I rarely get to see one of my best friends. This has nothing to do with distance; we live five minutes from each other. It has more to do with life. Her kids are older than mine so their activities are different. Our kids play sports but, of course, they are at conflicting times and on conflicting days. Work, family, relationships, and time for ourselves all interfere with our ability to connect with one another.
I want to be better about connecting, yet I know she will always be there even when I seem absent and she knows the same about me. I cherish the few texts we manage to exchange within the span of a month or two; I don’t complain that there aren’t more. Life is bonkers and neither one of us takes our silence personally. We get it. We still love each other even when we go quiet.
Thankfully I have other friends who this applies to as well. I need patience and understanding, not resentment and anger.
I used to have a friend who would post passive-aggressive comments on social media about feeling left out of gatherings. She was really good at “vaguebooking” — or maybe not so great because I knew exactly what she was bitching about. After seeing photos I posted with friends in common, she claimed she was never invited places. This friend was watching and taking notes. It didn’t seem to matter that she posted similar pictures of outings where I was not invited. She only seemed to care about herself and her status within a group that actually didn’t need any sort of membership. Another friend I used to have would keep score. She would constantly remind me that she was the one who called last, or she was the one who invited me to do something. She would complain to me when other friends didn’t reach out in a timeframe she felt was appropriate.
I barely have time for the amazing people in my life; I certainly don’t have time for people with standards I can never live up to or high maintenance relationships that require a lot of obligatory work. I am no longer friends with those women, but it wasn’t because I didn’t try. It seemed as though I could never do enough, and I got tired. I got quiet. Instead of taking it as a sign that maybe they could do something differently or even ask me to make changes, they let go. Not without huffing about it and throwing tantrums, but they decided to end a friendship because I wasn’t meeting their expectations. Without seeing what was wrong, they assumed I was in the wrong. The right thing to do was part ways.
Maybe I expected too much. Maybe I was a bad friend or not the kind of friend they needed. While it initially stung to be dismissed, I realized just how valuable it was to have friends who don’t take shit so personally.
I don’t always text back. I should say “I love you” more often. I don’t call when I mean to. I should see when the people I love can take a timeout to get coffee. These may seem like flaws, and if they are then the friends I keep in my inner circle have them too. We are human. I am far from perfect, but I have surrounded myself with people who not only trust my loyalty but are secure enough in themselves to know that if I not around or seem unavailable, it has more to do with me and nothing to do with them.
My friends intuitively know when to see if I am okay. They check in without judgment. They hold me with compassion instead of withholding it. My friends may miss me, but instead of letting spite get in the way of love, they know when it’s time to check in and not check out.
And for this I am so thankful. Good friends don’t keep score, but we do return the favor of sticking our noses into our friend’s business when it’s for their own good. When real friends haven’t heard from one another, we ask how we can help. We all know how busy and hectic life can be. Work, kids, aging parents, struggling marriages, depression, anxiety and all of the things that make it hard to function make it easy for us to shut down. Find people who get it. Find people who will send you a meme just to remind you that you are loved. Find the people who hear struggle in your silence, and hang onto the ones who love you anyway.
And if we put together a string of texts and gifs that double as a full conversation, then we feel caught up. We don’t mourn the way we used to communicate; we breathe a sigh of relief that after all this time, after all of life’s hiccups we are still communicating in vulnerable and important ways even if interrupted by bedtimes or as explained through emojis.
Thank you to the friends who hear me when I am silent. I hear you too. I may be quiet but my love for you is not.