Monday, December 2, 2013

It's Local* Friendship Day!

For a long, long time I have been feeling sorry for myself.  It started when my best friend moved away 5 years ago.  It got worse when my next closest friend moved away a year and a half ago.  I basically had a 12 month pity party, where I was the only party goer.

I was sad that I wasn't the first person people thought of when they wanted to go to lunch.

I was disappointed when I wasn't invited to go to things.

I was upset when people failed to call or even text me.

Here I was, surrounded by many, many people who would do anything I asked if I needed help, yet I was lonely.

And then I realized something.  I was probably in the shower, as that is where most great epiphanies happen.

When was the last time I called anyone to invite her to lunch??

When was the last time I invited anyone to anything?

When was the last time I called anyone just to see how she was doing?

I couldn't remember.

Honestly, I was expecting people to reach out and be my friend, but what was I doing to show them I appreciated them or cared two wits about them??

Things needed to change.

The first thing I decided to do was actually mail the cards I always thought to mail but never actually mailed.

When it was announced at church that an acquaintance's relative passed away, I was going to send a sympathy card.

When I saw something that reminded me of a person, I was going to either buy it and send it, or send a note telling her I was thinking about her.

I was going to call my friends who had moved away.

I did it.  I started doing these things, and people noticed.  Months after I sent a sympathy card to a woman, I ran into her at a church function.  The first thing she did was thank me for the card.  She was genuinely touched to be remembered like that.

And then my goal to be a good friend was tested.  Repeatedly.

One of my book club friends suffered a terrible loss when her baby was stillborn. 

Another friend unexpectedly lost his father.

Another friend's mother had some serious medical and mental problems, and as an only child felt overwhelmed and alone, along with the emotions a person in this type of situation normally felt.

Another friend's husband was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer.

While my family was perfectly healthy and fine, my friends were going through some life-changing, scary, devastating days.  What was I going to do?

I ended up having to do only one thing.

Through all of these months of heartbreak, I learned that in order to be a good friend, I simply needed to be there.

I needed to be willing to go through the suffering with them.  When they needed to talk, I had to sit with my mouth shut and listen.  When they cried, I needed to hold their hands and keep my mouth shut.  When they vented, I needed to be on the other end of the phone but keep my mouth shut.

I just needed to be there to let them talk, cry, or vent their anger.  I needed to show up.

And then, when the original, most awful part of the suffering was over, I could act, since acting is my natural way of behaving.

I sent texts frequently, just to tell them I was praying.

I cooked to help feed the flood of relatives coming in for funerals.

I began calling my friends' mom and taking her out to lunch to give my friend a chance to relax.

I went to funerals and funeral meals, helping to keep in-laws comfortable and children occupied.

I put together lots of freezer meals for days when chemo treatments were just too much for both of them.

I wrote to them, telling them how important they all were to me.

And they responded.  Every one let me know how much they appreciated the things I had done.  Three of the four even said they had to wait to respond, because they were crying and couldn't put two words together.

I learned a lot about being a friend this year.

When someone is suffering, so often we are afraid of doing or saying the wrong thing, and in our fear we do nothing.  I learned that doing nothing is the worst thing we can do.  We need to be there and let our friends know we care.

And this doesn't just apply to tragedy.  It applies to every friendship we have. 

People simply want to feel loved.  We want to know people think fondly of us. 

In order to be a good friend, we need to let our friends know just how special they are.

Fortunately, I have some people in my life who are pros at showing kindness, thoughtfulness, and love.  By watching them, I am learning even better ways to be a friend.

You have all heard me talk about Lizzi.  She is that lovely English blogger who started the 10 Things of Thankful blog hop.  I have never met her in person, but time and time again, she has shown me how to be better at building friendships.  She encourages those who need encouraging.  She applauds those who deserve applause.  She plainly lets people know how much she appreciates them.  She helps friends who need help.  She goes out of her way to do things in honor of her friends.  And she sends presents to people just to let them know she is thinking of them.

