Choose Friends. Make Time. Repeat.

We’ve all heard the stories of people on their death-beds saying things like, “I wish I had made more time for my family and friends,” or “I wish I had played more, not taken it all so seriously.”  We pass around inspirational blog posts on Facebook of experienced mothers saying things such as, “I wish I had worried far less about keeping the house clean and far more about playing,” and from the wise women who reach the maturity to be able to say, “I wish I had eaten more ice cream with friends instead of forever trying to lose those stubborn 5 lbs. What a waste of energy my entire life!”

We hear the wisdom.  And we resonate.  We know deep down that it is truth.  But knowing 1468613_10151969864577435_82284094_nsomething and having it change the way we live our lives are two very different things.

It’s past time, my GirlFriends, that we choose friendship even when it feels inconvenient, expensive, and time-consuming.  Even when we think we prefer sitting on the couch.  Even when we think we don’t have the money to visit her.  Even when we think we don’t have the time to call.

It’s time to choose friendship in higher doses.  It’s the medicine our bodies and souls are dying without.  It’s the cure to that which ails us.  It’s the love that will remind us how connected and supported we are.  It’s the peace that comes with knowing we are not alone.  It’s the safety net that will protect us when the storms come… and they always do.

What Could Choosing Friendship Look Like?

Choosing friendship means not missing the weddings, the birthdays, the big moments. We do whatever we can to be there even if it means buying a cheaper used car, forgoing a shopping trip, or putting off the new dishwasher.

Choosing friendship means we get on a plane and go see her.  Just because you miss her.  Even if the plane ticket goes on the credit card. We put far less important things on there and the investment is well worth it.

Choosing friendship means we tell our spouses, our kids, and our bosses that our annual girls weekend away is a non-negotiable.  We are going.  Every year. We don’t ask if we can afford it this year, have the time, or if it’s convenient on everyone else– we say yes and figure it out. That’s how we roll; that’s what we do.

Choosing friendship means saying yes to a spontaneous invitation.  Or better yet, being the one to give a spontaneous invitation! I made a pot of soup– can you come over tonight?

Choosing friendship means not allowing “tired” to be an excuse (the only exception is if you really will sleep during that exact time!) as whatever else we go home and do instead won’t make us less tired, but it will make us less connected.

Choosing friendship means buying a random card at the grocery store, writing a few lines of love, and mailing it out to someone who pops into your heart. $4 and 10 minutes is always worth it.  Always.

Choosing friendship means initiating with new friends.  Even when the time together isn’t yet as easy, meaningful and intimate as you would like it to be.  You initiate in faith that some of them will one day be your best friends. Much like we work out not because we see the difference in each work-out, but because we know we will over the long run.

Choosing friendship means telling your kids, “Just like you played with your friends today, it’s time for mommy to go play with hers” even when they beg for you to stay home.  (And the more regular you are with going out, the easier it will be on everyone else!)

Choosing friendship means not letting your pouting lover dissuade you from going out… but saying, “I can’t wait to come home… but I know if I want meaningful friendships that they require time together.  Thank you for supporting that!” And then kiss him/her on the mouth so hard that they recall just how much you love them… and then walk away for a few hours with women who will love you in different ways.

Choosing friendship means saying yes to more sleep-overs, more weekends away, more dinners around your table with friends, more evenings out, and more hours spent in conversation.

Choosing Friendship From a Place of Love and Hope

Yes we need boundaries,

yes we need to listen to our bodies,

yes we need to say no more often to some things,

yes we need to take our temperaments into consideration,

yes we are busy,

yes we don’t want to rack up credit card bills,

yes we have more meaningful relationships to consider besides our friends…

yes, there are always ifs, and’s, & but’s….  

This isn’t a post about draining yourself more and giving more when it feels yucky… no, this is a post about saying yes to people who have the highest likelihood of loving you in meaningful ways.

This is a post that reminds us that if we want to feel known, then we want to say yes to more conversation.  That if we want to feel supported, then we want to say yes to more vulnerability. That if we want to feel joy, then we want to say yes to more moments that make memories.  That if we want to feel connected, then we must fly, call, and talk more.  That if we want good friendships then we will want to invest whatever we can today knowing it will come back to us in fabulous ways.

