Friends step into the breach.
Friends give hugs.
Friends sustain each other.
Friends need you to be vulnerable with them.
|Image by Kathy Barker, a calligrapher from Washington|
For a long time, I thought that being a good listener and sharing experiences and adventures constituted friendship. I am a slow learner sometimes and it took me awhile to realize I needed to reveal my own vulnerabilities to other people. Friends want your willingness to share the hard parts of yourself. When I allowed people to see those parts of me, I became a better friend.
I still have to work on that willingness to share all the time. I am an outgoing introvert, which is not really an oxymoron. I've always jumped into the middle of things, I like to lead, I even like to give speeches, I like to participate, but often people used to surprise me by saying, "You're so quiet." I grew to dislike that phrase with vigor. I worked hard, on my own and through therapy, to overcome that label. I haven't heard anyone say how quiet I am to me in a long time. As an introvert, I still need time by myself to restore my energy levels. It is easy for me to forget to reach out when I am content with being by myself and engaged in my own highly-focused projects. That 's what introverts do.
I was also raised in a family that taught self-reliance as a value. Nothing wrong with that, but for me to let other people know that I needed help was one of the hardest steps I had to take. I assumed I could get everything done myself. I can, but I discovered that in opening the doors so that others could see my needs, those people stepped right in, showing a willingness to help that astounds me.
A neighbor's husband is recovering surgery. I let other neighbors know and immediately they extended their offers of help. I am sure you know people who come forward in the same way. I think of the individuals who responded with such heart during the natural disasters that affected so much of the country last year, putting themselves at risk to help others.
This week, I've had two wonderful reminders of the value of friendship. I received an email from a long-time friend about how important our friendship has been to her. She wrote with a sensitivity that only two good friends could share. On another day, two friends and I went for a walk and coffee. On the walk, we talked over personal problems without judgments. To my delight, I have discovered that many people I know respond with the same caring attitude once I allow them to see the vulnerable parts of my life.
I could write a paragraph about each one of you here, but I want you all to know how valuable you have been in my understanding of what friendship is. Thank you for being such good teachers, you know who you are.
Check out work by Kathy Barker:
Thank you, Kathy, for allowing me to reproduce your work at Postcards in the Air