I mean real friends. Good friends. Friends I can count on through good times and bad.
Friends who would take my call at midnight. Friends who would stay out all night, dancing, eating, talking. Friends who would celebrate my children’s milestones. Friends I can travel with.
Only a few. And if I’m being honest, I’m thinking maybe 2 or 3.
To be fair, I know a lot of people, and many of them I might call my friends.
But I also know the limitations of those relationships.
Some are friend-like, having worked together for a number of years, and creating the illusion of a relationship beyond the work.
But when the work comes to an end, so does the illusion of friendship.
We like to think we interweave our lives like a basket that keeps out the water. In the end, though, a friendship is something we wish for, hope for, think we see, think we have, but ultimately there I am standing by myself and you are on the other side of the path and we can merely wave as we pass.
Sometimes the definition of friend expands when a life challenge arises. The death of a friend’s mother. The rockiest part of a long marriage.
And you find yourself steering the car to their house to sit with them, to hold them in a longer-than-usual embrace, to walk with them in the late fall warmth, fallen leaves crunching under your feet.
And the next day you text them to see how they’re doing. The answer is that they’re not alright and you are so glad to be there for them. You want to do anything, anything at all, to take away their pain.
That’s a heart connection and a friendship that’s meant to last.
We get caught up in the petty little details of she didn’t call or he always demands I come to his house or our plans are always at my urging. So what? Does it really matter?
There’s a saying that we have friends for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. I have found this to be eternally true.
Lifelong friendships just aren’t that common. Which is why we hold on to them so tightly.
In the early morning on a drive headed east to home and work, I talked on the phone, hands-free, my eyes trained on the miles of highway unfolding in front of me, the familiar voice in my car that of a longtime friend. Someone I don’t see often but whose voice reassures me that all is right in the world and I am loved.
A friend is someone we choose for ourselves as a gift. It is a person we make room for in our lives.
We are born into families, and we gather communities around us as we inhabit spaces and cities. But our friends are the gems plucked from beneath the glass counter, our fingers pointing, “That one, that’s the one I want.”
Albert Camus put it well when he said, “Don’t walk behind me, I may not lead. Don’t walk in front of me, I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.”
If, at the end of our lives, we look back and see the smiling faces of those we have chosen to love and pull close, we have lived well indeed.