Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Circles of Friends

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This week I'm feeling grateful for friends. Not one friend in particular, but the whole kaleidoscope of individuals who have made a difference in my life. I think my preoccupation with this topic has grown based on something I read a few weeks ago about friendship. In her book Escaping into the Open: The Art of Writing True author Elizabeth Berg writes about the importance of cultivating many different friendships rather than leaning too hard on one individual. The following quotation reflects on the terrible fall out Berg had several years back with her best friend of many years. "I know now I asked too much of her: I wanted her to be not only my best friend, but my husband, my mother, my confessor. I wanted her to be the one person where I put everything. That's a burden no one can bear (201).

In middle school I was best friends with Tiffany. But then she became best friends with Amber and so I took Amber's old best friend, Jenny. But then Tiffany (who was the most desirable friend to have) decided to be best friends with Jenny instead, so I got Amber. You can imagine my relief and happiness when Amber's day was done and I was reinstated as Tiffany's best friend. And so the cycle repeated itself for three years.

I promise this ridiculous story is not an exaggeration. And I see among my own daughters, and often with grown women, similar power struggles among friendships. There is an effective antidote to these petty friendship dramas: make more friends. Expand your circle. Where would my life be had I not met Katie, Kimber and Andrea in college? How different my move to Arizona would have been without Stephanie, Corrie, Julie, and Mary. I would be a different sort of mother and a different thirty-two year old woman entirely without Michelle, Randi, Alison, Angie, Shauna, Brittany and Jenn. I couldn't do without my Gillespie sisters, my Jones sisters, or my dear Kristen who just relocated to Texas, as if Texas could love her more than we do! My brother's wife Lorie has become a stabilizing compass in my life, and I've devoted a half a dozen posts to the many ways my gang over in England continue to prove valuable and beloved friends.

Maybe this list was tedious to read, but the point isn't in my list it is in yours. Whether your life feels lonely of friends or overcrowded right now, undoubtedly there have been individuals who were the boulders that allowed you to cross the steam. You don't require dozens and dozens, just enough to make the crossing safely.

The gift of three hellish years of middle school and the lessons learned during those four interminable years of high school are this: Don't look for one friend where you can put everything. It really is a burden no one can bear and you miss so many opportunities to know, really know, other people who might be important to your life. I'm convinced that if you withhold knee-jerk estimations of other people and do a little digging you will probably discover some sort of commonality with most people. The potential for friendship is everywhere. Maybe you know someone who also likes movies, sewing, books, or chocolate. Maybe you attend the same church with this person, or you both have three daughters, love all things from Tahiti, and mangoes. But whatever you like and where ever you are, be a good friend to many and appreciate lots of different kinds of friends. Your kaleidoscope can only get bigger and brighter.


  1. Loved this post! I am going to have my S read this when she gets home today. You are not the only one with the funny middle school friend drama. So grateful to count you in my circle of friends and family. Love you!

  2. So true that the potential for life-altering friendships is everywhere. All it takes is a a little something in common... a little patience, compassion, maybe chocolate. :)


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