I want to be a better friend. I crave this, this betterness.
It bothers me: This feeling I could do more to show people I love them; I could be more there there.
I am guilt-ridden often. Sometimes, I don’t acknowledge special events. My intentions are great: “My niece got engaged! I’ll send the happy couple a gift!” Or: “I know (my dear friend in another state) is struggling with her divorce, I’ll drop a card in the mail!”
But what I really do is: nothing.
How did I get here? I used to be together. (I think I was, maybe?) I mailed presents. I made silly, homemade envelopes and, you know, actually placed them in mailboxes. Social media makes it worse, because we sort of acknowledge our friends’ life happenings. “Liking” the news of someone’s engagement or frowny-facing their sad status update is fine, but it’s not the same. We all know this, deep down.
So, what’s the holdup, there, Jen? I could name a few culprits. Not excuses, just a slippery slide toward not doing, or being kind of paralyzed with do-nothing-ness:
- In the last decade, my soul was alternately sucked dry and filled up with bliss by three daughters. But recently, they are getting easier. They can do things for themselves. It’s a new paradise, accompanied by the soundtrack to “The Octonauts.”
- In those ten years, I’ve worked paying money jobs. You know, a career. It takes time.
- In the past ten years, I’ve craved deeper friendships with women, but it seems most of my dearest, best friends are the ones I made before kids. I have made some very good friends here in Colorado post kids, so I don’t think I am a complete friend failure.
What’s really bothering me is that I think my actions don’t reflect how I feel about my friends, near and far. And regardless of how it looks, I want to be more loving. I want to show up for them, even in the smallest ways.
The other day, Jonathan came back from the library with a note for me. One of the library staff had learned from my sweet husband that I wrote two novels a while back. So this amazing library woman ordered my second novel, The Wide Smiles of Girls, for the library’s collection. And then she read my book. And then she wrote me the nicest note to tell me what she thought of my book.
I almost cried, reading the note. You see, I have been writing new fiction (for children) and struggling to find an agent with whom my work connects. I’ve faced a good bit of rejection, which is expected but still not F-U-N. And so, this note was kind of like a hug from someone I have met once or twice. It encouraged me. It lifted me up. All because someone took the time to reach out via pen and paper.
About six months ago, I read Jen Hatmaker’s book For the Love. All of the essays are great: funny, poignant or both. One chapter is about Jen’s Supper Club that she is in with three other couples. The food and wine are fantastic. The conversation and support are fantastic.
When I read the chapter, I happened to be going through a lonely period. I craved more friends. So, when I read Jen Hatmaker’s words, I had two thoughts: “Why haven’t I been invited to Jen Hatmaker’s Supper Club in Texas?” and then: “I should start a Supper Club.”
And so, I did. In a fun turn of events, it turns out I know three other couples who also like food and wine and cooking. It has been a great highlight of my life to discover this. Do you know what love looks like? Showing up to your host’s house and finding out it’s a luau, complete with tiny umbrella drinks, leis and meatballs on toothpicks.
So, instead of feeling sorry for myself (“I’m too disorganized to write a note to my best friend! Waaaahhhhh…”.), I’ve learned that sometimes, I gotta get busy fixing the problem.
Maybe I can change this.
Maybe I can be a….good friend.
Okay, so I’m putting this out there so I will hold myself accountable. Kind of like a diet, but with stamps. If I say I’m going to be a better friend, then I need to do it. I need to come back here and tell you what I did. And how I did it, so if you’re struggling with this issue too, maybe I can help.
My first assignment to be a Good Friend: Make my people list. These are the folks I want to send a little love to, in various mail-approved ways.
I dug up my journal and jotted down a few people who came to mind:
My cousin’s son who graduated high school
The darling niece (see above)
My friend going to an African country to do mission work. What African country, you say? I don't know because I blew right by it getting to the next Facebook post.
A friend having surgery.
Now, I can’t show you my list because I used real names and there are some heavy concerns on there. But you’ve seen a notebook. It’s pretty low tech.
One main obstacle to me being a better friend, I think, is just simply remembering Who Is Doing What.
You know how it’s so easy to scroll your Facebook feed and say, “Oh no! She’s in the hospital with a concussion! That’s terrible.”
And how easy it is to do nothing? Nothing.
I do know how to show up.
I do know how to be a Good Friend.
Check back in with me (accountability!) and I’ll tell you what I did. I’m also interested in ways to show the love that are budget friendly. Few of us have unlimited reams of money to fix our lazy/distracted/unorganized friend tendencies. So, if you have some ideas, let me know in the comments. I hope to eventually make a list to share with whomever wants it.
Special note for women with very young children: You are in the "tunnel." This means you are surviving on little sleep, even less validation and a near-complete surrender to the diaper-clad tyrants who nurse on your boob. This blog post is not for you. Read it and tuck away the lessons you watch me learn, but please, oh please, you are not meant to write notes and assemble casseroles. Bless you, young mama. You can sit this one out.