In stories and movies, in our own lives too, we make a big deal of romance. And of course, romantic love IS a big deal in most of our lives. But romantic love is not the only kind, and -- let's face it -- it can be hit-and-miss for many of us a lot of the time. But while romance can ebb and flow, friendship is constant. Often cast as a secondary character in the rom-com, best friends are there for the "before" and the "after" and, when it works out, the "happily ever after" too.
"A friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still, gently allows you to grow." - Anonymous
But a friend is really so much more than a secondary character in our real-life stories. Very often we confide and trust our friends in a way it's difficult to trust a romantic partner. While we think we have to be the "best" version of ourselves in order to be lovable to a romantic partner, we know we can be the "real" version of ourselves in a friendship.
Of course, the very best romances combine both friendship and love, in that When Harry Met Sally vein. After those early love jitters have faded, it's friendship that holds a relationship together. So often, we overlook a person because they don't necessarily scream romance!, but over time prove themselves to be the most lasting and loving of relationships! As such, friendship is an important aspect of ALL relationships. But, I've really been thinking more about my platonic friends lately.
I think as we get older we really grow to appreciate the qualities of good friends as something truly special. Life takes all of us in different ways, serves up many demands and distractions. And yet there's something constant and unflinching about the very best friendships. While we worry about relationships weathering storms and change, we trust certain friends to be by our side no matter what.
And yet, how often do we pause to really appreciate our friendships? When I'm deeply in love, I send loving and thoughtful text messages, write cards, buy gifts and make photo albums of all of our adventures. I make a conscious effort to let the one I love know how loved he is, how he's in my thoughts throughout the day, even if we're apart. I'm not suggesting that we should treat our friends that way (that might be a bit much!) But, I DO feel like I want to do a better job letting my friends know how much I love and appreciate them. And what better time of year to do that than in these weeks approaching the holidays!
Last month, I received an actual love letter from a friend. In it, she had taken the time to express what she most appreciates about me, to reminisce about moments when she really remembers how I was there for her, when our friendship felt especially strong and something we both could lean on. Reading it moved me to tears -- I was proud to be seen as a good friend -- it's something we all want to be, and yet I'm sure we all feel we're not always doing the best job at it!
But it was also moving because her gesture was such a loving one, a profound and sweetly old-fashioned act to send me a hand-written letter. The things she wrote were private between us; moments we had shared, but never really discussed. It was a moving and beautiful tribute to our friendship and one that I instantly wanted to "pay forward" in the same spirit.
Of course, the number of friends who you feel that deep connection with are few. Most of us can count on one hand the friends who we most dearly trust and count as truly close. And it takes a lifetime to build those kinds of friendships. Friendships evolve too, and depending what's going on in your life, you may find yourself drawn to new people. It's part of the wonder of life that you never really know when you're going to make that connection... it can be as instant and magical as its romantic equivalent; love at first sight.
The best kinds of friends manage to be both uplifting and honest. They'll tell you the (sometimes difficult-to-hear) truth, but they're doing it because they're 100 per cent on your side and want you to be happy. Those friends are there when you need a "crisis download" and a cry. But, as well as all that, the best friendships are fun. You can be your silliest self. You can talk for hours about that must-have handbag and the latest diet trend -- AND you can split that entire sinful Loblaws vanilla cake between the two of you and diet after of course!
As Anais Nin said, "Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive."
Sometimes, it's about the friend who reveals a whole other world to you, who you have nothing in common with on paper; and yet somehow a bond forms and all those differences reveal lessons and alternatives and understanding.
Whoever your friends are, I think it's important to let them know precisely how much they mean to you, how deeply you appreciate who they are as a person and what they've meant to you. For the upcoming holidays, I'm committing to reaching out and doing exactly that... sending heartfelt cards and emails, spending time with my friends and expressing just how much they mean to me. We're always saying you shouldn't regret not saying things to romantic partners... why should the same not apply to our friendships? After all, I can't eat this entire Loblaws vanilla cake on my own!
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this blog mistakenly attributed the quote about friendship to William Shakespeare. The quote is an anonymous one.