This post is another Hallmark sponsored post. I am being paid by Hallmark to write it, but all writing, ideas and opinions are mine. Thankfully, Hallmark and I share the same idea–that little moments are to be celebrated and that good people, good efforts and good intentions deserve a spotlight. See Hallmark Life is a Special Occasion for more details, like them on Facebook, and/or sign up for their e-mail messages HERE.
In my teens, I didn’t have a lot of friends. I was homeschooled, a bit sheltered and the closest I came to sleepovers were the ones I read about in Seventeen magazine where pictures of pretty girls with pretty teeth, painting each others’ nails, piqued my interest of a more social world. I met a couple girls in college with whom I really clicked, but I lived with my grandparents off campus from a small Christian school that breathed dorm life, prayer partners and residence halls that served as sorority letters. If you lived in Muffit Hall, you were practically an Alpha Delta Pi. I lived in the back left bedroom off my grandpa and grandma’s hallway—where doilies adorned my dresser tops and the echo of laughter and teenage conversation was replaced with the static of my grandpa’s nightly ham radio broadcasts.
And for the record, if I could go back, I wouldn’t change a thing.
It’s not that I yearned for friends. I had them; they just weren’t my age. I worked in the Cardiology department of a hospital all through college and, along with a useful vocabulary of medical terms (“Print off his echo report, see if he had a thalium stress and send those cath films over to Royal Oak, Stat!”), I also acquired a nice handful of middle-aged women who served as both second mothers and good friends. I cried on their shoulders, pocketed their advice after bad dates and listened to them talk about their own kids who were thriving in college—lining up spring break trips and dog-earring cute bridesmaid dresses for the next of their friends to be married. Me? I was finishing term papers for Old Testament Studies, skipping required chapel visits and spending my weekends driving my busted-up station wagon (The Staysh) over to my sister’s house to live vicariously through her family. My friend Roberta (yes, who was over 50) used to tease me that if I didn’t get out there and meet some girls my age, someday when I got married I’d have an aisle full of bridesmaids all fifty and older—in mauve boleros and calf-length skirts.
And then I moved to Florida—the state that, I was convinced, had a population ratio of 200 old people for every young person. I was sure my someday wedding had expanded from fifty-year-old, bolero-wearing bridesmaids to an aisle full of walkers and nude orthopedic shoes with black knee socks.
But no. I met friends. Lots of them. Friends that taught me how to be a friend. Friends I would need a few years down the road when I couldn’t cope on my own. Friends that numbed my cravings for home and family—because they became home and family.
I’ve read enough parenting tips on raising girls to know it’s not recommended that you encourage talk of “best” friends because “best” just gets you into trouble and, like playing ball in the house never ends up good, publicly claiming someone as your “best friend” just sends another girl crying and crossing you off her birthday party list. But listen, this chick is my best friend.
And so are a lot of other girls I love. But I’m going to throw the term “best” around for a bit because it’s a well-earned adjective for my friend Heidi whose warm eyes and friendly smile should appear under “friend” in Wikipedia. So should her tomato mozzarella Paninis and the way she genuinely kisses your kids and treats them like her own.
Or the tone of her voice when she she’s sitting next to you, holding you, hugging you, telling you it’s going to be okay when your world has just been rocked. Or the loyalty and dedication in her eyes when you tell her certainly she’s tired and needs to go home, and she firmly replies…
I’m not leaving you. I promise I’m not leaving.
I want to be this friend. And though I sometimes fall short and kick myself for going too long before e-mailing someone back or sending a birthday card or going out of my way to let someone know what they mean to me, I am learning. I am learning how to be a good friend because my friends show me how.
And so, I’ve compiled a few admirable characteristics from the friends I know. Fool-proof tips of friendship that have changed me, supported me, made me feel loved and taught me how to be a friend—a really good one.
The Friend I Want to Be
You know that feeling when a friend calls you and she’s crying and needs you, and you say just the right thing to make it better? I love that. I always feel honored when a friend chooses me to share vulnerabilities. There is a level of trust and loyalty that strengthens a friendship. But it goes both ways. Being vulnerable isn’t always easy, but I’ve learned that when I genuinely share my heart—the good, the bad, the insecurities, the weaknesses, the moments of despair—it is welcomed by my friends. Women seek to relate to each other. We feel safe and free and challenged to be real when we realize others share moments like ours. The most beautiful moments I’ve shared with friends are always the raw and vulnerable ones. Alright, second beer on the dance floor with our hands in the air to Don’t Stop Believin’ is pretty beautiful too.
Tell them you love them.
Don’t wait for the perfect moment, the long phone call, the big thing that happens that draws the “I love yous” from near and far. Be random, be honest, be a good friend and blurt out nice things when you think of them. Text them after your friends leave your house—things like “Dude, you always amaze me with how well you listen” or “I watched you today with your son and I just wanted to let you know I think you are an incredible mama.” Or simply “I love you—just thought you should know.” It means the world to anyone who hears it.
Remember little details.
I’m always shocked when someone remembers something I said in passing. Like that I love sunflowers or Lebanese food or plain M&Ms. And months go by and then I have a bad day and someone shows up with sunflowers and Lebanese food and a bag of M&Ms. Because good friends stash away those details until they’re needed. And knowing someone’s favorite candy bar? It’s Friend Ammo. This, you should know. And how do you know these things? Well that’s the next tip.
I’m not the best listener, I’ll be honest. And it’s hard today with cell phones and texting and thinking about that really cool thing I’m gonna say back when you finish saying what you’re saying. But good friends listen. They don’t just talk about their own stories. They ask questions about their friends’ lives and genuinely listen for their response. I’m getting better, and knowing how good it feels when someone is obviously listening to me and genuinely interested makes me want to do it even more.
It’s a given that you show up and support a friend during hard times. But when things are going great—when she nailed that big project, landed her favorite job, got recognized for something she felt passionate about—it’s still important to be there, cheering on your friend and letting her know you share her happiness.
Age Ain’t Nothin’ but a Numbah.
How silly I was to think I didn’t have many friends back in the day—just because the ones I had weren’t my age. Friendships don’t need EHarmony questionnaires pairing you with people who share your interests and fall in your age box. Some of my best friends are twice my age, and their wisdom and experience dissolves the many years between us. And let me tell you, Nana Kate can shake her groove thing just as good as the rest of us.
I have friends that are very different from me—some with no kids, some with grandkids, some who do laundry every Tuesday and never have piles of clothes perched on their couch cushions.
There are more tips, more admirable qualities that take the spotlight when my friends step onto the stage and remind me with their performance to love like I’ve been loved. I fall short at times and have to challenge myself to love better, to gossip less, to at least post a “Happy Birthday” to a Facebook wall or send a text of “I know we haven’t talked but I’m thinking about you.” To make more efforts to hug their kids, praise their accomplishments, or pick up their favorite candy bar. But there’s time to improve. And many years before I rock out my bolero and calf-length skirt. I think it will have glitter. Yes, I’m pretty sure of that.
Tonight, I am grateful for my friends and what they’ve taught me.
What do you love most about your friends? Is there something a friend did for you that you’ll never forget–something that taught you how to be a better friend? I’d love to hear the qualities you most admire in your friends, and Hallmark would too. If you’d like, please share a story or endearing friend characteristic in the comments.