Most of my true and forever friends are peonies, or hydrangeas, or the plucky purple iris that push up through the pachysandra in the long-ago-planted landscaping of my front yard. They’re hardy perennials and they appear to need little tending or encouragement to dazzle me with their brilliance, if only for a short while every year.
I am a lazy gardener. And maybe I’m too lazy of a friend.
This month, I’ve been thinking hard about my friendships. Why some have lasted (it always amazes me that there are people who have put up with me for decades, now!), where I need to put more effort, and which people have the potential to blossom into something deeper than a casual acquaintance.
When I was in middle school, I hung on the fringe of a few groups, but didn’t belong to the nucleus and didn’t get invited to all of the core friend things. In high school, I forged bonds with a group of girls in cross country, but between college and Des Moines, I’ve now lived away from them for three times as long as our high school experience. I’ve kept a few close college friends — mostly roommates who have seen and miraculously accepted me despite it all. Friends I’ve made here in my 20s are bountiful, but there are probably only a handful of people I’d call if I needed help, or whose back door I’d knock at unannounced. I know, I probably need to read Mindy Kaling’s book, right? We’d be besties, I’m sure.
Traits that make me a bad friend:
- I am mostly awkward on the phone. (And most of my dearest friends are long distance!)
- Gift-giving isn’t really my love language, and I forget that it’s others’.
- I don’t really ‘hang out’ in an unplanned, unscheduled, let’s-see-where-the-day-takes-us way. (I overschedule myself.)
- Even though I’m an extrovert, I value (cherish!) my alone time. (Any other ENFPs out there feel me on this?)
- I worry too much about asking people to do things because making plans is sometimes a logistical pain, or I’m not convinced they’ll have fun.
- My spouse is my best friend and I pretty much don’t have to worry about any of the above with him.
- I am pretty active on social media so feel like I totally know what’s going on in your life and we’ve had a long and meaningful conversation about it, but really I’ve just hit the “like” or “heart” button.
Well, my sweet perennials, I apologize. I’d like to be better.
I’m trying to apply some of the same concepts I’ve used to accomplish things in my professional and extracurricular life to my relationships. Does that sound ridiculous? I’m just talking about setting priorities and following-through and managing time in a way that makes plans possible.
Instead of saying “let’s grab lunch sometime” I’m working to immediately suggest a few dates. When I think about someone, I pick up the phone. (Mostly this occurs while I’m out walking the dog, which is sometimes the only peace and quiet I can find, or on my 15-minute drive to pick up Emmett. This is the perfect amount of time to touch base, before I get all weird and rambley.) I’m trying to invite people to a weeknight dinner, even if an unfancy crock-pot meal is all we can muster. I make time to attend my book club (so many ladies I like in one place!). I’m commenting in addition to “liking.” I’m showing up, in the flesh, because a 2-hour drive to Iowa City isn’t an impossibility. I’m actually putting a stamp and address on the card. Saying yes to more invitations.
I am still doing none of these things as often as I would like, or to the degree that my friends deserve. I want to show people close to me how much I value them, because that’s important work. It’s life’s work. What joy to put on the gardener’s gloves and spend time in the company of friends.