Two Best Friends Return to Paris to Fulfill a Promise

It’s story-time!

This week I am telling you a story with hopes that it inspires you to say yes to something big in the name of friendship…. despite the excuses we all make so easily.

Once Upon a Time….

Our story begins with an idealistic freshman collegiate girl who saw a poster promoting the opportunity to study abroad in Paris for 3 months.  While she knew not a word of French, it didn’t stop her from trying to talk everyone she knew into going with her on this glamorous-sounding adventure. Everyone eyed her like she was crazy except for one friend, Valerie, who within moments said, “I’m in.”

Wanting their passport photos would look as chic and grown-up as they felt, they made the horrible mistake of both chopping off their long hair right before the adventure. Therefore, our young heroines–one sporting a haircut that was basically a mullet, and the other with bangs that started at the back of her head– set off for Paris with little more preparation than learning how to say Bonjour on the airplane over the Atlantic.

To anyone who knows Shasta or Valerie, it will come as no surprise that their favorite activity while living abroad was eating the local food (and they each came home with an extra 20 lbs to prove that point!).  So much so that it made sense to them, at the time, that paying the 17 Francs to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower wasn’t as compelling as buying a week’s worth of pastries and bread. They figured they had seen great views from the top of Notre Dame and that pastries were much more important than “tourist traps.”  But needing to bolster that decision, they idealistically announced that they’d “save it” for romance and come back someday together with the “men of their dreams.” They patted themselves on the back that they could assuage any guilt for not ponying up the money and assured themselves that these imaginary men would one day thank them for the privilege of having Eiffel-Tower virgins to accompany them to the top.

The Paris Promise was made: they’d return.

Twenty Years Later…

It wasn’t an easy promise to keep.  There were many times when both doubted whether it would ever happen as it just never seemed realistic or likely. Neither of them ever had thousands of dollars sitting around looking to be spent, (especially knowing that if they ever did return they’d need more budget than last time)! ha! And it seemed one or the other was always in graduate school, pregnant, going through a divorce, or had some other big reason why an international trip wasn’t possible any given year.

But a couple of years ago, they started saying, “We simply have to do it.”

And finally–this month–they did.

In January they booked discounted airline tickets on a sale, split the cost on a two-bedroom AirBnB, and saved up all their extra money to eat their way through France once again (this time hoping that 20 lbs couldn’t be added in a mere 2 weeks, right?!?) Plus, as fantasized, this time they arrived with the men they love by their side.

These two best friends retraced steps and recalled memories.  They laughed at who they had been twenty years prior.  They grimaced over photos from the first trip; and then decided they might as well just be grateful that they had set the bar so low back then that now it was fairly easy to believe they had indeed improved with age! They toasted that they were still friends after all these years; and celebrated how much they’d created the lives that were mere fantasies when they were 18.  They bonded as friends, and as couples. . And they smiled.  And hugged. And laughed. A lot.

Here are a few photos:

A fun photo re-enactment at Les Invalides in Paris, twenty years later. (And please tell me we look better now!)

A fun photo re-enactment at Les Invalides in Paris, twenty years later. (And please tell me we look better now!)

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Valerie (the beauty on the right) and I finally atop the Eiffel Tower (and worth every Euro). #PromiseFulfilled

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And since we had promised that we’d return to Paris with the loves of our lives… (Huge thanks to John and Greg for prioritizing this trip with us and for making so many of our dreams come true!)

The Moral of the Story…

It’s really easy to make up excuses for why we can’t do something.  And by excuses, I don’t mean that they aren’t real reasons. In fact our reasons are usually pretty good as most of us feel limited by the constraints of time or money, or both.

For us to pull this trip off– Valerie and her husband had to find childcare for their three kids, my husband and I had to put some of it on our credit cards, and all of us had to say no to other things in order to say yes to this.

But I can attest that after having had the privilege of traveling with friends, as couples, that it was worth every decision that got us there. It was incredibly special and bonding.

