Best Friends Forever

Three Friendship Inspirations from a 7-Year Old

It has been a record 22 days since I've blogged!  I guess you can't complain you're ever getting too many e-mails from me!  :)  My excuse for my negligence is two-fold: First, I sent off the complete draft of my book manuscript "Friendships Don't Just Happen!" to my publishers in the beginning of May so all my daily writing time was focused on getting that done instead of blogging! And my second reason is that the day after I e-mailed those 80,000 words, my husband & I flew out to Tampa, FL for 12 days to babysit my 7-year old niece and 4-year old nephew while my sister and her hubby enjoy their first long get-away without kids. So as a substitute mom I've pretty much limited my work to the bare bones while I'm here playing!   

Three Friendship Inspirations We Can Learn From Kids

But now the kids are happily playing in a homemade fort we built in the backyard so I thought I'd share my musings about three moments of beautiful friendship I've witnessed from my first-grade niece, Naomi. The first example comes from her meeting a stranger at the beach over the weekend, then I share two moments with her best friend (known in this post as T.) who lives down the street.

  1. I love how kids don't need a ton of warm up to play with others: We weren't at the beach for even an hour before Naomi and another little girl introduced themselves to each other in the water. They were inseparable the rest of the day as they practiced standing on boogey-boards, jumped on inflatable toys, and collected shells. I just shook my head in awe.  Never in a million years would I be making friends on the beach.  Not because all the other women didn't look friendly, but we simply don't walk up to people sun-bathing, introduce ourselves, plop down on their towels, and spend the afternoon together. But that's not to say we can't learn from her. I love that kids value the moment, playing with whomever is there, caring more about having fun now than trying to figure out whether they have a future together or not. We all value connection and there are a lot of activities in life that would be enhanced with new friends even if we don't know it will only last an hour or a day.
  2. I love how kids easily express adoration:  We arrived a few days early so we could attend Naomi's 7th birthday party.  Her BFF made her a card where she wrote: "You and I have been best friends since I moved. I wish I knew you since I was a baby. You are the bestest friend anyone can have! I wish in my next life we can be together." Wow! That they don't yet filter their adoration is such a sweet gift of childhood.  They aren't consumed with worrying about whether they'll look desperate, whether the other feels the same way, or whether it's 'too soon' to say it yet. They just proclaim the friendship into eternity.  Some of us adults can do that with friends we've known forever, but I've noticed we become much more guarded as adults, taking much longer to tell each other "I really like you!"
  3. I love how kids steal extra moments together: Naomi quickly informed me upon my arrival, "You know Aunt Shasta that T. and I play together every day, right?" Her face looked a little worried that when her parents were to leave that maybe I wouldn't know the routine.  I smiled and said, "yes" thinking this is exactly why friendship felt so much easier as kids-- we had every day together! Now I'm lucky if I see new friends once a month! Then a super precious moment came when T.'s older sister came to tell T. that she had to come home one day when they were playing over here. Next thing I know T. is running away from her sister, refusing to go home, not wanting to leave her BFF.  Her older sister began chasing her, begging her to obey.  T. then runs to Naomi for help; they stand there clinging to each other, refusing to end their time together without a fight. I'm sure if I were the mother who had to put up with that often then I may not find it as charming, but as the visiting aunt who knows the value of friendship I loved it! In our adult lives we schedule each other in, fitting our friends between this-and-that appointment, rarely giving each other an entire afternoon and then begging for more time together! It inspired me. To watch kids get together with no plan for what they will do ahead of time, play for as long as they can, and still wish for more time together-- that is as good as it gets!

I do believe that there was an ease in childhood friend-making that we can't always repeat as adults.  In fact, my book is all about how to meet people and develop them into meaningful friendships because I find that we often, as adults, just keep waiting and hoping that friendships will one day feel as easy as it did back when we were kids.  We may not now have the repetition of school or an open schedule to play every afternoon as we did back then, but we need friendships all the same. 

Naomi inspired me, reminding me that it doesn't always have to be complicated.  When it comes down to it, if we just 1) played with the people we met, 2) told them we liked them, and 3) tried to spend as much time together as possible-- that really is the bulk of friend-making. Even as adults.  

