We think that making friends is a childhood difficulty, something that kids struggle with when they enter elementary school. Something they struggle with as they continue to grow up surrounded by peers, people of the same age but not necessarily the same makeup and design, personality and passion.
The reality is, making friends continues to be a challenge in each season of life. We enter life transitions and suddenly our circles of peers change, often leaving old friendships feeling unfitting, awkward, stiff. You head off to college and suddenly all of your high school friendships waver. You are the first of your friends to get married and soon find your single girlfriends distancing themselves from you. You have your first baby, caught up in all the dizzying sleepless nights, feeding difficulties, and the steep learning curve of a newborn, and find that suddenly you just need to talk to another mom who “gets it.” Your friendships seem to curve around other women who are in the same season or can at least speak to it.
I’ve found that many friendships, maybe most friendships, seem to come and go, appropriate and fitting for a season before phasing out. Most seem to drift quietly into disuse due to busyness + change. A few end abruptly with bright red aching wounds in their wake. Who of us as women (because I’m quite sure I have no idea how this whole realm works for men) doesn’t ache for something lasting? Something that endures the changes? Something that grows, evolves, adapts? A friend who you can count on in a moment’s notice? A friend who’s seen you weather many storms and happy seasons, a friendship that has years of history? A friend that is safe.
Let’s face it: our husbands can be our best friends in many ways, but we still need our girlfriends. There’s just something different about that bond, something deeply healing to have camaraderie with some girls.
I’ve had some really wonderful girl friends over the years, but two will always stand out above the rest. We have shared 11 years together, seeing one another through all manner of life changes, from changing our majors in college, to marriage, moves across country and back, many job changes for our husbands, community changes, family changes, spiritual growth, and the addition of nine babies between the three of us. We have had seasons where we’ve lived close to one another and life has afforded us more time to be together. We’ve had seasons where we don’t talk for months due to the busyness of raising young families. But always, this commitment to one another, this love for one another undergirds. We try to gather at the very least once a year and have a “girl’s weekend.” My husband laughs because we typically don’t plan much during these weekends, apart from where we are gathering, which nursing babes need to tag along, and our menu. The agenda is talking, catching up, pouring out hearts. And sleeping, too, but we usually stay up way too late for that.
I read Melanie Shankle’s Nobody’s Cuter Than You and thought of my girls, Katie + Mary. Shankle shares about her friendships over the years, the friends that came + went. The way friendships worked at different seasons, the lessons learned. Her memoir on friendship culminates in her finding “Gulley,” her friend of twenty-five years, sharing their story and the way their friendship has become one of the greatest gifts and joys of her life. It is everything a good memoir should be: engrossing, real, relatable, humorous, truth-telling, enriching, inspiring. I rarely laugh out loud reading a book, but this one had me in literal tears a few times. I finished it and immediately wanted to share it with all my favorite people, especially Katie + Mary. I also wanted to read everything else she has written. It causes you to reflect on your own friendships and to return to that old childhood longing again, the one that we think we outgrew when we became “Adults Who Don’t Have Time And Are Too Grown Up To Maintain Relationships.”
The world of women + female friendships can be hard, scary, ugly, and painful. There’s a reason I think we look around and don’t see many older women who have flourishing and enduring female friends. Women can be cruel, harsh, jealous, and unforgiving. Women can cut us to the quick with deadly words coated in saccharine sweetness. Women can go after our husbands. Women can spread our trusted secrets and betray us. Our hearts can only take so much of a beating before we barricade them and swear off any intruders and pretend we’re just fine that way. Shankle’s book made me want to be brave and fight for this precious part of life, these girl friendships. To fight to have them, to fight to be a good friend, to fight to protect my friendships, to fight to value the ladies who share their lives with me and give time to me. And it helped me remember again how important a thing a good friend is as we journey through life. Life is hard. Dang hard. We can maybe be brave and tough and try to stick it out without needing a single soul, but I think should we choose such a path, our hearts may feel “safe” but we will be unspeakably lonely.
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Thanks to Tyndale House Publishers for a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review! All opinions expressed are my own.