The people in our lives affect us in so many ways. We have our families who have been with us since the beginning. We have our spouses whom we’ve chosen to start new families with. We have colleagues at work who add their own flavor to the mix. There are random others we mingle with at stores, on the road, and waiting on line at Dunkin Donuts. There are those we pay for services, such as plumbers or doctors. And then we have our friends.
Friendship is tremendously important to me and I don’t take it lightly. I have always been selective about the people I call friend. That means two things: one, I don’t have a huge list of close friends; two, the friends I have are awesome.
Laughter. A huge part of my friendships involve laughter. Getting together, we need to be able to find the funny things and laugh away. My sense of humor ranges from silly, juvenile puns to rather raunchy innuendos — or outuendoes (thanks Wicked, for that word). I don’t often laugh at other people’s misfortune, though, even if it’s of a person who wronged me. I’ll file those moments under Karma, but I don’t usually laugh at it. I’m fine with some self-effacing humor too, and I’ll engage in it at times just to make a joke. All in all, I want to enjoy the time together.
Stress. We all have difficult challenges in our lives, from injuries and illness, to situations out of our control, to people we can’t avoid who just drive us batty. Though laughter is vital for me in a friendship, I also need to be able to share the hard stuff too. And I do mean “share”. I don’t want it to be one-sided. I don’t want to just gripe about how negotiations are going or talk about the cats being ill. I also want to listen. I want to hear the challenges my friends face, whether they’re seeking advice or just recapping the story. I like hearing how they deal with their challenges because it also gives me a way to see things differently, and I grow from that.
Trust. This is really at the top of the list. I need to be able to trust the people I spend time with. No gossip-mongering, no innappropriate reveals of personal issues on social media. The friends I have excel in this. I can sometimes talk about some crazy stuff and my friends respect me as I do them, and it’s clearly obvious. We all know that the heavy things we say are said because we are there for each other and not meant for public consumption. And I do understand if friends consult each other about things. And best friends and significant others are going to share everything they know with each other. That’s fine with me. But knowing that I can be myself means the world.
Support. We all need support in our lives too. Sometimes, days are really dark and we just need a friend to lift our spirits. Other times, we’ve accomplished something great and want to revel in it. I try to be there for my friends in both cases, just as they are there for me. We celebrate life together and we check in to see how things are going. We work as a team to make life the best we can for each other. Sometimes we’re caught up in our own stuff for a time and can’t reach out right away, but we both know that if we need it, the other will be there.
Understanding. Everyone has a bad day. Everyone cancels an appointment. Things come up. It is part of life. Sometimes it’s hard not to take a cancellation personally, but it’s important to remember that everyone has a lot going on and it’s not necessarily a personal thing. When I’ve bailed out on plans, I’m usually drained from a hectic week and just can’t get moving. It doesn’t mean I don’t want to see my friends, just that I’m not able to at that moment. Sometimes, I’ll say something I think is funny or witty and it will hit others entirely the wrong way. It takes understanding to look past the moment, to see the whole friendship, and realize that sometimes things just come out wrong. And this goes both ways too.
Events. We celebrate the big things together. It may not always be on the official day, but we do make that effort to come together and revel in the glow. This could be celebrating a big personal milestone, like an engagement or wedding, a birthday, or even littler things, like finally reading all the Harry Potter books or getting that room painted. I believe in celebrating all kinds of things, and have even been told sometimes that it’s a little excessive. But the goal is to focus on the positive and to enjoy the things we do, and so we should always make that silly toast or give a high-five.
Hugs. I always call myself a hugger. When I greet my friends, I want to pull them physically close to my heart, because all the rest of the time, they’re already in my heart. In the early days of a friendship, not everyone knows what to do. I try not to make others uncomfortable. But I spent a good part of my life in isolation from others and, for me, it really means a lot to just give that hug. If it’s been a rough stretch, I may hang on for a second or two more. It just means I cherish who you are and your friendship, and I’m glad you’re there with me. And it also means so much to me when me friends step up, arms outstretched, seeking the same. It’s an added layer of connection with the people I care about.
Hanging Out. This can mean a few things. It almost always involves a meal. I love sitting at dinner with friends, with no other distractions, just catching up on the good and the rest. Laughing and joking, enjoying our trust and support of each other. But I also like to go do things: catching a movie or a play, going bowling or heading down to Great Adventure, sitting on the sofa with a video game, or indulging in Cards Against Humanity for some off-color silliness. And sometimes we just sit and talk too. I’d love to continue having more experiences with the people in my life, and though I may need a little cajoling for some of it, I know my friends would have my back in a new venture. So let’s do something new!
Singles and Couples. A number of our friends are part of a couple. It makes sense, as Kevin and I are a couple. Yet, often, one of us gets to know one person from a couple and it isn’t until the four of us get together that we see how that works out. In the majority of cases, if we’ve connected with one half, we’ve adored the second half too. Usually, it ends up that we hang out as couples. But that’s not required. If Kevin and Leanne want to go have a shopping day, by all means! Likewise, Lois and I may end up kayaking, or Jared and I may set up a game day. I like that we are all friends with each other and we connect across and between. And it’s always a good time.
Respect. At the heart of it all, I only stick around with people I respect and who respect me in return. There is something awesome about you that I like to be around. You’re funny, you’re dedicated, you’re caring, you’re witty, you’re compassionate, and so on. I honor you for who you are and you do the same for me. Sure, we can disagree on things, but we try to take that time to listen to each other’s side and to grow from our varied opinions and ideas. We may still not agree in the end, but that’s what makes things interesting and it shows the strength of our friendship.
Hope. And finally… Friends are the people in my life who instill me with hope. In a world of chaos, we need things to look forward to. My friends are all a guiding light for me. If we’re just getting to know each other and I’m looking to set up plans to hang out with you outside of wherever we met, that means I’ve seen a ray of hope in you. It means our interactions up to that point have inspired me. It means I want to know more and to continue to see the hope there is in this world for laughter, love, and happiness.
Oh and yes, you’re getting a hug too.