What do you miss about childhood friendships? In what ways are friendships the same or different as kids from adults? What observations have you had about friendship when you watch kids play?

An Example of Contact Friends: "The Friendship Circle"

I love watching little light bulbs go on when I talk about my 5 Circles of Connectedness.  It's not that describing different types of friends is revolutionary, but I love how seeing the spectrum validates us both for the amazing circles we do have, and acknowledges why we're sometime craving more, different experiences in our friendships.

In this blog I often talk about the far right-end of the spectrum-- as most of us are craving more Frientimacy, deeper connections, and confidantes.  But I want to dedicate my next two blog posts to some fabulous women on my left-side--the friends whom we share something in common, cheer for each other, and provide resources and support as we can in that context.

Contact Friends: We share a casual connection with these friends that is limited to one area of our lives. This is not the same as ALL acquaintances.  For example, we may know the names of all twenty people in our monthly association meeting or at church, but these are the 2-3 that we gravitate toward, considering ourselves friends when we see them even though we don't get together with them on our own, outside the shared context.

One of my Contact Circles: Twitter & Female Friendship

In the last couple of years as I've dived into social media, I can honestly say that building up some Contact Friends on Twitter is the only way I was able to stay engaged. Otherwise, it could have just felt pointless and exhausting-- too many people talking, too few listening.  But in the exchanging of some introductions (in under 140 characters), I now claim to have friends in that world.

These are friends in the loosest term of the word in that I have met only one of them in real life, know next to nothing about their personal lives, and we connect only in the area we have in common which happens to be twitter and the subject of female friendships.

But don't let the fact that it's casual imply that it's not meaningful! They do for me what my dearest, closest friends couldn't do.

These Contact Friends connect with me in different ways; they help me feel heard when I send out a tweet, offer to partner up on projects, congratulate me on my business wins,  and share with me the resources on our shared subject that they come across. Those are no small things!

Introducing the Friendship Circle

We've banded together and created the Friendship Circle.   Since they are all aficionados of female friendship-- they have a lot to offer the readers of my blog.  I want to introduce you to these friends of mine... that they might be yours too!

  1. Business: Tell us what you do and why you love it!
  2. Gratitude: What would be #17 on your list of gratitude?  :)
  3. Friendship: Give a shout-out to one of your GirlFriends you appreciate!

Cherie Burbach (aka @brrbach), Friendship Guide at About.com

I'm a freelance writer and author, and I celebrate the fact that every single day I get to do something I absolutely love. The days fly by when you love your work. My #17 is that I have creative hobbies (crocheting, painting, mixed media) that I can lose all track of time in. It helps me recharge my batteries and reminds me of the blessings I have. My GirlFriend: Debby Mayne. She's a writer I met online and has been a source of encouragement and cheerleading all year. I am very thankful for her generous spirit.

 

 

Rachel Bertsche (aka @rberch), Author of MWF Seeking BFF (blog & book)

Mine isn't a business, per se, but my book and blog are how hard--and hilariously awkward!--it is to make new friends as an adult. Last year was my second year at it, and I think last year I got really good at embracing the "you never know if this will be your next BFF" attitude in my life. #17: I am SO GRATEFUL for the fact that I'm someone who sleeps through the night. I hear about others who wake up every three hours and I always think, "Thank God for my lucky sleep habits!!"  Random, I know. GirlFriend: I can't pick just one! I have so many wonderful friends, and I'm so grateful for the new friends I've made over the last two years. Specifically, the new pals who've supported my writing--especially when I'm writing about them!

Debba Haupert (aka @girlfriendology), Founder of Girlfriendology

My business is my passion - inspiring women and their friendships. Girlfriendology started with a couple girlfriends dealing with cancer and grew to a community of over 40,000 women. I celebrate the joy of hearing women's stories and giving them a platform to share them. #17 Being born in this time. I'm not a 'ride across the prairie in a covered wagon' kind of girl and I'm definitely a technology and social media maven. I'm thankful for being alive in the time of iPads and WiFi (and, to be honest, indoor plumbing, gorgeous/easily-accessible shoes and coffee shops!). My beautiful GirlFriend Deana has has a rough year - including losing her BFF. Yet, through everything, she is always there for her friends and family - and with a gorgeous smile on her face. She inspires me and makes me very, very thankful that we met in college a long time ago.

