I got to thinking the other day about friends. We all have them. Some more than others. And I wondered about quantity versus quality of friends.
I read my Facebook posts and see some of my female friends posting about big-bash birthday parties, and trips to Cabo with girlfriends and I sometimes wish to be a part of one of those "big group" friend circles, where gathering everyone up takes a banquet room. Where celebrations are over-the-top and families go on vacation together.
And while I have many, many acquaintances, my "friend" group is much smaller. So, what makes a true friend? In my opinion, it's a person who reaches out to you as much as you reach out to her. Someone who is truly interested and concerned about your life, love, family and career, who will be there for you when the chips are down, who makes an effort to include you in special events.
Granted, in our "always busy" day and age, few of us have time to cultivate real friendships. Gone are the days where women spent the majority of their time in the company of other women raising children and taking care of families. Now we have the family part, along with careers, multiple obligations, and the everyday pressures to be successful in multiple areas.
Still. That does not exclude the seemingly simple things like meeting for coffee or celebrating a birthday lunch. I am grateful for the friends I do have who don't forget those things. And I have friends who I don't see but a few times a year, who are still true friends in my book, because we connect in other ways - Facebook, email, text conversations. I love a friend that is a constant -someone who, even after long stretches of absence in your life, can fall back in and reconnect as if no time had passed at all.
I also love new friends. I had a pen pal for years whom I've never met, but who, if I ever got the chance, would be a great new friend, I'm certain. Sometimes, a Facebook comment leads to an invitation to coffee, and a new friend is made. We women have a quick way of connecting and my husband has often marveled at how someone I've never met can suddenly fall into a seamless conversation and comfortable presence after only a few minutes. I always tell him "a woman can meet someone in the ladies room and come out best friends." It's just the way we are - we connect.
Then, there are some friends, who with the prevalence of social networking, can become friends we connect with daily and never meet. And while those people may not fit our traditional definition of friendship, they serve a purpose and meaningful relationships can be forged. I'm still a die-hard fan of face time, but it's nice to know there's another woman up at 3 a.m. to "talk" to when you can't sleep.
I think most of us get so wrapped up in our lives that we forget to connect with our friends in more traditional ways. We send e-cards instead of meeting for lunch to celebrate birthdays, or we limit our "time" together to chatting on the sidelines of a soccer game, or a brief text now and then. I admire the girlfriend groups who have a yearly girl's only trip, or meet monthly for cocktails and conversation.
When my kids were little, and I was swamped with mommy stuff with seemingly "no time" for social outlets, I often joined a monthly group - Bunco, book club, mom's night out - to satisfy that girlfriend connect time. That worked for a long time, but as my kids got older, I found those things fading away as we all became busier in our kids' lives.
But if we're so wrapped up in our kids' lives, what happens to us? How do we rediscover and remember who WE are? I have friends and relatives who are fully ensconced in club sports. It consumes all of their discretionary time to the exclusion of social interactions (with the exception of the other parents in the club sports), vacations, and pretty much anything else. Other friends are so wrapped up in their kids other activities, that they spend the majority of their time driving them to practices and rehearsals. And the people we spend that time with become our friends. But when the activity ceases, do the friendships? Some last, others fade away as we go through different stages in our lives.
I love it when I meet people who have been friends for years and years. To be in your sixties, and still connect regularly with your best friend you've known since age five - what a beautiful testimonial to true and lasting friendship. My guess is those two friends have drifted in and out of each other's lives for decades, weathering motherhood, marriage, divorce, death....all manner of joy and pain. And, in the end, they are still there for each other, a rock of stability that even other solid relationships such as marriage and parenthood can't crumble.
So, who are your "true" friends? Who are your new friends? What does friendship mean to you?