It is all so very easy to get used to the routine, the slow drain on our lives, the ongoing stress of our finances, the burden of everyone needing more of us… but that is not the way we choose to live.  We want more.  WAY more love and laughter and connection and joy.  Way more!

And you, and only you, can choose to say, “I will not let a year pass without us getting together.  I will not let this week pass without meeting a friend after work.  I will not let this evening pass without calling a friend and telling her that I miss her.”

We do it not from guilt, but from love.  From the whisper of our future self saying to us now, “You won’t regret having more love and connection in your life.  Do it.  Say yes.”  We do it because we know this is what we value and how we want to structure our lives.

We will probably feel busy, tired, and broke whether we reach out or not… at least if we don’t use those as excuses to not then we will at least have the friendships in our lives that energize us and protect us from the effects of the stress!

Choose Friends.  Make Time. Repeat.

Always in love,

Shasta

Leave a comment:  what excuse do you most consistently use to not spend more time with friends?  What would it take to not see that excuse as a limitation or justified reason to not pursue more love? Are you willing to consider that you might feel that way no matter whether you do or don’t spend more time with friends but that one option might leave you with more love and joy, too?

 

Posted in Consistency, Girls Night, Happiness, Maintaining Friends | 11 Comments

Time to Plan an Adult Sleep-Over with Friends!

The power of sleep-overs is something we don’t think much about as adults, or do all that frequently.  But we should.  There are still few experiences that can accelerate our intimacy and deepen our hearts as having un-rushed time together that includes talking until ready for bed and waking up in the same place together.

Visiting Friends

Traveling to New York City– a trip I seem to make at least twice a year– has become so much more fun since one of my girlfriends from San Francisco moved there a couple of years back.  I see her far less frequently now that we’re not getting together once a month for dinner on the west coast, but the time we spend together living in the same place for a few days in NYC is bonding us in ways that few of my friendships get to experience.

When I was back there two weeks ago I couldn’t help but observe just how much intimacy these sleep-overs have added to our relationship: making coffee together in our pajamas in the mornings, debriefing our days with each other in the evening, making plans for dinner with her hubby and her cousin on Saturday night, being at home with her when her new dining room table arrived, and getting a feel for their rhythm and schedule.

A few days together did for our relationship what would have taken years of dinners and phone calls to get to.  There’s something so magical about staying up late talking, spending time in someone else’s life and home, and having a few days together to get past all the updates and still have time to just talk about other things.

Planning Friendship Get-Aways

I experience this same magic every spring during my annual girlfriend weekend with four of my friends who are committed to us meeting up somewhere every year.

This is my dream-- not having to shower to meet up but simply waking up together and all walking to a coffee shop to start our day together.

This is my dream– not having to shower to meet up but simply waking up together and all walking to a coffee shop to start our day together.

Although in this case we’re not typically staying in each others homes, which means we miss out on seeing each other in normal day-to-day life a bit more, the upside is that we’re all stepping out of our lives and making the weekend together entirely about talking and connecting which deepens our relationships in ways that a hundred phone calls couldn’t compete with.  It’s a bit more like a slumber party in all the best ways.  (And since all these women are mothers of young children, it’s even more amazing to me that they all commit to step away for a weekend every single year!)

We don’t necessarily do each others hair like we might do if we were teenagers and we don’t make movies and boys the focus of our time together anymore, but we still laugh, get silly, tell secrets, and fill each other up with love.

Local Slumber Parties

For many, I find that slumber parties and sleep-overs seem to happen primarily with only one circle of friendships:  the confirmed circle, the friends we used to be close to but no longer live nearby.  Like my two previous examples it’s either because she lives where I’m visiting or because we’ve all planned to meet up somewhere together, but these aren’t friends who live in San Francisco.

But one thing I’ve really been enjoying lately is thinking more about sleep-overs with people who live nearby.

When we were kids it was exactly those people– our closest friends, even if they just lived next door to us– that we’d beg to have stay the night with us. It was rarely because they needed to spend the night, but more because we wanted extra time with each other.

One of the coolest nights happened earlier this year when one of my husbands best friends invited us to come spend the night at their home only 30 minutes away.