Because of her example, I have been much better at letting my friends know just how special they are to me.

Another person who is a great example for me is Kris.  She is so very good at paying attention to details.  When I talk to her, I know I have her full attention, and she is taking note of all I say.  And she does this with everyone she meets.  She actually knows the names of all kids and parents of everyone who has ever played any sport with her boys!  She is very good at remembering these details, and using them at a later date. 

To give you an idea, let me just tell you about the birthday/Christmas presents she got for me.  First, she took me out for dessert to a place I had never been, and bought me not only a bowl of soup for my dinner, but a fantastic, gigantic piece of chocolate cake, with a dollop of ice cream on the side. 
And then, she pulled out some gifts.  The first was my birthday gift.  A lovely, sparkly barrette in the shape of a peacock, because she thinks we should go into the peafowl business next.  After that, she got all excited and told me she couldn't wait to give me my Christmas present and was going to give it to me immediately.

 This is the bag it came in,




and I have to agree.  It certainly was a fabulous gift.  One she clearly had to put thought and planning into.

Back in August, I wrote a post about COW getting rid of a bat we found in the cushion of our family room chair.  COW is horribly afraid of bats, and to end the story I wrote,

Come to the Coop.  Conquer your fears.
There's a T-shirt in there somewhere.
 
 
She remembered that post, and gave me this:
 
 
It really isn't the color of an old, dingy, yellowed shirt.  I just took it at night, so it looks like it.
 
How awesome is that?!?! 
 
Because of Kris, I have been learning how to pay closer attention to details.  How to take note of those little things which would show a person how special she is to me. 
  
I am grateful for the example both of these wonderful women are giving me.
 
And while we are talking about being a good friend, I must add this.
 
It is the big release date for the book I'm in!!!!
 
The Herstories Project:  Women Explore the Joy, Pain, and Power of Female Friendship is on sale now!!!
 

In this book, 50 women writers paint real pictures of friendship; in addition to paying homage to the beauty and power of their relationships, they share the gritty details of bitter friendship breakups and uncomfortable life transitions. This anthology will enable readers to find their own stories in the words of others, cause them to reflect on their own unique friendship history, and perhaps even inspire them to rekindle connections with women who have shaped them. The authors of this book share their stories of friendship loss, enduring bonds from childhood, navigating the transition to motherhood, and renegotiating the role of friendship in their adult lives. The diverse essays in this collection will evoke tears, laughter, and a deep recognition and appreciation for the friends with whom women everywhere share their lives.
 
Starting on page 175, I talk about my very best friend ever, Amy. 

If you are so inclined, you can purchase the book by clicking on that little gadget thing in my sidebar.  It's right under my kids' photos and looks like this:
 
 
 



It comes in both paperback and Kindle versions. 

It's all rather exciting.

It's a whole book of stories which will surely give me plenty of ideas on how to be a better friend.  (I just got my copy on Saturday, so I'm not done reading it yet.)

So, now that I've gone on and on, in honor of Local* Friendship Day, tell me about a person who has been a good friend to you.  And tell me what you do to be a good friend to others. 

I can use all the help I can get.

*By "Local" I mean only on this blog.  I don't think anyone else calls this Friendship Day.

Have a lovely day!

41 comments:

  1. I think everyone should start calling this friendship day, and take a page out of your book (no, not your ACTUAL book, that should stay together so it can be read) and focus on being better friends. You are so right that just BEING there and taking the time to remember the little things is huge to the person who is on the receiving end of your care.

    Congratulations on your real book. That is so very awesome!!

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    1. National Friendship Day does have a ring to it. :)
      It's a shame it took me this long to figure out the whole "being there" thing.

      Thank you!

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  2. Yes, you found the secret to friendship. All we have to do is give of ourselves and you've nailed friendship. What a great read.

    Have a fabulous day. ☺

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    1. Glad you liked it. I don't know why it has to be a secret. Why can't we all be born knowing how to be a good friend?

