Tuesday, 30th July 2013
Friendship has been on my mind. Not a person in particular but the process, the concept, the institute of friendship. What is friendship? How do we make friends? Or keep friends? Or be friendly?
Often friends come through circumstance ~ school, work, church, our neighborhood. We see a new face in a familiar place and over time, we soften and open up. Of course, it doesn't always take time. If you're the outgoing type, friends come quickly. But I’m curious how it happens – the shift from stranger to bosom buddy. Is it based on an impression, wit, humor, shared opinions? Maybe. Friendship seems to happen in stitches of time. Dinner. A walk in the park. A party. These threads accumulate. With every conversation, the needle passes through the fabric.
Lately, I've discovered the world is giving me opportunities for new friends. Here’s what I've noticed. I'm awkward. I get nervous and self-conscious. I assume the worst. I hadn't realized making friends in this phase of my life would behave so closely to getting a rash. But there you have it.
I'm not sure what happened. I feel hyper aware of the stitching, of the co-creation or lack thereof, between me and other. It's as if I'm standing at the edge of a cliff in sandals, gripping the rocky pebbles below with all my might. And across from me is someone who is at the edge of their cliff. To my eye, they're well equipped, wearing the right shoes, sunblock, and a sensible hat. I’m the weirdo and they've been here before. I feel alone but I know I’m not. There’s a person just across the divide. But it’s not a divide. It’s fourteen inches. I can pretend to play it cool. Or I could jump. Real friendship seems to be in the space in between.
I wish I could say I jump every time, but I don't. I sometimes play it safe. I recycle my funny stories, offer up my manicured opinions, prove my personality. I know this is boring because I've caught a hit of a potential friend’s canned show, too. Yes, you've mastered the delivery and the look. Fantastic set-up. Really funny. Yup. Now what?
I find there’s an anxiety about making friends. After we recycle our ideas about who we think we are, we run out of material. It’s empty. No one jumped. We’re not free falling. I’m on my cliff and you’re on yours. Look at us being so rogue.
What happens when we don't use our reference points to define or defend? Who do we become without our history? When we befriend someone, are we willing to just meet them as they are, where they are? Or do we take them for a ride? Or go on their ride? Let me ask you—do you really think you can open if you’re gripping your side of the cliff?
I found myself thinking, Sheesh—this really shouldn't be that hard… but that’s just not true. It is hard. It takes work. It requires mindfulness. Friendship may be the single most challenging obstacle course we’ll ever participate in.
Why? Because friendship is sacred. It’s a contract with a shorter shelf life but with plenty of options to renew. If you disrespect the friendship, the bond wears down. In my experience, the friend has the lowest tolerance for being taken for granted. If it stops being fun to be together, we can actually walk away from the table. No hard feelings.
Friendship is collaborative and creative. There is natural give and take with three points of contact: me, you and space. Now this may seem unusual if we look at the typical ways we exchange: you, me, you, me. No space. But space is what directs the next move. It allows us to process the invisible art we're making with another person and reminds us that living can be fresh, shocking and unknowable.
What does friendship mean to you? What does it take to create that bond? How can we be better friends to our family, to our loved ones, to our neighbors? And what is the secret to maintaining it?
I would love to hear your thoughts, friend.
Denmo is the founder and CEO of Earthbody. She is a writer, artist, therapist, and coach. You can reach Denmo here.
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