I remember going to a workshop about grief a few years back. At one point, the speaker talked about various types of support grieving folks need after the typical mourning rituals have receded and life continues on. He asked the workshop participants to pull out a sheet of paper and list their friends. Then he asked us to go back and put a notation beside each name—
- H was for “heart”…for the friend(s) who could come alongside you and be with you in all your emotional states without being scared off.
- P was for “practical”…for the friend(s) who would love to help you out with day-to-day things like errands, picking up kids, bringing a meal, or mowing the lawn.
- I was for “instrumental”…for the friend(s) who could advise you on financial or legal matters, handling paperwork, or dealing with contractors for repairs.
- F was for “fun”…for those friend(s) who could help you take your mind off current realities and orchestrate a fun break like a movie, hike or an afternoon shopping.
This exercise made me realize that most of us can’t be all things to everyone. I certainly can’t! There is no perfect all-in-one-friend. And that’s OK. It’s too much pressure to have to live up to. Perhaps the idea of having one best friend (BFF) is more of a myth than a reality. Perhaps, the better part of wisdom is to not be so hard on ourselves and our friends, but fully appreciate what we can and do offer each other in the course of our friendships.
This reminds me of a conversation I had with a girlfriend some 25 years ago. We had moved to a small community for a period of two years for my husband to get an advanced degree. We became fast friends with folks in the married & family housing section because we were all in the same boat. Toward the end of our stint there, I took one of my friends out for coffee. When I asked for her forwarding address, she said, “Page, don’t get me wrong. I’ve loved our relationship, but I’m just not a good long-distance friend. And I don’t want you to be disappointed when I don’t respond to your emails or letters. I’m just not that person.” Her self-awareness and honesty was a relief.
In this themed month about relationships, take a moment to consider your friendships. If you find that you are confused, hurt, or disappointed because your friend is not playing all the roles you want them to, take a step back and consider what they do offer. Cherish that. Then move on to develop additional relationships and discover what you can offer best in the process.