Your story doesn’t need to be a return trip to Paris with a friend from 20 years ago… it can be a camping trip this summer with a group of new friends, or an invitation to a friend to meet you in Mexico for a 3-night deal, or the decision to go on a day-trip with another couple.

All you need is a willingness to plan ahead to do something bigger with someone than meeting for dinner, the courage to extend invitations to others to join you on a memory-making adventure, and the commitment to devote some time and money to that time together.  Traveling with friends–whether driving an hour out-of-town for a day-trip or jumping on a plane for a weekend away– logs more hours together and guarantees more bonding than meeting for a gazillion lunches ever could!  Shared memories bond us to each other in accelerated ways.

This summer:  what adventure do you want to do and are you willing to put that idea into action?

Posted in Best Friends, Happiness, Travel & Friends | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

In Sickness and In Health, Part 3: Making Friends While Sick Or In Pain

This is the 3rd post in our 3-part series on friendships with those who suffer with chronic pain and illness. The first one, written by Lucy Smith (pseudonym) shared her experience with us after having been diagnosed with a debilitating neurological condition. She bravely wrote what she wishes her friends understood about friendship with someone who feels sick or limited. The second one, I weighed in with tips and principles I think are important for those trying to make friends while in pain.  And this final one, is again written by Lucy Smith as she shares her tips, from personal experience, about what she;s learned about making new friends even when limited by her health. 

When struck suddenly with a debilitating neurological condition a couple years ago, Lucy Smith's (pseudonym), ability to participate in the activities she used to do with friends became very limited and the challenge of maintaining and making friends while also dealing with major illness has been difficult.

When struck suddenly with a debilitating neurological condition a couple years ago, Lucy Smith’s (pseudonym), ability to participate in the activities she used to do with friends became very limited and the challenge of maintaining and making friends while also dealing with major illness has been difficult… but here she shares some of what has worked for her!

Your situations are all so very different, please take anything that speaks to you, and add your own tips to the comments. It will inspire all of us to see what others are trying and finding helpful! Above all we applaud everyone who dares to connect their hearts, especially when their bodies resist in any way. xoxo

4 Tips From Someone Who Knows The Journey, By Lucy Smith

  1. Create Some Friendships With Others Who “Get It.” Finding people with similar struggles in a support group is often a great place to start.   That might be a support group for those living with chronic illness, a local disease-specific group (i.e. the National Multiple Sclerosis Society support group), or maybe some people who were on the periphery of your social network who have had medical challenges that you couldn’t relate to before.  In some cases, you might not find those networks you were looking for waiting for you.  In that case, it may be worth creating a Meetup group or some other forum where you can bring people together in the way you were seeking. This doesn’t always need to be a big time or energy suck – it might be as simple as stating that the group will be meeting a the coffee shop at 10:00 am on the 4th Saturday of the month and showing up for several months as momentum builds.
  2. Initiate and follow-through, as much as possible. Once you’ve got a pool of potential new friends, try to follow (as much as you are able) Shasta’s normal advice for cultivating new friends: those are the ingredients of a healthy relationship and even if we feel unhealthy, we still want our friendships to be healthy! That means take initiative when you can and have those “open hands” as people with a lot of their plates may not be able to commit as often or may not be able to follow through when the time comes. Though a friend will understand occasionally when you aren’t up to getting together as planned, if canceling and rejection is the only interaction you have, that friend may grow weary of making the effort to reach out, even if she understands the circumstances, and may defer to not reaching out but instead waiting for you to make the effort when you are up to it.
  3. Cultivate fun and joy: If you can get a regular group who understands your challenges, work on growing towards cultivating fun and joy where possible through activities that are not illness specific.  Certainly it is great to update each other on your challenges and wins, medical and otherwise, but cultivating activities that aren’t centered around the narrowness of illness allows you to reclaim part of your whole self.
  4. Receive, Say Yes, and Appreciate: And for those of us who are sick, it is helpful for us to remember to try to show up on our side when we are lucky enough to have a friend who is willing to stick by us during difficult times.   Allowing others to help you is a gift to the person who is offering to help – both to receive the help and to maintain connection.  We may need to work on being open to receive the gift.  You may repeatedly turn down offers to get together and get out or even to have someone come visit you or bring a meal because you aren’t feeling as well as you wished.  Maybe you don’t want to be seen when you aren’t feeling well, or you haven’t showered, changed out of your PJs, and put your make-up on.   Instead of feeling embarrassed about this, it is helpful to remember that you’ve got a true friend who is putting in the extra effort to show up when things are hard and that she doesn’t care much about the shower, PJs, and make-up, but rather she cares about you. Say yes to that.

