July 30 is International Friendship Day.
While I was growing up I always had a close friend – someone to walk to school with, hang out with, laugh with, do silly things with, and sometimes cry with. Some of these friendships just provide me with memories now. Some have come loosely back together and reconnected with the advent of the internet and Facebook.
There are friends that I meet with over lunch every other month or so. And there’s my sister – whenever we get together along with our husbands we can expect to laugh, a lot. I have distant friends with whom I schedule time for a visit, either here or there or elsewhere. And we all have those friends with whom we only correspond once a year at Christmas, a long letter of catch-up on jobs, kids, and vacations.
All of these friendships flesh out our lives. With the benefit of friends it is possible to take risks we might not otherwise consider – return to school, start a business, take a trip. With people we trust we learn to express our emotions, be it talk over coffee, or paint on a canvas, or words on a page. Good friends reflect ourselves back at us, teach us to laugh at ourselves, encourage us in our dreams, share our fears and help to keep our demons at bay. With friends we learn about the importance of honesty, and respect, and loyalty.
A friend can be an anchor, somebody who grounds you so that you keep your balance; a friend can be a kite that catches the wind and carries you to the places and experiences of your dreams; a friend can be a lifeline that pulls you in to a safe haven when you need to rest and renew; or a friend can be a hand extended when all you need is an invitation.
I have these friends in my life – friends who give me doses of reality, who massage my ego, who make me laugh, who let me cry, who keep me sane; friends who encourage and caution, friends who are just there.
And every once in a while we should step back and examine just what kind of friend we are. Do we fill any of these roles for those we consider friends? Friendship is a two-way partnership, if there is take there must be give, if there is talk there must be a listener, if there is dance there must be a leader. Even laughter needs to be balanced by tears.
Strong friendships are like a finely tuned instrument. If we become complacent, if we take our friendships for granted, if we ignore little red flags that keep popping up, and apply Band-Aids when stitches are required, then when we pick up our badly tuned friendship we can expect to be assailed by sour notes. Perhaps there should be an annual performance review for friendships.
My closest friend … we lost contact for many years … moves separated us. But when we did reconnect we came to a mutual decision … we got married.
All pictures are from Free Digital Photos.