No scheduled dinner in the world can bond friends together the way bathrobes and pajamas tend to do. :)

We typically just drive home after dinner, but they begged us to bring our pajamas and spend the night, and even though we had to leave in the morning right after breakfast, I assure you that the time together was several times more bonding than had we left the night before.

I also experience this magic every time my step-daughter asks us if she can spend the night with us when her husband occasionally leaves town.  We’re lucky that they’re local and we get to see them regularly, but it’s an extra treat when she comes and stays the night with us– the slower conversations, the watching of TV together, the embracing of her into our daily routine is fun in a way that just having them over for dinner cannot replicate.

Whether it’s spending the night in normal life or leaving normal life to spend the night with each other– they are both bonding in ways that can’t easily be duplicated by regular get-togethers.  All the 2-4 hour scheduled dinners in the world can’t replicate the experience of unrushed time and casual lounging around that sleep-overs afford.

(A few adult slumber party resources for you from other bloggers if you’re up for planning a really intentional one:  5 reasons to host a slumber party, ideas for hosting, and fun ideas on pinterest)

Your Invitation

I challenge you to think of someone in your life who you might consider initiating a sleep-over!

  • Maybe it’s someone who lives far away and you just want to call and say “Hey, either I should come to you or you should come to me– but let’s get a weekend on the calendar!”
  • Or maybe, it’s two to three local friends who have all been getting to know each other better and you’re ready to help deepen the bond by saying, “Hey maybe we should all try to find a weekend where we can have a sleepover together, like when we were kids!”
  • Or maybe, it’s just skipping the hotel on one of your trips to see if a friend is up for hosting you, or calling a friend you know who travels near you and saying, “Hey next time you’re in town, you are so welcome to my place! I know it’s not as comfy as a hotel, but it might be more fun!”

We talked about vulnerability in a recent blog and this is an example of the “practicing new ways of spending time together” option.  It will feel a little awkward and it will require a little initiation… but trust me, when it comes to making you feel closer to someone, there are few experiences that can deepen your friendship than the gift of a night under the same roof!

LEAVE COMMENTS: Do you have friends spend the night? Share with us your ideas, how it helps your friendships, etc.! Never done a slumber party?  What’s holding you back? Did this inspire you?  Will you accept my invitation/challenge?  :)

xoxo,

Shasta

p.s.  Come to an already planned slumber party!  :) We are guaranteeing spots to everyone who registers by Nov. 1 for the New Years Retreat that I’m hosting in Northern California this January 2-4, 2015.  This weekend away might be a perfect excuse to call a friend and see if she wants to join you for a slumber party!  You can read all about the retreat by requesting the invitation here.  We already have women in their 20′s and 60′s signed up to be there– so all ages are welcome!  It’s going to be a super special weekend of celebrating/honoring the past year while preparing for the upcoming year with excitement and anticipation!

Reveal 2015

Comfy lodging, healthy and nourishing food, walks in beautiful nature, jacuzzi under the stars, retreat activities led by me, new friends, tons of laughter, and lots of time to hear your own heart whisper– if that’s your cup of tea, I so hope you do whatever you can to be with us!

NOTE: The retreat was initially designed for two friends to come together, but due to several requests, we’re also opening it up for women to come alone and we’ll match you up with other women who are coming alone so that you can all meet, share, and have someone witness your journey when appropriate!  So come as a pair of friends, or come and meet new friends– but if you value reflection, listening to your own heart, connecting with other women, and rejuvenating your spirit– then know that you are welcome at our slumber party!  RSVP by Nov. 1!

 

 

 

Posted in Events, Girls Night, Maintaining Friends, Practical Ideas, Travel & Friends | Tagged , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Expectation Hangovers in Friendships

When I saw that my friend Christine Hassler was celebrating the launch of her new book with a book party in NYC when I happened to be in town for another event, I quickly signed up to be there, one more woman celebrating the completion of such a huge goal in her life.

While I went to support her and cheer her on, it hit me as I was sitting there listening to her workshop on dealing with disappointment that I actually need her book!  Ha! I left there excited to read Expectation Hangover: Overcoming Disappointment in Work, Love, and Life.