Thank you Lucy!  I appreciate you reaching out and being a catalyst for this conversation, and for sharing some of your energy with us in such an inspirational and informative way!

And I hope many more of you chime in on the comments!  What tips do you have?

Posted in Difficulty & Challenges, Health, Making Friends, Practical Ideas | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments

National Best Friends Day: But I Don’t Have One

Tomorrow, June 8, is widely purported to be National BFF Day.

It’s a day where I want to invite those of you with meaningful friendships to celebrate them (call them! give them a shout out on Facebook! write a text expressing your love!), and also be thoughtful to the fact that the majority of you may be feeling like having a BFF is more like trying to find a unicorn.

You’re not alone.

Most Women Don’t Have a BFF

Friendship research is still a growing study of topic so we don’t have a plethora of statistics (compared to the traditional familial and romantic studies), but taking into consideration all the studies I know of where they measure the degree of friendship– I’d venture a guess that about only 1 in 4 of us have a best friend.  Many more of us have close friends, but the vast majority of us are left feeling like we’re missing “that one.”

I’m of the opinion that far more important than putting the emphasis on finding the one person upon whom we can bestow the word “best” is teaching women how to foster their friendships to experience more of the qualities of excellence.  In other words: let best refer to the quality of our relationships, not the quantity. Unfortunately even by this measurement, we’re suffering too: In a survey of nearly 1200 women that I conducted last year for my book Frientimacy, when asked how satisfied they were on a scale of 1-10 with the depth of their friendships, (with 10 being the most meaningful), only 6% of respondents scored themselves a 10.  The number goes up to about 34% of us if we include everyone who also score a 7, 8, or 9.  But even that suggests that about two-thirds of women are feeling the gap between the frientimacy (friendship intimacy) they are experiencing versus what they wish they were.

If you are coming into this holiday feeling like you’d like to develop more closeness with one or two friends– I’m teaching a class tomorrow for you:

More Friendship Please!  What To Do If You Don’t Have a Best Friend

Audio Class, taught by Shasta Nelson

What:  Receive a 60 minute class, taught by Shasta Nelson, and a worksheet with reflection questions.

When:  Listen to the recording at your convenience.

Where: Listen from your office after work, in your car on your commute home, from your living room couch with a glass of wine, or get in your pj’s and listen from bed! We’ll send you the mp3!

Who: For all women who want effective and inspiring strategies for developing “best” friendships.

What You’ll Learn:

  • What is the best definition for a best friend?
  • The 5 Myths About Best Friends that Are Damaging Our Relationships
  • Strategy #1: Where to Find for Your Best Friend(s)
  • Strategy #2: The 1 Action You Have to Do To Create Deeper Friendship
  • Strategy #3: Get Your Needs Met, No Matter What

Purchase the Class here!

We don’t necessarily all need a BFF, but we do all need to feel like we have as much love in our lives as we can possibly hold.  We all thrive– both literally and figuratively–when we feel supported in life.  Most of us have the capacity to give and receive more love than we’re currently experiencing and it’s our life invitation to keep leaning in and saying yes to more connection.  We’ve long given romance such a huge place in our human quest and journey… but that’s just one relationship and we have so much more love to experience.  And so much more that we can.  It’s not impossible.

Hugs and love to all of you this National Best Friends Day. If you have one or two of those types of friendships: reach out and express that love!  And if you’re in a season where you feel like you don’t have that depth with anyone: don’t despair… love is always available and our willingness to open up to it will be honored.

May we all appreciate the love we do have in our lives and commit to fostering more if we feel that hunger.

xoxo

I feel fortunate to have several "best" friends but allow me a moment to give a shout-out to at least one: Thank you Sher for making the time for over 10 years to talk on the phone every week, and for sharing so deeply and honestly while always inviting me to do the same. xoxo

I feel fortunate to have several “best” friends but allow me a moment to give a shout-out to at least one: Thank you Sher for making the time for over 10 years to talk on the phone every week, and for sharing so deeply and honestly while always inviting me to do the same. xoxo

Posted in Best Friends, Events, Loneliness | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

In Sickness and Health, Part 2: Friendship When We’re Hurting

While this blog post is the second in a series devoted to friendship with those who live with chronic pain and illness (nearly 1 in every 2 of us!), the principles are such that we’d all be wise to keep them in mind for when any of us are facing pain, loss, or suffering, in any form (all of us, at different times!). We all have to keep practicing friendship even in the midst of our imperfect conditions.

Lucy Smith, who has been diagnosed with a debilitating neurological condition, reached out to me several months ago asking for my friend-making advice for those, like her, who live with pain and illness. Because I don’t know what it’s like to live with chronic pain, suffer from depression, or feel that my body or health places limitations on me, I asked her if she’d be willing to weigh in, too.  She wrote the first post in this series about what she wishes her friends understood about how that pain impacts their friendshipship, and I’ll give her the last word in an upcoming post where she offers up friend-making tips to those who suffer from chronic conditions.  But I also wanted to honor her original request and weigh in with what I know about making friends when we’re in pain.

May these tips be received in the spirit they are given: with hope for what we can develop and practice, and a gentleness for what’s beyond our control.

hurting friend

Making friends can feel challenging even under the best of circumstances! But we still have to practice engaging in positive ways even when we’re in pain.

4 Tips to Creating Healthy Relationship Even In Pain

  1. Give the Signal for How Much You Want to Talk About Your Condition/Circumstances:  Make it as easy on your friends as possible by either stating your comfort level with talking about your health (“By the way, I’m an open book on this subject– you always have my permission to ask any question you want that might help you better understand my condition.”) or by affirming the behaviors you appreciate (“Thank you for always asking me how I’m feeling– it means a lot.”). Or if you feel like your whole life is your health and that when you go out with friends you want an occasional break from it, then say that, too!  (“It’s very thoughtful of you to ask, but I’m honestly just tired of talking about that and would love a night off from it.  Is that okay with you?”) Assume that you are way more comfortable talking about these things than your friends are and they’re probably worried about asking a dumb question, hurting your feelings, giving advice where it’s not wanted, or bringing it up too much or not enough. Your ability to give us permission and make it a safe subject (as opposed to everyone feeling like there’s an elephant in the room) will help create a safer relationship. In short: teach and guide us how to best interact with you on this subject, we will fail repeatedly if left to our own best guesses.
  2. Remember the Positivity Ratio:  Research is showing us that our relationships have to maintain a ratio of positivity and negativity that stays above 5:1 in order to stay healthy.  Period. This isn’t negotiable for a friendship. No matter how much our lives hurt, we have to figure out how to keep our friendships titled toward joy. In other words, for every withdrawal we make on a friendship, we have to make 5 deposits to not go in the red. Positivity can include such things as saying thank you, affirming who they are, cheering for their successes, smiling, laughing, doing something for them, letting them know we are thinking of them, or giving a small gift. When our lives are full of pain (of any kind), it is perhaps even more important that we stay mindful that our friends still need to leave our presence feeling better about themselves and their lives for having been with us if we want the friendship to stay healthy. We’re allowed to complain and express hurt, but it’s our job to also bulk up our time together with gratitude and love. This is a tall ask, but to ignore it will kill a friendship with even the best of friends.
  3. Practice the Verb Most Challenging to You: Give, Take, or Receive.  Both giving and receiving are crucial to the health of every relationship, but I’ve also recently learned about how crucial it is that we also learn to take what we need, which is different from receiving that which is offered, right? All three are important for each of us to practice. My guess is that it would be easy to either be so very aware of your needs that you feel as though you’re insatiable and need more than most people can give, or that you so badly don’t want to be a “burden” or inconvenience on anyone that you might be at risk of turning down acts of love when you need it.
    • If you’re saying no to help because you’re embarrassed or scared– practice saying yes, reminding yourself that your friends will feel more bonded to you and your journey if they can be involved.
    • But if you find yourself asking, demanding, or begging for more– instead practice figuring out how you can give to your friends, making sure the relationships don’t center around your needs. I heard someone say the other night, “When we can say ‘I don’t need you,’ others trust us more when we then say ‘I want you.'” Your friends don’t want to be “needed” as much as they want to be “wanted.”
    • Or if you find yourself resentful or hurt that your friends aren’t stepping up, inviting you to things that they “should” know you can’t do, or exhausting you with their expectations– sometimes we need to learn to “take” what we need.  Take the time to stand up to stretch when needed, to go rest when you feel the headache coming on, to ask for what you need. Taking is a skill that can be the most loving verb for your own health and for the health of your friendships.
  4. Prove Repeatedly that Their Pains/Joys Still Matter: When I went through a devastating divorce years ago, multiple friends stopped sharing their lives with me, brushing it off with statements like “Nothing compares to what you’re going through.” They worried that everything sounded like complaining over nothing or bragging about what I didn’t have, whether they wanted to complain about their spouses or be excited about their upcoming wedding plans or family vacations. When we’re in pain–any kind– we have to be the ones who keep giving permission to others to have their lives still matter. We have to stop talking and say, “now tell me all about you” and assure them that they still have the right to be happy and to complain. If they don’t feel like they can complain about gaining ten pounds or having a headache– just because we have it worse– then we can’t be a safe place for them in the long-term.  We have to cheer for them, waving off any of their guilt or concern for our feelings, and mourn with them, even when it seems to pale in comparison. Just because we lost a big part of our lives doesn’t mean they should too. We will tap into the feeling they are expressing, instead of judging the circumstances.

Blessings on all of us as we continue to develop healthy relationships even in the midst of unhealthy bodies or circumstances….

 

Posted in Difficulty & Challenges, Health, Loss & Grief, Our Mistakes | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The 7 Verbs for Better Sex, Works for Friendships, Too

To say that I am impressed with the work of the acclaimed “sex therapist”–Dr. Esther Perel— would be an understatement. And seeing that she’s a New York Times bestseller and viral Ted Talk presenter, I clearly am not alone in my esteem.  She is known for her research and work around sex, infidelity, marriage, and the difference between desire and love.

Esther Perel

Dr. Esther Perel, reminds us that good sex is more about the big picture of intimacy, which can teach us truth for all our relationships!

While I am constantly reminding all of us that we need to expand our understanding of the word intimacy to be about more than sex (we all need far more intimacy in our lives than any romantic relationship–or act within that relationship–can provide!), that’s not to say that the principles of healthy romance can’t inform healthy friendships!  Intimacy– the act of being close and feeling bonded– might look different in specifics with a romantic partner, but the general values are similar in any relationship.

Esther Perel’s 7 Verbs for Better Relationships

Sitting in the audience of one of Esther Perel’s talks this last Sunday night inspired me in many ways, but one idea I knew I had to share this week with all of you was her 7 verbs to healthier relationships.  Similar to how we might learn the same core verbs when learning a new language (e.g. to have, to want, to be), she offers up 7 verbs that she feels are core to sustained love.

Obviously in a sexual relationship, the verbs might be more specific to how you behave in the bedroom, but those same verbs can be incredibly powerful and convicting when we think about how we practice them in any realm of life, including our friendships.

When looking at these seven verbs, ask yourself: How comfortable am I at practicing this verb? How hard or easy are each of these actions for me?

  1. To Ask: What do we need? Do we ask for it? Instead of telling people what we don’t want or being hurt when they don’t meet our needs– are we becoming more practiced with requesting what we want and need? This is so crucial– I talk about it a lot in Frientimacy because so many friendships experience misunderstandings simply because we didn’t ask for what would have felt good.What do you need to ask for from your friends?
  2. To Give: Are we generous? Do we enjoy bringing pleasure and joy to others? Can we give without strings attached? Do we notice opportunities for giving and then take them?  My guess is that most of us do this one pretty well– at least most of us report that we feel like we’re the “givers” in our friendships, but maybe an inquiry is whether we are doing it with joy and generosity? What do you need to give to yourself and/or your friendships?
  3. To Receive: Are we quick to receive what is given– be it offers to help or compliments? Do we say thank you, instead of brushing the gifts away? Do we let others give to us without fear, score-keeping, or feelings of inferiority? Can we sit back and take in the generosity of others? Again, in Frientimacy I have a whole chapter talking about this because for those of us who feel like we give so much, the answer may not be that we need to give less, but that we need to receive more? Women, especially, find this one hard because we like how it feels to be the giver and we’re afraid of having needs or being seen as narcissistic or arrogant. What do you need to receive from yourself and your friends?
  4. To Take:  Can we take what we need without needing to wait for others to grant us permission or offer it up? Are we empowered to identify what feels good and pursue it? I LOVE that this is a different verb than to “receive.” For many of us, we need to say “yes” to help or “thank you” to an affirmation, but there are so many things we need to “take” that we can’t wait for someone to offer.  Some of us need to take more days off, some of us need to take control of our work, some of us need to take the time to have a courageous conversation, and some of us need to take the initiative.  What do you need to take that would matter to you and/or your friendships?
  5. To Imagine:  We don’t talk about this one much, but what do you need to imagine in your relationships? How comfortable are you at thinking outside the box? How willing are you to fantasize about what you could experience? How willing are you share your dreams and hopes with others?  Obviously in a sexual situation, to be able to share one’s fantasies with a partner looks different from sharing our dreams, ideas, and hopes with a friend– but they both take vulnerability as we risk sharing “bigger” and “more” with another.  Where do you need to imagine? What imaginations might want to be shared with another?
  6. To Share: hmmmm…. this is a powerful word, different still from giving and receiving, huh? Whether it’s the picture of a child who is sharing a toy (not giving it away) or the idea of sitting on a couch and sharing stories with a friend, the idea of sharing is that we are doing something together, not just doing it beside each other as we each do our own thing. The dictionary defines it as “having portion of something with another.” How well do you share with your friends? How does sharing look different from giving to you? What could you share that would feel bonding?
  7. To Refuse: Esther made the statement: “If you’ve never had the freedom to say no, then you’ve never had the permission to say yes.” Wow, let that one soak in.  Are you comfortable saying no to your friends? Are you willing to refuse what doesn’t feel good? We often feel like we have to always say yes “because they’re my friend” but I actually teach the opposite: It should be with our friends that we can practice this verb most safely! We need to practice saying no and trust that our friends will trust us more when we say yes because we’ve proven we can say no. What do you need to practice refusing? Where do you need to say no?

Aren’t those powerful? Which one is the one that is most difficult for you or the one you do the least often?  Which one do you need to practice more within your friendships?  Which one is calling out to you say “Pay attention to opportunities to act on this verb!”

Improving our friendships, and feeling greater intimacy, might not be doing “more” of what comes easiest to us, but it might be doing “more” of that which feels the most difficult?

As your muscles get more practiced at all seven of these verbs– I hope primarily for more meaningful platonic friendships, but I would also be thrilled if it led to better sex, too.  May you develop greater intimacy in all the relationships you crave! xoxo

 

Posted in Books & Movies, Maintaining Friends, Personal Growth/Spirituality, Vulnerability | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments