the measure of a friendship isn’t just who is in your life today, but who has been in your life through many seasons. While I value every friendship that I have developed over the years, I can still say, without a doubt, that these few ladies are my tribe. I measure these friendships by the years of support, the amount of tears, the number of laughs, the ups and downs we have been through together. And many years later I am truly blessed to still have them as part of my life. I have learned to not take friendships for granted, and to cherish each one of them for I know that they each hold a special place in my life although I may not know what that is at the time. But this particular friendship holds a very special place in my heart. Thank you Sara for always being there, no matter what the situation, no matter what time of day. Thank you for not judging me. Thank you for listening. Thank you for just being you. A true friend is one of the greatest gifts we are given.
How do you measure your friendships? Who is in your tribe?