Huge congrats to Christine Hassler on the release of her newest book:  Expectation Hangover!

Huge congrats to Christine Hassler on the release of her newest book: Expectation Hangover!

This season of my life feels full of unmet expectations, unattainable hopes, and discouraging responses. I try to cheer myself up with thoughts like “Now Shasta, you know grief and and crisis and this is no where close to that,” and  “Seriously, your life is good, stop feeling discouraged. Focus on all that you have!” Sometimes those little talks give me the perspective I need, but often they just leave me feeling guilty that I even felt bad to begin with. The truth is that with many unmet expectations comes a bit of loss, which naturally leads to sadness.

And it got me to thinking about how often we have expectation hangovers in our friendships, too.

Unmet Expectations in Friendship

I know I’ve felt them before, and I’ve heard from many of you that you, too, know the feeling of wanting those friendships to be easier, faster, or more meaningful.

  • After a great time together, you hope she’ll reach out and she doesn’t.
  • You wrote her an email and she didn’t write back.
  • You went to a ConnectingCircle hoping to make new friends and there was no one you really clicked with.
  • You’ve known her for months now, but it never feels like your friendship is progressing deeper.
  • She said something that felt judgmental when you really just hoped for an evening where you felt supported.
  • You leave a dinner party and think it was a waste to go since there was no deep conversation that happened.
  • You hang out with a friend but she doesn’t ask you about your life.
  • You were moving and hoped your friend would offer to help pack boxes but she was too busy to notice.
  • You keep trying to be friendly to everyone you meet but never quite feel like you’re making real friends.

You know the feeling.  Sometimes we don’t even think we have “high expectations” but in the aftermath of an experience, we feel weary, depressed, and more discouraged than if we hadn’t even tried.

Transform the Hangovers

Far be it from me to try to teach in a blog post what took Christine an entire book to teach (she does a fabulous job of helping readers not just want to “get-over” these disappointments but to transform their lives through processing them on a spiritual, emotional, mental, and behavioral level) but I asked her if I could at least share an excerpt from her book with you that might be of value in your friendships:

Excerpt from Christine: Don’t Go to a Chinese Restaurant Looking for Nachos! 

“If you were craving nachos, would you go to a Chinese restaurant? No! Because you know that in a Chinese restaurant, they don’t serve nachos. In fact, they probably wouldn’t even have the ingredients to make them. If you really wanted nachos, you would go somewhere where they serve them, right?

Most of the time, we know what we are craving when we reach out to someone else. If someone in your life has consistently reacted and responded in a way that has not satisfied your needs, chances are they do not have the ingredients to do so. Continuing to go to that person, hoping that someday what you are hungry for appears on their menu, is like continuing to walk into a Chinese restaurant when you want nachos. You may get fed, but not with what you truly wanted to eat. And now the only leftover you have is an Expectation Hangover.

We cannot change people. I repeat: we cannot change people. This can be especially challenging when you really want a significant person in your life, such as a parent or romantic partner, or best friend to be able to satisfy your cravings. However, sometimes they just don’t have the ingredients to do so. Other people are not wrong if they don’t live up to your expectations; they are who they are. Accept what they do have to offer you.

Think of some of your common “cravings” that involve being supported by others: someone to just listen; an objective resource for feedback; someone to laugh with; someone you feel safe to be vulnerable with; a person who will offer time and physical assistance when you need help with a move or project; or someone who is encouraging. Now consider which people you go to for those things but who you come away from with an Expectation Hangover. Make a commitment to yourself that you will stop going to them when you have a craving for something they cannot dish out. Love and accept them for who they are; they are doing the best they can. Consider the people who do match up with some of your cravings — there may be a lot of cooks in your kitchen that you might not have been aware of because you were hanging on to expectations of others. Being conscious and proactive regarding our expectations of others is how we get desires and needs met in healthy and expectation-free ways.

It is true that we can be catalysts for another person’s change, but in most cases in order to be that catalyst, we have to be totally unattached to being it. Working and endlessly hoping to change someone else will not only lead to an Expectation Hangover, but it will also distract you from doing your own work. Often it is detachment, acceptance, and honoring our own truth that inspire others to find the truth within themselves.