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  3. I love this post as I learned so much about true friendship earlier this year when my Dad was sick and passed away. Many congrats on the book!!!!

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    1. When you were going through those difficult days with your dad, I was wondering what support you were receiving. I hope you learned that you had masses of true friends.
      Thank you!

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  4. HOW AWESOME ARE YOU!!!!! Congrats on being in a book! *off to download*

    I loved this post and it really made me think about what I do to be a good friend. To be honest, sadly I have let things slide over the years for whatever reason(s). Thank you for the message and I am pumped to do better! :D

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    1. Not very. Maybe just a little bit. :) Thank you! Oh, I forgot to mention. I think the Kindle version is free for three days!

      You aren't the only one. Many of us just get so darn busy, we forget to do these things. Get on it and be a good friend!

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  5. What a great post! Many people pretend to be friends with you during tragedy, but your true friends come forth.. IT takes allot to do what you did!

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    1. Thank you! It wasn't easy, I will admit to do some of the things I did. I just kept reminding myself how hard it was for my friends. I needed to try to do something to make their burdens a wee bit easier.

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  6. Thank you for your kind words, sweet friend...you are certainly a fabulous friend yourself and I am thankful for you. You are a treasure and a delight and do a pretty good job of remembering things yourself. :)

    Congrats again on the book! :)

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    1. You are welcome. Everything I said was completely true. Thank you. And we both know you put in the part about remembering things to make me feel better. :)

      Thank you!

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  7. Okay, so like the ENTIRE WAY THROUGH I was thinking "Ohmigosh, Christine's such a good friend to people and such an inspiration, and I love how she's figured out to just DO the things that need doing, instead of just thinking them. And I should totally learn that, and I'm glad I have such a wonderful example in her..."

    And then you said those most utterly, wonderful things...and completely floored me :D

    Wow! I just....

    I can't even...

    *speechless*

    Just SO glad to know you and call you my friend, dear :) <3

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    1. Aw, you're sweet. It's all true, Dear. You are good to everyone fortunate enough to call you friend.

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  8. Thanks so much for posting the lesson you learned and the wisdom you've gained. I really needed to read this! :) You sound like a wonderful friend!

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    1. You are welcome. Thank you for stopping by to read it, and most especially to comment! :)

      I have my moments. I've gotten better, only after I wasn't a very good friend. There's always room for improvement.

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  9. How wonderfully eloquent and touching. I have so much in my head I don't know where to start. I have to say that I agree wholeheartedly with you about how it IS something to learn for some people. It certainly took being around good friends for me to learn to be one, too. I'm still learning. But I hope I'm setting a good example for my kids.

    So excited for your book! I've been hearing about it for some time, and am always thrilled when I learn of authors included whom I know! KICK ASS!

    You're so right about Lizzi. She blows my socks off! She is one of those people I consider more than just a "blogging bud". I don't know how she does it, but she is amazing.

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    1. Awwwwwh *MASSIVEHUGS* for you, too :)

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    2. Glad to hear people have to learn to be good friends, and it isn't just me. I have taken my kids to the funerals and included them in the meal prep to hopefully teach them how to do it. Crossing my fingers...

      Me, too! Thanks.

      She is amazing. We are lucky to know her.

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  10. I love this post. I've been reflecting a lot lately on my friendships and have realized that I am lonely too despite being surrounded by people. My true quality friends are all wrapped up or live far away. But I haven't reached out as often. Going to take a note from your book... thanks lady!

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    1. It's a strange phenomenon, isn't it? To be surrounded by people you know, yet feel completely alone. Go, reach, make friends! You're welcome. :)

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  11. So wonderfully written, and I couldn't agree more, Christine. I admit, I'm not the best friend there could be, but I'm always there if something's amiss and I'm really needed.. Call me a bad-weather friend :-)

    And totally CONGRATS on being pubished!! So excited!! As usual, whenever you think getting it translated into German, think of me, pleaseeeee!! :-)

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    1. A bad-weather friend? That's a good term. I know people like that, and they are very good at being there when asked for help.

