The phone rang, breaking the silence in the room. Cora looked up from her book to check the phone and to her pleasure saw that it was her closest and dearest friend Amia. Cora would never send those calls to voicemail. They speak every week to catch up with the good, the bad, and the ugly stuff that life chooses to deal them. After about an hour or so, the ladies covered Amia's new boyfriend and Cora's newfound choice to stay single. Amia's frustration with her boss and Cora's recent promotion. They gossiped about family, shared some recipes, and discussed Cora's weird dream from the night before. Amia was great at interpreting dreams. "Amia," Cora begins but hesitates a bit. Amia knows better than to interrupt and gives Cora time to complete her thought. "Thanks for listening. You know… you're my soul sister… my person.'' "Duh, of course, I wouldn't expect any less. Plus, we know way too much about one another. We're bound to each other for all eternity," Amia lovingly jokes. "Seriously, I do love you." "I love you too. More than yesterday and even more tomorrow." Cora hangs up after wishing Amia a lovely evening and making plans to meet up on the weekend. She returns to her book with a positive and calming sense of being.
Cora's phone notifications sounded, alerting her to a text message. She glanced; it was her neighbor Dakota. They met two years ago when Cora bought the house, and both were walking their dogs one morning. Obi and Winnie the Cockapoo hit it off, and so did the ladies. They shared a love for books, and Cora was invited to join the neighborhood book club. The text message read, "Hello my friend. I hope all is well. Checking in to make sure I'll be seeing you this Thursday for this month's book review. I'm looking forward to discussing all the juicy details. I always enjoy hearing what you have to say. Don't tell the other ladies, though. They may get jealous. LOL. I'm assigned desserts this round and just making sure with you and everyone else that Tiramisu is to your liking. Let me know, and TTYL." Cora smiled and immediately responded, "Hello, right back at you, my friend! I'm on the last chapter of the book, and I'm in dire need of getting all my thoughts out on these characters. You know me so well. I'm just glad that you're willing to listen to me ramble. I think I told you once that my favorite dessert is Tiramisu, so with that said, you're like the perfect boyfriend. And no worries, the ladies will never know. See you on Thursday!" Cora returns to the last chapter of the assigned book. Smiling, she thinks about how nice it is to have a friend in the neighborhood and how grateful she is to have met Dakota. She thanks Obi for that meeting.
Here are two scenarios that many of us would hope to experience within our own realm of friendships. A close, trusted friend that we confide all our innermost feelings with, and a friend we share a love for something in particular with. Sometimes we have ONE individual that encompasses both types of friendships, or we have various individuals to fit that bill.
Interestingly, I was challenged to dig deep into what I thought was a "friend", and what I initially thought would be a simple task turned out to be a difficult personal examination on the topic that took me a few weeks to put into words. Overall, in my research, I have discovered that the term "friend" is relative to the person or persons that encompass the relationship. We all fill that space or need that space filled somewhat differently from one another, hence leaving the definition of "friend" open for personal interpretation.
In the course of this self examination, I have read many articles and have conversed with a few people regarding what THEIR own definition of a friend may be. And what I found was that most individuals express similar overall sentiments in the form of a to-do expectation list. Some of the most quoted are;
A friend is someone that has your back.
A friend is with you through the good and the bad.
A friend is someone that keeps your secrets.
A friend is someone that celebrates your accomplishments.
A friend makes time to see you and speak to you regularly.
A friend is someone with whom you share common interests with.
A friend is someone that accepts you for who you are.
A friend is honest, loyal, non-judgmental, provides encouragement, and is supportive.
These are all beautiful, feel-good, positive descriptives. I can't deny that one bit. While I agree with each of these, my question to you is; Are ALL types of friends expected to keep to each one of these expectations? Here exists what I believe to be the plight for many; what IS a friend instead of what do I WANT in a friend!
When I looked up the actual definition of "friend" in the dictionary, it stated the following … "A person attached to another by a feeling of affection or personal regard." "One attached to another by affection or esteem." (Dictionary.com and Merriam-Webster dictionary, respectively). That's it! No pomp and circumstance attached. No melt your heart emotion laced in. No long list of qualifications. No ride or die!
Going back a few lines then…. What TYPE of friend or friends do you want? Can we, or should we place all these expectations on ONE individual? Can we personally be all these things to all the people we consider ourselves to be a friend to? I'm not discounting the possibility that you have a friend that can claim all these things at all times, and that's what makes them so great.
But in that case, would it be fair then to merely call them a friend? Would they not be your Best Friend, or Closest Friend, your Dearest Friend, your Soul Friend, or Sister/Brother Friend? Yes, I propose we start labeling our types of friendships for two reasons.
One)… This way, when we introduce our friend to others, everyone understands the level of connection you have to this person.
Please don't be quick to judge this concept as weird or unnecessary. Case in point….my husband can check off each bullet point above, but I don't call him my friend. I introduce him as my husband. The same can go with your close-knit sister, your life partner, your soul mate; you wouldn't introduce them as your friend. We introduce some people in our lives with a label because we desire others to understand the depth of our connection to one another. It's a proclamation of our relationship, which is a beautiful thing!
Two) …. So our psyche can match our emotional connection to people on a reasonable level.
By understanding the label a particular friend holds, when this individual does not meet one or various bullet points above, we are not disappointed or feel rejected. In this way, we train and develop our emotions to understand the relationship and the expectations that go with it. I don't expect my neighbor friend or my book club friends to reach out all the time, listen to me gripe about my issues, keep up with all my accomplishments, and celebrate them. They still fall under the category of a friend because we have personal regard for one another, enjoy each other's company, and have a level of affection. But there is a limitation, unless of course the individuals build on the relationship to rise to another level. There is beauty in these types of casual friends, since they allow us balance, and diversity.
With that said, some feel they fall somewhere in between these two spectrums. "Okay, I may not be her best friend, her soul friend, but we are pretty close. Then what?" The hard truth is that both individuals may perceive the relationship differently, and this may cause frustration and burden onto the friendship. And I find that when this happens, both parties tend to suffer silently. What can be done? We dedicate time to discuss relationship issues with our partners, even with our coworkers, and a friendship should be no different. If you feel your friend is expecting too much from you, talk to them. If you think a friend is ignoring you, speak to them. An open and sincere conversation will allow both parties to understand each other, understand the relationship, and they'll be able to take it from there. Each may agree on what they can bring to the table to benefit or comfort both, or each may agree to go their own way. Either decision, though, is a positive one because it is based on each person's truth.
I am genuinely grateful (although exhausted) that I was challenged to research my feelings on this topic, and in turn, I challenge you to do the same. Let us all step out of what society expects from our relationships, and let's determine individually after analyzing our own needs and the needs of the other person. Only then can we come together in honesty and truth of oneself, and as friends.
Your Friend -