I guess it makes sense that I have relationships on the brain with all the sentimental Valentines messages swirling round, turning media and social media into a sea of crimson, tossing out power doses of love at the speed we should really be tossing Xanax into the mouths of people expressing way too much sh** (but I digress).
That said, it got me thinking about a subject that has long been recurring in my wildly active mind since the onset of the pandemic: relationships, but more specifically, friendships, though of course, the thoughts and yes, life takeaways, that have popped up in contemplation here certainly apply to all relationships, including those of the romantic variety (so feel free to tease them out wherever they best enhance your journey).
And coincidentally (or not so coincidentally, seeing that we’re all humans bound by our humanity and collective experiences, in this instance the pandemic!), many I’ve spoken to on the topic –including friends, business associates and others – have shared similar observations and feelings.
So, without further ado, voila the epiphanies on friendship that have descended upon me – and crystallized – during world pandemic:
WORDS ARE PRETTY, REALLY PRETTY, BUT ACTION IS WHERE IT’S AT: Clearly, I love words. Heck I effen adore them, I’m writing a bunch of them right now, I built a career around them! I even love to make up my own (geeky as that is) and call the activity “word-crafting” as if that’s a thing (Isn’t’ it?!)
But one of the biggest reminders I got during this incredibly challenging time that has upended our lives in ways heretofore unimaginable, is that words – no matter how powerful and brilliant – have their limitations, serious limitations, when it comes to the friend-ship.
You see, words are only relevant in this context when they’re attached to the mightiest of gestures: ACTION. Really, in my humble, that’s all that matters.
And during this destabilizing, dispiriting, and, let’s be honest, at times downright terrifying and paralyzing times, words, no matter how creative, interesting, gushy, weren’t going to cut it on their own.
What truly mattered and made the difference – replenished the soul and inspired you – all of us – to keep trekking and go the distance when obstacles struck were not the empty words of random infrequent texts from alleged friends who “love and miss you so much” backed by nothing more than vapor and strings of emojis but the real-life actions of those who truly gave a damn, who showed up in your life on a regular and consistent basis with no agenda other than to be there for you and lend support.
You know who I’m talking about: The friend who called you from Costco knowing how scared you – I – was of contracting the darned virus and insisted on dropping by a slew of items because they felt your fear and wanted to be there for you, even if it manifested in the form of a lifetime supply of Mary’s Crackers and bottles of their homemade tomato sauce; the friend that dropped everything at midnight to rush you and your precious pooch to the doggie emergency insisting it was nothing, as concerned for the safety and well-being of your – my – pet as if it were their own; the friend who spent hours on the phone brainstorming fresh professional adventures (like the one you’re reading) believing in you when you didn’t quite believe in your – my – self; the friend who sent you a spectacular bouquet of flowers and dream cake just because they love you and wanted you to have a pretty pick-me-up on a dark day in 2020 when it looked like Armageddon was inevitable; the friend who checked in almost daily to grind the latest gruesome numbers because they knew somehow talking data gave you – me – some sense of control over the uncontrollable …
You get the picture. Action is definitely where it’s at when it comes to the real deal people in our midst. Perhaps another small silver lining in our lives during the pandemic is it allowed us to see what and who truly mattered; the treasures in our lives motivated solely by love who were there for all the right reasons once the sparkle and perks of everyday life were stripped away …
Moving on to epiphany #2 …
CHEERLEADERS ONLY NEED APPLY: A couple of months ago I was video chatting with a dear friend in London (it still amazes me that modern technology allows us to do that with such ease and facility) and the topic of friendship came up.
With signature Brit wit and wisdom, she exclaimed “Jenn, I’m so over the faux friends (though truth be told she used a different term that more closely rhymes with runts), you know, the ones that zap your energy, make you second-guess yourself, put you down with careful double edged little dagger-comments ever so sweet on the surface but laced with laser focused venom intended to hit a sore spot and press a button. From now on, it’s cheerleaders only!”
Curious, and loving her punchy descriptive, I asked her to elaborate. What did that mean exactly? What did a cheerleader friend represent to her? Without missing a beat, she said, “the rare and beautiful friends (aka the non “rhymes-with-runts”) who legit wish you well, value your triumphs as their own, get down in the trenches with you when tough times hit, seek always to lift you up when you’re feeling low, make you feel invincible, and overall cheer you the eff on even if it’s to put the effen fork down and stop inhaling gummy bears like there’s going to be an embargo on them! Fork that!”
By George, I got it and loved it and jumped right on the cheerleader wagon! She was so right! When I really went raw and honest with myself and took a deeper look at certain “friends” in my orbit I realized that there were indeed a few, sad as it was to face up to, that fit her “frenemy” description to a tee, often jumping in with some of those painful zingers, leaving me feeling depleted at the end of a conversation, in lieu of revitalized, as only energy vampires of their lofty level of expertise can (by the way, a great tome on this front is Positive Energy by Dr. Judith Orloff, definitely worth a read).
And so, yet another epiphany emerged. When it came to the circle, I needed to watch the cheerleading quotient carefully, along with the propensity for action …
FINAL REFLECTIONS: In conclusion, I can safely say that I have not become an authority on friendship. Not by any stretch of the imagination lol! That would take a lifetime!! (and a degree or three in psychology and /or psychiatry!) But the time to reflect and experience people during this crazy unprecedented chapter has yielded certain insights including the two above that have, in turn, inspired a better, clearer understanding of those around me who don’t just talk the talk, but value and honor our friendship in a profound and meaningful way; the kind of humans you want to keep around long after the social seasons have passed …
So, there you have it, Life Lesson #2. I hope it sparked something in you and would love to hear your thoughts and musings on point. Please don’t hesitate to reach out and check out our companion articles here and materials on social media, @diaryofasocialgal.
Meantime, much love and yes, good Jennergy (my best word-craft to date lol!)