      Thank you! I'll let Stephanie and Jessica know we are missing out on some serious fans by not getting translated. :)

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  12. I love how you painted such a beautiful and vivid picture of what friendship really looks like. I too, have been surrounded by dear friends in broken places in their lives. It's horrible- and yet just being "in it" with them, is a true blessing we can give them in their time of need.

    I am thrilled this book is out- so many fabulous authors! I can't WAIT to read it!

    Oh and Lizzi? Yeah. I know... ;)

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    1. Thank you, Chris. You said it very well. We must be "in it" with them.

      Me, either!

      She's the bees knees. :)

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  13. Christine, I loved this post! I've been doing a few of those, what I call, "wuzgunnas" (was gonnas) lately myself. In fact, right now I can see the note card out of the corner of my eye, the one I wuzgunna send to a friend going through chemo. Now I'm resolved to actually get it written and posted first thing in the morning!

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    1. I'm glad! Oh, the list of my wuzgunnas is a mile long. We really need to work hard to make them into diddoits.

      Get thee to a mailbox!

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  14. Christine. This was beautiful. You so frequently move me to tears. We are fortunate to have you- someone as conscious, deliberate, and clearly a fantastic friend- as one of our co-authors. And cheers to Local Friendship Day!

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    1. Aw, you are so kind. Thank you. Cheers!

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  15. I so love -- and relate to -- what you wrote here! I, too, had to learn how to "show up" in my friendships!

    Happy pub day to you! So very exciting, indeed!

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    1. Thank you. That showing up isn't always easy, but it is completely necessary.

      Happy pub day!

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  16. Such a beautiful post, Christine. I can relate to so much of what you have written here. I agree with everything you wrote about Lizzi and love the present Kris got for you. What an incredible feeling it must be to become a published author! You are doing an awesome job at being a friend. P.S I also have all my greatest epiphanies in the shower!

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    1. Thank you.
      It's a bit odd about the book, to be honest. I'm excited, but a bit self-conscious about it all.

      That hot water really clears the brain, doesn't it? :)

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  17. Truly inspiring! You are so right. How easy it is to forget to be active in the lives of our friends. I can't tell you how encouraging it was to get a simple text (some from you!) reminding me that a friend was praying for me in recent months. I do believe I have some texts to write before bed tonight. :) Thanks for being so good at putting into words what we all need to hear.

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    1. I'm glad to hear the texts helped a bit.

      And that the post is getting people to do the things they've been thinking about doing.

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  18. I think you are the second blogger I read who is in that book - now I absolutely MUST take a look. Yay for you!

    You're so right about the friendship thing - I've thought and felt many of those things myself. But the old adage is true - to have a friend, be one. I know I could be present in friendships a little (sometimes a lot) more than I do. Something to really put on the list of things to be conscious of. And I love what you said about remembering the little details - that sort of thing can make such a huge difference to people. It's powerful.

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    1. Thanks! There are lots of lovely people in it.

      I'm thinking we can all be better at remembering details and putting forth the effort to be a good friend.

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  19. You have often commented on my blog about my friends and you are correct in assuming they are fabulously supportive folks. I am not always easy to support and as Im sure you've gathered can get more than a bit cynical. This year more so it seems with a few serious losses. These people have been more than "there" for me. I think I felt as you did years ago and also made a change...it has totally paid off in life experiences and really wonderful people as well as the huge boon of feeling needed and making a difference in addition to knowing when I need someone I wont be alone. It grows into a very mutual experience over time and I wouldn't trade my friends for anything...really nice post....thanks~! Congrats on the book... Im gonna go kindle it up!

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  20. Such a great friendship post! I've been feeling lonely recently. And realize there are some people that I need to call. Kris' shirt gift to you is awesome!!!! I love it! And yeah...Lizzi. She's amazing, truly. Congrats on the awesome book! I'm so excited to read it this weekend!

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Thank you for taking the time to tell me what you're thinking!