What can friendships teach us?

This month, as we begin the Fall season, I am reflecting upon my relationships, specifically the friendships I have built over my lifetime and certainly those I have been lucky enough to form in the last year or so. When we are young, our peers help us learn how to play, how to behave in groups and most importantly, little by little, how to be trustworthy and how to trust others. Trust is an essential and defining element of any relationship. Without it, there is not much substance, not for me anyway. I can chuckle a little as I write this because for some reason, when I think of my early years and adolescence and the concept of trust, there seems to be a lot of memories of boys throwing sand at me in the sandbox, pushing me into pools or chasing me down a rocky beach. I’m sure I am not the only one with these recollections of childhood. Tell me, were you the pusher or the pushee? 

All fun and games aside, let’s get back to the subject at hand. Why do I feel that friendships are an integral part of my ever-evolving self? Because I have learned so much from them throughout my lifetime, especially from those mistakes and missteps as a young and maturing human. Perhaps there was a time that I threw the sand?  Of course, I have plenty of moments I wish I could reframe or redo. But really, I shouldn’t, right? Because all those moments have helped me become a better person, friend, partner and most important of all, a better mother.  

I find as I spend time on social media and in the digital world that there is such a mix of messaging. We humans have a gift to be kind and wonderful to each other, or in quite a contrast, to be cruel and unforgiving. But we all have a choice, don’t we? We can allow that negativity, like a pollution of the soul, to penetrate our daily lives, or we can rise up and above all that. This is the most valuable addition to my psyche in the last year. Recognizing the importance of surrounding myself with people who lift me up and encourage my success both personally and professionally. I’m not sure I can explain why it seemed to take me so long to make this a focus, but I can say that this new epiphany has been like having a wave of optimism wash over my life. It has been wonderful in the most positive of ways. I feel like I can take on the world, and I have the amazing and talented family and friends in my life to thank for that. 

A word of caution. Don’t confuse this euphoric description of mine with having a network of “yes” people who only smile and nod and tell me everything I do is perfect. No, no, no! My most treasured friends, those I’ve known since my early school years, college, motherhood and those I have met recently, do not do that at all. In fact, I count on my friends to be honest, to feel the safety in our relationship to tell me something like, “hey you may want to rethink this”. Or perhaps they suggest a different approach or flat out tell me I’m wrong about something. Thankfully, sometimes, it may just be about a glass of wine and a good long chat.  

I can honestly say I cannot imagine my life, and surviving all the trials and tribulations, without my friends. I adore and cherish them with all my heart. Oh, I am such a lucky soul. 

Having said all that, I can also mention that friendships can be deep and meaningful even when you don’t agree about big issues. Respectfully disagreeing is something our nation has lost the ability to do, especially in recent years. Our current climate of division in ideology and erosion of basic norms and honor, even among thieves, seems to have left our discourse. I often wonder if we all need to go back to kindergarten. I don’t mean that as an insult, because I am referring to all of us, including myself. Don’t you remember that is where we learned some basic decorum, manners, and “I care” rules? 

Passion is such a loaded emotion isn’t it? I am a passionate woman. Anyone who knows me well is likely laughing as they read this because they know that to be absolutely true. The overflow of passion we all feel about our ideology and the issues of the day that are important to us is apparent if you log in to social media every day. My wish for our nation, keeping in concert with my newfound epiphany and the wave of optimism in my life, only involves a few steps. First, let’s all take a breath before exploding. Once we do that, we should count to ten. Next, we should try to empathize with a viewpoint that is not our own. It is kind of like a timeout and reminds me of how I handled a demanding child who was having a temper tantrum. 

Assuming we’ve accomplished our three steps, it’s time to talk it out, understanding that at the end of that conversation we may still disagree. We may still feel strong emotions about our viewpoints, but we might be a little closer to a productive dialog. This is what we need. We need to be able to hear something we don’t agree with and be okay with it. We need to stop putting ourselves in opinion bubbles because I think, deep down, we all know that any extreme position, on the right or left, is not the way to govern. I think the answer lies in a balanced approach that brings us to a consensus. Much like my friends who don’t yes me to death, no one extreme position should be “yessed” to death. We will not get everything we want. However, we can recapture our national humanity and spirit. We can get back to truth, facts, science, and a sensible approach to solving problems. Perhaps I am overly optimistic, but I will always believe it to be possible. 

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