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As my mother used to say, you’re lucky if you can count on half of one hand the true friends you have. And my mom was a pretty impressive example. Throughout the chaos of raising seven kids, the one thing she never let fall by the wayside were her girlfriends. When I was in seventh grade, my dad decided he no longer wanted to be married to our mom. Her friends showed up with food, cigarettes and a boatload of Fresca. They cleaned up, did the laundry, organized our days and over time helped our mom pick her heart up off the floor.
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We know deep down the value of the bonds we have with our friends. (Scientists have even documented it.) This is what women do: We support, buoy and connect in ways even we can’t explain; it’s been going on for centuries. But it seems that of late the term “friend” has moved in a different direction. We now have hundreds of them on FB and social media whom we like, love, post and voyeur in. But our actual friends are in a different league. No matter what happens to create the illusion of connection, nothing is ever going to replace the grounding, drop-and-roll, no-questions-asked, make-us-laugh-till-we-cry depth that is real friendship.
Yes, the culture is shifting, life is more crowded and the way we live our daily lives is changing, but we seem to be ignoring its impact on our friendships. We forget to call back; we bail, postpone, temporarily disappear, drop the ball and miss the boat…a lot. And, sadly, it’s OK. We don’t get upset or blame or fault. In fact, we give one another a pass, knowing the same thing will happen on our end at some point. We’re slowly losing the will to make the effort, find the time. But whatever our friendships look like, I’m thinking we can raise them just one step up in effort from where they are right now.
I’d love to give the five quick and easy tips for best friendship, but to be fair, nothing truly great in life is ever quick and easy. Especially when there isn’t a set protocol. Friendship is the Wild West of relationships: Anything goes, we steer ourselves, and when we mess up it’s only ourselves we have to answer to, which quite possibly makes it even more challenging.
Basic as it sounds, a few reminders of the life credos we learned growing up—stored somewhere inside us all—could go a long way toward remedying this. You really do get what you put in, and your word should always be your bond. Say what you mean and mean what you say; be your best self; try to be the friend you want to have. Kindness begets kindness. These ideas, placed in our minds as early as we can remember, can help nudge us back on the path.
There are a few other ways to strengthen the bonds. If you’re not typically a caller, call her. If you have no idea what the heck you’re doing next month, circle the second Tuesday and have that be the day you see one or a bunch of your friends. Wine, dine, book club, coffee or just powwow. But make sure you circle the Tuesday and do it. If you’re not a birthday person, become one by writing birthdays down. Anything that shows a friend their value is a win.
We are near-magicians in our daily lives—accomplishing whatever it is we set our minds to. With a little more thought, and a lot less sliding, we are meant to be the friends who can and will help pick a heart up off the floor.