We all know those fabulous women we have loved over the years, the ones where our shared history with them puts them in that special category of proven friends. When we talk to them, we pick up right where we left off. They're the kind of women we don't have to explain ourselves to, apologize for the time lapse or call them all the time to know we're still loved. So certainly it pains me to pop that bubble of idealism, but sometimes it must be said: Just because you can call her and know she'll be there for you doesn't mean you do.
One of the most common traps that keeps us in denial about needing more friends is that we used to have good friends. And, the greatest risk happens when we think of them still as our closest friends.
Used-To-Be-Friends Or Still Friends?
This trap throws off the best of us. We can quickly name 5 amazing women we call friends, and often feel better with our sense of connectedness. But then we still hear that nagging voice whispering that we think we need more friends. We feel lonely.
If you’re only sending Christmas cards, seeing each other once a year, calling every couple of months and giving little sentence updates on facebook—that may be why you still feel a sense of loneliness?
Risking redundancy, it stands to be pointed out that your current loneliness is not because you haven't had amazing friendships before. Rather, it's because you may not be engaging in them now.
I know for me, when I moved to San Francisco, I pushed away my awareness that I needed to make new friends by telling myself how awesome my friends were. And yet, even though they were only a phone call away. They were still a phone call away. A phone call I didn't make with most of them frequently enough to keep it intimate and easy.
And I'm not suggesting that we shouldn't have these "former" friends. (And by former, I only mean that the intensity & consistency may have been more in the past than the present.) My girlfriends from Southern Cal lived through some of my worst and best moments with me-- I will always want to stay connected with them. Those friends give to us in many ways by knowing who we used to be, giving us a sense of a wider net in our lives and helping us feel less alone in this world.
It's life-changing to know you have these friends you can call if you are diagnosed with cancer. You need to know you have people you can count on in the "big things."
However, I often talk myself out of calling these friends because while I know I can pick up where we left off... that's part of the problem. I have so much updating to do with them to catch them up to life right now, that I often decide I don't have the time for a long conversation.
What Do We Most Need to Add to our Connectedness?
But what most of us crave are the kind of friends you can call to just ask her what she's making for dinner. Or how her day went. Or what she bought over the weekend. Or whether she wants to go get drinks tomorrow night. The "small things."
We usually feel more intimate with the people we can talk about nothing with as easy as we can talk about something with.
For the truth is, fortunately, that we make dinner more than we get cancer.
No matter how many women you used to be close to—you can still feel lonely now. And sometimes just knowing that you can call isn't enough. To abate loneliness we actually need friends we can go live life with, not just report life to.
I ended up having to start over with local women. It doesn't mean I don't still meet up with my used-to-be-friends every year for a weekend together. Or that we don't call when the big things happen. But it means I now have friends to call for the small stuff. The small stuff that actually feels more important on a day-to-day basis.
So by all means, love those used-to-be women for the history they hold and the way they make you feel known, and by all means stay in touch with them! But I invite you to own the fact that your loneliness may be your hearts way of saying “I would like some women who can journey with me more regularly.”
And perhaps 1-2 of them can step into that role. I called up one of the women in this circle for me a few years ago, told her how much I missed her and asked if we could schedule a weekly standing phone call to live life together a bit more.
But maybe that's not enough. Maybe you still need new friends?
But either way, don’t confuse who used to be your best friend with the fact that you might need additional ones (or rekindled ones?) in that place now.