Now think about who you go to when you are craving support, encouragement, guidance, unbiased advice, loving feedback, or acknowledgment. Do you go to people who are consistently able to dish out what you are hungry for? Or do you find yourself going to people who do not have what you need on their menu and then find yourself consistently discouraged and disappointed?”

I believe entirely that many more friendships could be fulfilling if we saw them for who they are, rather than wishing they would be someone different.  May you love your friendships for what they are, while continuing to be on the hunt for the “restaurant” that serves the best nachos in town!

xoxo,

Shasta

p.s.  Christine is still traveling to LA, Chicago, Austin and Dallas for the rest of her book tour. Use the code CHRISTINEFRIEND to save $10! You get a whole 2-hour workshop– super good!

p.s.s. I LOVED all the interaction on the post last week!  Makes me happy to connect with you.  Share with us an expectation hangover you’re going through, or what’s helped you transform disappointment into learning– and I’ll come comment as much as I can! xoxo

Posted in Books & Movies, Difficulty & Challenges, Events, Personal Growth/Spirituality | Tagged , , , , , , , | 24 Comments

5 Types of Vulnerability: It’s Way More than Skeletons in Your Closet!

I believe that our greatest fear is rejection– the worry of what people think of us, the desire to be accepted, the craving to feel like we are good enough.

So anything that risks us possibly feeling rejected is going to feel vulnerable.

What is Vulnerability?

Vulnerability, as defined by the dictionary means “capable of or susceptible to being wounded or hurt.”

Some psychologists use words like disclosure, sharing, uncovering, and revealing to describe the act of being vulnerable.

One of my friends the other day described vulnerability as the willingness to let someone else impact us. A willingness, then, to actually be touched or moved by others.

Brene Brown, the Queen of Vulnerability (author of Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead) defines vulnerability as “uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure.”  After decades of researching shame she has helped make the connection in our culture that if we shy away from vulnerability (thinking that it protects us from shame) that we are, indeed, shying away from the core of our feelings, including many of the “good” feelings we want to feel!  She says,

To believe vulnerability is weakness is to believe that feeling is weakness. To foreclose on our emotional life out of a fear that the costs will be too high is to walk away from the very thing that gives purpose and meaning to living.

For me, I often think of vulnerability as showing up with less of a filter on expressing who I am. I recognize that it’s not appropriate to share everything with everyone, but by the same token, I believe I can always share parts of me with everyone, and I strive to share more of me with a few, worrying less about what they will think of me as we built a mutual and safe relationship with each other. (Here is an old post that gives a visual for how we can incrementally increase our vulnerability in appropriate ways.)

Whatever words we use to define vulnerability– more importantly, is what it looks like when we practice it.

To that end, I want to emphasize five different expressions of vulnerability that are crucial to building healthy relationships.

Five Different Expressions of Vulnerability That Are Important

These five expressions all take practice.  None of us is immune from them feeling like a risk.  By definition, the very idea that we could get hurt will cause some of us pause.  Like I say in my book, it’s valuing the connection, intimacy, and meaning on the other side that helps us value the possible gains over the possible disappointment.

I invite you to look at these five and ask yourself the question, “Which one of these could I practice more of in my life?” Knowing that when we find the one that might be the most difficult or scary, we have likely also found the one that could be the most expanding, meaningful, and freeing!

  1. New Ways of Interacting: For many of us, this one is surprisingly hard, though we don’t often view it as a new way to practice vulnerability since it’s less about sharing something and
    All relationships start with a tiny circle and incrementally become bigger and more meaningful as we practice widening our circle by expanding the ways we interact.

    All relationships start with a tiny circle and incrementally become bigger and more meaningful as we practice widening our circle by expanding the ways we interact.

    more about acting on something, but anytime we “put ourselves out there” and extend an invitation, it is an action of vulnerability. A growing friendship depends upon us showing up willing to keep pushing the friendship into new territory– the first time we start texting each other, the first time we extend an invitation, the first time we meet each others families, the first time we get together outside of a business premise, or the first time we just pick up the phone with no obvious excuse. The gift in initiating these new ways of being together is that these courageous actions are necessary to build the meaningful connection.  We initiate and our chances increase exponentially that we end up with more friendships that matter.

  2. New Areas of Conversation: This might mean adding topics
    Expanding what we talk about-- new subject matters become safe topics-- helps us widen the capacity of our friendships.

    Expanding what we talk about helps us widen the capacity of our friendships.

    such as politics, compassion, books, spirituality, body image, parenting, marriage, or goals to the conversation that is usually limited to the 2-3 safe topics already established. The gift in this type of sharing is it gives your friendship the chance to practice connecting on a wider range of life interests and experiences, helping you practice being interested even when it’s not your thing, and glues the two of you together as more of your lives are shared.

  3. All relationships are rooted in us feeling accepted for who we are which comes when we share our insecurities.

    All relationships are rooted in us feeling accepted for who we are which comes when we share our insecurities.

    Areas of Shame & Insecurity: This is the expression we most often associate with vulnerability, but it’s just one piece.  This certainly couldinclude the fear of revealing events from our past, actions we regret, and moments that made us feel un-lovable or unworthy; but far more significant than what happened to us back then, is practicing sharing where we feel insecure or worry with our lives now. There is healing in sharing these things with people who we have developed a safe relationship with as speaking our shame brings light into the darkness and disproves the voice that says those things make us less-than.  The gift is being reminded that we are worthy even when we feel shame.

  4. Accomplishments, Achievements, and Pride: I’ve noticed a trend among women that sometimes we’re more comfortable sharing our complaints and frustrations (usually about others, than about ourselves) than we are to share our accomplishments and
    Just as it's important to go deep, it's also important to go high! Healthy relationships bear witness to our power, our happiness, and our talents.

    Just as it’s important to go deep, it’s also important to go high! Healthy relationships bear witness to our power, our happiness, and our talents.

    joys. We are so fearful of being seen as arrogant, or so desperate to want to fit in and relate (shouldn’t talk about how fulfilling my marriage is when no one else seems happy in theirs…) that we minimize ourselves or dim our lights. We fear being judged for our positive traits as much as we do for our negative ones, frequently. I love asking my friends, “What’s energizing in your life right now?” Or, “What are some of the highlights of your summer?” Or, “Tell me something that you’ve done recently that made you feel proud?” The gift is giving permission to ourselves that it’s okay to shine, to choose happiness, and to love who we were created to be– it gives permission to others, and helps us practice so we can shine brighter in this world.”

  5. Asking for What You Prefer, or Need: For this one I draw a heart in the center because it starts with being in touch with myself
    It doesn't matetr how far out our circles grow or our arrows expand if we can't keep the core nourished with knowing ourselves and expressing ourselves authentically.

    It doesn’t matter how far out our circles grow or our arrows expand if we can’t keep the core nourished with knowing ourselves and expressing ourselves authentically.

    to know what it is I need and prefer in any situation.  Sometimes it’s as light as saying to anyone, “I so appreciate your advice, but what I really need right now is you to just listen and tell me I’m not crazy for feeling this way;” and sometimes it’s an ask we make of some of our safer relationships, “Right now, I need you to come over here.  I’m falling apart.  I know it’s a big ask as your life is full and busy, too, but if there’s any way you can be here, it would mean a lot.” The gift in this is learning to hear our own wisdom whisper what we need, what would be meaningful, and developing friendships where we don’t have to be mind-readers but can come to trust each other to tell us how we can best love each other.

In my next post I want to show more how all these five areas work together, and are dependent upon each other.

But for now, are you willing to be brave enough (practice vulnerability!) and post a comment just sharing which of the five feels most important for you to practice right now in your friendships?

Posted in Defining Friendship, How To?, Qualities of Friendship, Vulnerability | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 24 Comments

Friendships Don’t Just Happen – for Guy Friends

From Shasta:  I’ve long-held that most men crave more meaningful friendships and while I don’t have the same expertise and experience in teaching men as I do to women (that won’t stop me from trying though! ha!) I have been long interviewing men about their friendships because I think there is a lot there that we aren’t yet talking about, and need to be.

Greg Tjosvold has preferred friendship with women much of his life but is grateful to be exploring meaningful friendships with men now.

Greg Tjosvold has preferred friendship with women much of his life but is grateful to be exploring meaningful friendships with men now.

One of the men whose opinions and experiences on this subject has impressed me greatly is Greg Tjosvold, a middle-school teacher, husband, father, and author living outside of Vancouver, Canada.

Greg’s story is poignant… as he comes to have faith in other men wanting and willing to grow in closer friendship with each other.  I hope that as we keep modeling men having deeper friendships and giving more permission (as a culture) to men to get together to talk and share life (without sports being the only acceptable excuse) that we will see that frientimacy is something that enhances all of our lives, regardless of our gender.

Huge thanks Greg for sharing the story of the Barley Brethren with us!  :)  Love it!

—————-

Friendships Don’t Just Happen – for Guy Friends

by Greg Tjosvold

He stopped trying to shove my head in the toilet when I started to cry. Grade 8 boys weren’t supposed to cry, but it worked.

Most of my interactions with guys have been like that. Until I was 14, I was very small for my age. I was an easy target for wannabe bullies trying to establish themselves. I was not athletic, so I was always picked last, if picked at all. And if I was on the team, invariably the captain would call me out in front of my peers for my less than stellar play. Being small gave others the chance to be “big.”

As a teen, I didn’t drink, tinker with cars, or “chase tail” – the favorite activities of most of the guys I knew in my small Canadian logging town. I was attracted to solo adventures like fly-fishing and astronomy. Those were safe for me. And so were girls.

My best friends have always been women.

In school, the girls I hung out with never attempted to give me a “swirly.” In fact they told off people who tried. I was always included by my amazing girl cousins whom my family visited frequently. My best friend in high school, a wonderful young woman of Japanese heritage, always kept a seat free and a meaningful conversation ready for me on the bus ride home. I played flute in band, but rather than shunning me, the cool girls in the band, the “Fearsome Five-some” I called them, made time for me. Girls were there for me; guys were not.

Things have not really changed much for me as an adult; by comfort and profession, I am still surrounded by women. My wife is my absolute best friend and soul mate. My BFF is a former teaching partner; I was her “man of honor.” As a teacher in the lower grades, I once found myself working in a building where everyone other than me, from janitor to principal, was a woman. And I was OK with that. I still feel safest in my female connections.

So I was as shocked as anyone when I said yes to an invitation from a colleague to join the founding chapter of “The Barley Brethren.” I am the rebel seventh – the lone non-drinker in a group of men coming together each week to share each other’s journeys over a six-pack of quality craft beer. For the first time in my life I am hanging out with guys and enjoying it.

What happened? This new adventure, this new friendship experiment, is a happy byproduct of navel-gazing, need, and Shasta.

Navel-gazing

As I approached my 50th birthday, I became very self-reflective. One of my realizations? That it is hard being a married, middle-aged man with female friends. On more than one occasion an outside observer has assumed I’ve been up to something. Or that I’m gay. Sometimes, I just don’t fit in with my friend’s activities (e.g. having a guy at a bachelorette party is lame!). Still other times, my offered friendship has left the other person’s spouse feeling threatened and jealous. I’ve even had people tell me outright that married men should not have close female friends. Period.

All of these things do not just affect me; they also affect any potential female friend. While I have to believe that I’m worth it, it is a special lady indeed who is willing to take on such a challenging friendship. In light of that realization, I started to toy with the notion that, if I was going to need a new friend, it might be better (albeit scarier) if that person was male.

Need

It turns out that I did find myself needing new friends. My best friend and teaching partner moved to the other side of the continent (following her husband’s employment) and I had a rather painful falling out with another very good friend at nearly the same time. The full weight of my needs for companionship and camaraderie all of a sudden fell almost exclusively on my wife’s shoulders.

Shasta

Fortunately, in the midst of all of this, I came across Shasta Nelson, friendship expert, via Twitter. While her company and mission, girlfriendcircles.com, wouldn’t be any help to me, her book, “Friendships don’t just happen!” was a timely godsend. So much of the book resonated with me, especially:

  1. Friendships come and go. Shasta references research that shows we are now replacing about half of our friends every seven years. It was reassuring to know that what I was going through was not unusual. It’s hard on the ego to admit you need new friends.
  2. There are different types of friends. For many people, I suppose Shasta’s five Circles of Connectedness are largely self-evident. However, for me, it was life-changing revelation. As someone who had very few friends growing up, I just assumed that the very definition of friend was someone who was a BFF – a “committed friend” per Shasta’s terminology. I distinctly remember times in my life when the phrase “Everybody’s pal, nobody’s friend” hung over me like a black cloud of loneliness and unworthiness. I had never really considered the importance of my “left side” friends on the continuum – how they can be the seeds of deeper friendship and who are no less important to a rich life of connection all on their own.
  3. Friendships don’t just happen. I spent most of my life with the unspoken assumption that people just connected or they didn’t. The book challenged me to look back at the best friendships I had in my life and understand that they were the byproduct of gradual progression. More importantly, it made it clear to me that this progression was something that could be replicated; that I could start with “contact friends” and, given time, consistency and gradually increasing intimacy, there was hope I might be able to move friends from the left side of the friendship continuum to the right.

Enter the Barley Brethren

Retired school principal Phil Ballard started the Barley Brethren to a meet a perceived need; the need for men to have the opportunity to connect in a meaningful way.

Per his early notes, he envisioned the Barley Brethren as a “club of like-minded gentlemen in search of spiritual coherence. Membership in the Double B would involve a commitment to become a connoisseur of quality craft beer and would require the sharing of ‘cicerone’ duties for the weekly gathering. While quaffing their favorite brew, the brothers would discover meaning for their own lives while sharing in each other’s journeys. Meetings would be convened on the “MV Kairos,” a 45 ft. motor yacht.”

While we couldn't come across any group photo-- this is supposedly Phil's hand holding one of the lucky beers.  Ha!

While we couldn’t come across any group photo– this is supposedly Phil’s hand holding one of the lucky beers. Ha!

The concept of bros and booze in a man-cave should’ve sent me running, given my history. However, my desire to establish male friendships and the concepts in Shasta’s book give me a framework for courage.

My BFF had moved (my committed friend would soon become a confirmed friend), so when a respected colleague (a “contact friend” worth investing in) asked if I was interested in joining a group planning to meet weekly (ingredient: consistency) to learn about beer (“common friends”) and discuss life (ingredient: intimacy), what might have looked scary before, I now recognized as the perfect recipe for developing friendship. The fact that founding father Phil was a “confirmed friend” with whom I had lost touch over the years seemed serendipitous.

Note from Shasta: Greg, Gold stars for making the real life application to the concepts!  Love it!

Each week during the school year we meet.

Beer pours at 7:30 sharp. We spend time reviewing the beer, its history, and its characteristics. As a non-drinker, but a life-long learner, it has been fascinating learning the terminology of surrounding craft beer. I also know what sort of beer to bring to a gathering if I am asked.

The rest of the evening is a little less structured. In theory there is a go to study we listen to or read, but just as often as we just talk about what needs to be talked about. We talk, laugh, and yes, even cry about the things that are affecting our lives. Marriage, children, death, illness, work, retirement, faith… we all bring different perspectives and wisdom to what is important in the moment.

The Barley Brethren have been meeting for two years now… at least our first group. Somewhat ironically, the friend who initially invited me became the leader of a second group when the success of the idea and the need to open the concept up to more members became self-evident. (I see this friend outside the group now though.) For the first time in my life, I am hanging out with men on a regular basis. I still have my uncomfortable flashback moments… I’m overly sensitive to teasing about my beer selections, for instance… but I am so thankful for the growing friendships in the group built on vulnerability and sharing that, frankly, I didn’t believe was possible among men.

Apparently friendships don’t just happen. It’s an important concept for guys too.

While “just a group of guys,” for more information, there is a site under construction: http://www.barleybrethren.com, they are on Twitter @barleybrethren, and here’s their un-official theme song that sort of encapsulates the Barley Brethren: Brother, by Need To Breathe.  :)

From Shasta: Bravo guys!  Well done!  May your willingness to engage be contagious! :)

Posted in Consistency, Group Friendships, Guest Blogs, How To?, Importance of Friendship, Mens Friendship | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments