One of the easiest things I ever learned to do was to appreciate my friends.
People who like you and love you and want to be there for you? Well, shit…sign me up!
And, as luck would have it, a lot of people are willing to be my friends.
I mean, sometimes I feel like I’ve won the lottery.
Now don’t get me wrong. Friendships are tricky. They really are. I’ve always maintained that friendships are like romantic relationships in many a way. They have their ups and downs, ebbs and flows, their romances and comfort zones, their break up and spats and jealousies. People even outgrow each other in friendship as they might in romance. Anyone who expects all of their meaningful relationships to exist continuously without a hitch is in for a rude awakening.
Intimacy takes work, and the closer you get the more there is to learn: both good and bad.
That being said, it seems like there ARE some silly little tricks to make the process easier...
Expectations, skills and talents to develop that will allow you to enjoy the wonderful people in your life that are just there to know you.
The first on this grocery list will not surprise you:
-Appreciate your friends. Really. I mean this is the broadest, most abstract and ethereal way. Don’t take them for granted. Yes, friends are like family. Like the family you wish you could have, like a family built to your specifications. This doesn’t mean you should treat them like the sister you never call back. Because, see, friends don’t have to answer to mom, and nobody told them for the first 20 years of their life they would be grounded if they didn’t love you. So learn some appreciation skills. Tell them you care. Acknowledge their sacrifices. It’ll make your life richer and theirs.
-Expect your friends to be as deeply imperfect as you are. Really. Forgiveness is not always the easiest thing to learn but it will serve you well. Your friends are not creations of your own mind, apt to subscribe to every hope and expectation. They are people. People who love you. So cut them some slack. Everyone fucks up from time to time. Expect the same from them. It’ll help you relax when you acknowledge that you are allowed to be imperfect around some of the people some of time time.
-Expect your friends to be as great as you. Really. Just because you’ve learned forgiveness doesn’t mean you have to be friends with every person you meet or keep every person you befriend. Implicit within respect is choosing to be around people you can trust and love, people who you can understand and learn from, who you consider to be an equal. If you find that you don’t like or don’t respect your friends, if you look down on them or are constantly confused or offended. Get out. Really. No one needs that kind of charity and you aren’t doing anyone any favors. Especially yourself.
-Don’t. Test. Your. Friends.
Really, don’t do it. Why would you do this? Life supplies enough pop quizzes without you setting up a constant recertification program. You’ll learn who your real friends are during hard times. If you have them. If not, well, lucky you, here…have a bon bon and don’t tempt fate. But seriously, constantly raising the bar or finding ways to fish out friend’s weaknesses can only end badly. Because you’ll find them. And they’ll find yours in this petty petty process and the blatant lack of respect contained therein. I mean, this isn’t graduate school. This isn’t a job. Your friends are volunteering time for you. Don’t make it so hard for them to be there that they’ll wish they weren’t, because darling, they aren’t under contract.
-Respect your friends time, space and stuff. I mean it. Be on time. Call them back. Return their money and stuff. Don’t be petty, but be honest. And be honest when you need the same. I mean, it’s a little creepy to chase your friend down for the coffee they bought you in 1989, or to ride their ass because they were 10 minutes late once or twice. But on the other hand, if you lent them something you care about and you want it back, say something. Directly. Nicely. Hey, are you done with my guitar? Can I have it back? In the same vein, if you are beginning to seriously resent someone because they never call you back or are never on time, SAY SOMETHING. Yes, they should know, but they clearly don’t. Or they don’t care. But find out which one it is before it gets away with you. Which leads me to:
-Communicate. Respectfully. Really. Something on your mind? Only one way they are going to know, right? Friends are not psychic. Well, mine certainly aren’t. And while some things should go without saying, sometimes they still need to be said. The good and the bad. If you respect someone you should respect their intelligence enough to try talking to them about whats going on. But in the same vein, you have to respect space. Not everyone communicates the same, and not everyone is ready to talk about whats on your mind when you approach them. People are different. Really. This is one of the reasons they are interesting.
-Expect things to be unfair sometimes. Uneven. Really. Your friend just got robbed and is going through a divorce and lost his job? He might need you. He might not be the best person to bitch about your flat tire with. Get it? Sometimes friends can be needy. That doesn’t mean you have to make it your life’s quest to be there for them. But expect that sometimes you’ll pull a deficit in the time, attention, empathy or even money department. And have a little faith in the cyclical nature of things. Even if that very same friend doesn’t get a chance to do the same for you, maybe someone else will when your house is truck by lightening and your dog is in the shop. Err. I mean. You get it. Oh, and if you find yourself in this position, when it’s over, feel free to let it go. Really, nobody likes to feel like they owe you all the time.
-Finally: respect the things your friends care about, even if they don’t matter to you. Once again, people are different, and you don’t have to like every song, holiday, ritual, or subject your friends do. But if you know their birthday is important to them, just respect it and wish them a happy birthday. If you know they love love love that show don’t hold it against them or constantly deride it. Sure, playful ribbing can be nice. You don’t have to pretend to love the young and restless but don’t be a dick about the fact that they do. If they hold beliefs or thoughts or preferences that don’t automatically preclude you from engaging in friendship with them then find a way to respect the way shape and manner in which they value what they value. Not everything is about you.
And yeah, by the way…where do I get off, thinking I know so much?
Right. Part of this was a long winded attempt to find out what you think.
I mean, sure, maybe you are sitting there reading this because you have no friends. And wow. That sucks. Really. Unless it’s your fault. The I have nothing nice to say.
But odds are this isn’t the case and you’ve got people you care about in your life.
So what do you think. What are the do’s and don’t’s that make these silly human friendships fly? What belong in the great big handbook of platonic love?