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Friendship is a Way of Being
I get a text. It’s a love note from Freeman, SD. Clara and I are waxing nostalgic for Hamilton soundtracks and pinched dorms and our carefully plotted college decor.
A few days later, I drive to her home and make us garlicky pasta and tart rhubarb crisp.
It’s strange and it’s perfectly normal. I see the tiniest glimpse of the complex transition to motherhood and feel very lucky that I’ll have Clara to ask things when it’s my turn.
Our lives were running fast for a few years, parallel and never touching. Now hers bends, and mine meets it. We are making a new memory of babies and lunch, rather than just mining our nostalgia from 6 years ago.
Today, Clara pulls out her Norton Anthology of Literature and shares a favorite by Elizabeth Barrett Browning:
“It makes me think about how even in marriage, you can never hear ‘I love you’ enough.”
Her thought makes me think of an Ada Limón piece:
It resonates with her early-motherhood haze. I wonder what it feels like to experience that kind of partnership. But I also think about all the ways I’ve existed, animal-like, next to Clara over years.
There are people who show you how you can be.
You become someone you like around them. You might always be a little hungry for that self when you can’t be near.
It’s not like they’re trying. To teach or shape or mold.
Just that the both of you are a good combination.
There have been times, lives diverting in opposite directions, that I felt Clara and I were losing each other.
I write in my books because of her. I read poetry and drink it in. I put hard boiled eggs in salad. I know the happiness of a full house sharing dinner. And the secret to hosting (keep the food simple. ONE showstopper if you must).
She made my birthday cake last year, even though she was in her first trimester and nauseous. She has my drawings on her wall: her wedding invite, a yoga themed valentine, an infamous birthday cake.
What I’m saying is: A good friend leaves notes in your margins.
She’s the first person who loved a place in a way that made me understand it was possible. I’m glad I get to visit.
I had a soft landing place all those years of shared living. Somehow understood it was me who was loved, not just the common interests and dinners and laughs. I walk through the world knowing what it is to have a friend like that. To be that.
Friendship is a Thoughtful Question
Friendship isn’t interchangeable. It’s specific.
That’s as far as I can explain it, sometimes.
Friendship is Sharing
I see Cat’s familiar car on my street, and then:
Friendship is Like Family Money
“Don’t call anyone best friend” my mom recommends.
This is good advice for an 11 year old entrenched in friend politics.
It’s also good advice for today, because how do you quantify your life-giving friendships in all their flavors and stick one at the top?
I’d be lost without Cat’s relaxed, wise presence. Caitlin’s creative and deeply spiritual advice and enthusiasm. Clara’s good words and gathered thoughts. Hope’s questions and affirmation. There are more but it’ll take too long to list.
I still feel a little funny sharing about friends, posting online about relationships no one else gets to have.
But I do think there’s something important in talking about them. Not to make anyone jealous, but because they function sort of like family money: You’ve seen the people, wondered “How do they make a living selling tea towels on Instagram twice a month?” (the answer is fat stacks of family money).
The reason I can do what I do, make what I make, is this invisible web of friendship and support. The best part: everyone starts from scratch with friendships, and even if you don’t have them currently, you can make some.
I can’t talk about friends without also mentioning the deep grief of a friend not always being what you want or need or hope.
Sometimes friendship is ease, these grooves you walk with your eyes closed. Sometimes friendship is ache, the things you hoped for slipping away.
What I’m saying is: friendship is not a fixed state.
Friendship is a way of being.
Saying yes to hangouts, texting people back with dates and times. Having go-to potluck dishes. Making beautiful, personal gifts for going-away and babies and birthdays.
Friendship is the vulnerability of showing up with your hands full and giving it all.
Friendship is the vulnerability of showing up with your hands empty and being told “I’m so glad you’re here.”
Links to good things on the internet:
How to Make Friends As An Adult. If you feel a little lost, let the 617 very kind, thoughtful comments on this piece guide and reassure you that so many of us are trying to figure this out.
“I’m a story that I tell to myself, and 17 year old me is a vital part of that story. I am not him, but I love him.” I cried.
“All around us are these lives — heads down and arms open — that ignore the siren call of flashy American individualism, of bright lights and center stage. I’m fine right here is the response from the edge of the room, and that contentment is downright subversive. How could you want only that? the world demands. There’s more to have, always more.” Please read this Obituary for a Quiet Life.
A lovely piece on good coaches by Holly Huit. I teared up on this one, too. Maybe my current measure for ‘good’ is ‘moved me to tears.’
Thank you for being here. You can comment below, or hit reply in your inbox to send me a note directly. Hearing your thoughts is my favorite part of making these.
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