Irene Levine (aka @irenelevine), Author of Best Friends Forever

I am trained as a psychologist and work as a full-time freelance journalist writing about a variety of topics including travel, lifestyle and friendship. The nicest part of my work is getting letters from people who say that my book changed their lives as well as their friendships! #17: I'm grateful to all the friends and mentors who helped shape my life---even though I've lost contact with many of them. My GirlFriend Linda listens, understands, and is always there for me. I'm lucky to be able to call her at any time or hour when I need advice.

 

Britt Michaelian (aka @MamaBritt) and Dabney Porte (aka @DabneyPorte), Co-Founders of #SMgirlfriends

Girlfriends Productions, LLC is our business and one thing that we are celebrating is that we have reached over 30 million people in 18 different countries and over 250 million impressions of support in the first 6 months in the Social Media Girlfriends community! Our #17: We are so grateful for the many people within our communities who are cheerleaders and who support one another without us asking for them to do it! GirlFriend: It is so hard for us to thank one person because there are so many to choose from and no one is more important than the next, so if we had to choose one person to thank it would be… our entire community.

 

And then there's me: Shasta Nelson (aka @girlFRNDcircles), Founder of GirlFriendCircles.com

My favorite aspect of GirlFriendCircles, the women's friendship matching site, is talking and writing about friendship.  This last year I was excited to expand this blog (subscribe top right corner if you're new!) and for the Huffington Post. My #17 is weekends with my husband-- the restorative time when I remind myself that my self-worth is not tied to my business worth. And a GirlFriend I want to shout-out to is Daneen for being willing to keep investing in our friendship even though the mom/non-mom difference between us can feel vast.

A pretty amazing round-up, huh?  :)  How much more enjoyable my social media experience  has been because of these women!  Follow all of us on twitter by following this list: @Girlfriendology/friendship-circle

Your Contact Friends?

What worlds are you a part of where building some new friendships would be meaningful? Where do you need inspiration? Resources? Encouragement?

What are you hoping to accomplish in 2012? Weight loss? Business growth? Home-schooling your kids? Involvement in a church? Hanging out with more singles? Where can you find those people? How can you start the connections?

All friendships start here with your contact friends. Put yourself out there and introduce yourself!

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p.s. And huge thanks to Girlfriend Celebrations (Dawn Bertuca & Tina Bishop) who were founding members of our Friendship Circle, helping get us all together!

 

Frientimacy: The Intimacy of Friends

This is a posting that was originally posted April 26, 2010 on my former blog. Because I've been writing more about Frientimacy, I wanted to re-port this illustration of how it's played out in my life. ________________________

Sitting in that circle of six women was powerful. There is nothing like being seen by friends you love and who love you back. Intimacy is a word that just brings up too much romance, so I call it "Frientimacy."

We all live in different cities, but this last weekend we had all flown into Seattle for our Annual Girlfriend Get-Together. And so there we sat catching each other up on our lives. Our real lives.

Frientimacy Is Authentic We listened as one shared that's she not sure she wants to stay married. Another, found out her husband cheated. And another just broke up with the man she wanted.  One is trying to decide if she wants kids. Another is due next month. Another just found out her baby isn't developing on schedule. Another isn't sure she'll find someone to marry before she has that choice. Another is struggling with weight and another with financial security and still another with contentment.  We shared our pains and disappointments.

We also listened as we went around the room sharing 3 things we celebrate about our lives in the last year. It was spectacular: The risks. The wins. The accomplishments. The completions. The new beginnings. The Ph.D, the new baby, the new business, the new office, the new love. The big anniversary.

It was beautiful to be among friends who have history sharing both. These are six beautiful, amazing, professional, intelligent women who live life fully and are committed to truthful friendships.

Frientimacy is Awkward And while it sounds so good to be honest, I'd be remiss if I didn't acknowledge how hard it can be go there.

We are far from being a homogeneous group: some married, some single, some divorced, some with kids, some with step-kids, some with none.  Through the years many us have traded those roles-the married one becomes single and the single finds her love. Often at the same time.  And we have to celebrate one and grieve the other. It is hard being the first or only in the group to have kids, and equally hard to be the last or only to not be in a relationship.

Even with people we love and respect, there is no way to be friends without bringing our personal insecurities, fears and baggage to the relationship. It's hard to celebrate each others joys even when we're jealous.  To hold their pain without projecting our story into it.

There were definitely awkward moments. Moments where you want to judge, give advice, justify your decision that's different than hers, wallow in self-pity rather than give her a high-five.

But we've practiced. We've made commitments to be generous with each other. Honest. We trust the commitment is bigger than the pain. We trust the history is deeper than the present moment. And we're still practicing.

We forge on. There will be lots of awkward moments we will witness and hold.

Frientimacy is Developed We can only trust our future because we've experienced our history. It wasn't instant.

It was due to consistency that we have fostered this.

Seven years ago, we were mostly strangers to each other. I invited a few women I had met to commit to a weekly group in my apartment. Some invited someone else. And over time, with one leaving here and another joining there, we had a group that was consistent. We didn't all necessarily feel like we would be friends with each individual in the group if it weren't for the collective time, but we knew the value of going deeper with other women so we kept coming.

What we celebrate now has taken effort. It has taken consistency. Far more than most women are willing to put in. Most of us think if we get together once a month with a new friend that a friendship will blossom. And I'd say once a month is enough to keep liking each other, but probably not enough to build enough history that when your lives change (and they will) that you have enough history behind you to stay connected through it. Once a week for one year gave us the gift we'll enjoy the rest of our lives.

I no longer live around those women so I've become part of another group of local women who meet weekly. We don't have the same history yet, but we will keep meeting and keep sharing and we are definitely developing our own new Frientimacy.

Who are you being consistent with? How can you schedule in some consistent time with other women? How are you building upon the new friendships you've started?

Frientimacy is Worth it You may not feel the potential after your first time together. Or your next time together.

You may doubt it. You may feel like they're too different from you. Or that you're not sure you like each of them.

You may feel insecure around one of them or find that one annoys you. It's likely.

But you will also begin to know you have a group that sees your life. That knows it. That you don't have to update but can simply share. You will feel the difference it makes to have close friends. Local friends. Not the kind you have to impress, but the kind you get to be real with. It's likely.

I had an amazing weekend with the women who have known me and loved me for seven years. And I'm committed to building more of that in my life, locally and on a weekly basis.

Frientimacy is authentic. It can be awkward. It takes time to develop. But it is so worth it.

6 Books to Help Your Friendships

I often quote the research from BYU that revealed just how important friendships are to our health.  The sentiment of the research didn't surprise me at all, but what they compared it to sure did! After compiling extensive relational studies, researchers revealed that if you feel disconnected-- it is worse for your health than smoking 15 cigarettes a day, twice as harmful as being obese, and as damaging as being an alcoholic. What shocks me most is how little training and teaching we get, outside of our own experience, in this ever-important life area of relationships.  Compare how much attention your teachers and leaders have given to the three things listed as less significant than your relationships: obesity, drinking and smoking.  Seriously! We have laws against smoking and drinking, yet it's never been illegal to be isolated! We have  billboards and commercials showing the effect of smoke on our lungs and the aftermath of driving while buzzed, but I've never seen one showing the effects of loneliness.  Even if your nutrition and physical education classes in school left a lot to be desired, at least they had them.  I never took a class on healthy relationships.

In an area that is touted to be most significant to our health, happiness, and longevity-- we just hope healthy relationships comes naturally. Unfortunately, with 85% of us admitting to having toxic friends, I'm not blown away by how well we've taught ourselves.

6 Books that Teach Healthy Friendships

Here are six books I think could help us start being more intentional in our healthy friendship education:

  1. Consequential Strangers, by Melinda Blau and Karen Fingerman, Ph.D.  As the tagline suggests, "The Power of People who Don't Seem to Matter But Really Do," you may not feel inspired to buy this book because you may not realize just how significant your connections through out the day can be in your life.  However, this book is hugely revealing and has much to teach us about our wider networks. For those of you familiar with my 5 Circles of Connectedness, this book is all about just how important the left-side of our continuum can be.
  2. A Return to Love, by Marianne Williamson.  The middle third of this book is one of the most impressive visions of healthy relationships on the market, not just friendships. While her field is spiritual growth, her case is that all our personal growth happens in our relationships.  She showcases the importance of every interaction we have, from what seems inconsequential to us all the way to the people with whom we have lifetime assignments. Her call to us to give love rather than project fear is inspiring.  To show up with others on a soul level rather than ego level would change the world.
  3. The Power of Female Friendship: How Your Circle of Friends Shapes Your Life, by Paul Dobransky, M.D. This book goes way past warm-and-fuzzy to give you really fabulous scientific charts, graphs, and formulas. His definition of friendship ("Friendship is consistent, mutual, shared positive emotion") is still one I use in my teaching-- helping women know the 4 things that must be present in a healthy friendship. He breaks up friendship in some of the most thought-provoking ways teaching psychology, boundaries, emotional health, and brain function.
  4. Best Friends Forever, by Irene Levine Ph.D. This tagline will sell the book: "Surviving a Breakup with Your Best Friend."  She's quick to remind you that it's an unhealthy myth to believe that your friendships should last forever, with most of us staying in touch with only 1 out 12 of our friends.  She's also quick to sympathize with why it can, ironically, sometimes be harder and more painful to end friendships than it is to end our romantic loves.  Her guide will help you thoughtfully process which friendships to let go, how to do it, and how to heal.
  5. The Friendship Fix, by Andrea Bonior, Ph.D.    This recent book is a fast and fun read as it aims to help women in their "choosing, loosing, and keeping up" with their friends.  I'd recommend this book especially to those in their 20's and 30's still trying to figure out how to do friendship as adults beyond college. Her style is witty and helpful in identifying what kind of friend you are, how to transition friendships through the marriages and pregnancies, and how to think through friendships with exes, family members, and work colleagues.
  6. Find Your Strongest Life, by Marcus Buckingham. This book isn't about friendship per say, but is about how women can live successfully and happily by leaning into your strongest role (9 options, we all have 1-2 primarily).  I put this book on the list for those of you who already have a fulfilling circle of friends as I think this is a fun way to get to know each other better.  The five-minute online test is free, but unpacking the results and learning about how you each give differently in the friendship is priceless. This is a great book to go through with a group of girlfriends as you all commit to cheering for each other as you seek to live your strongest life.

I'm holding spot #7 for a book that is to be released in January (you can pre-order) titled "MWF Seeking BFF" where the author, Rachel Bertsche writes about her year of weekly friend-dating as she went from friendless in Chicago to establishing a local circle of friends.  This will be an inspiring read for most of you who know what it's like to need to make new friends but feel the fear and insecurity of actually starting friendships from scratch.

And then spot # 8?  Well maybe I should write one?  :)

So there you have it.  Gold stars for those of you who actually decide to read one of these!  I really want to remind you that to simply sit back and hope for more friends isn't going to do it. Much like the fact that you have to get off the couch to get healthy, we're truly going to have to learn to keep making and fostering healthy friendships throughout our lives.

To reading that can change your life....

An Ode to Girlfriends, by Danielle LaPorte

Note from Shasta: For Friendship Month this September I've invited some women to guest blog for me, adding their voices and experiences to our journey.  We launch our guest blogs with Danielle LaPorte of White Hot Truth (bio at the end!). Thanks Danielle for giving voice in such an awesome way!------------------------------

an ode to girlfriends everywhere

girlfriend, i adore you. like, insanely, madly, infinitely, priceless diamond, cosmic shiny adore you. it's crazy how much i adore you.

you told me to dump the chump.

i cut my bangs way too short before a job interview. you told me to wear a low cut blouse to distract from the nasty haircut. i got the job.

you're happy for me. always.

you remember. everything. you're the encyclopaedia of...me.

you made the appointment for me. you waited in the car. we drove home in silence.

you make sure my burritos come with an extra side of sour cream, and you order pizzas with mushrooms only on half.

you took me to the coast when i needed it most.

when i thought the pain would kill me, you reminded me that i wouldn't die of a broken heart.

you told that bastard to fuck off so that i didn't have to.

you drove the moving van. in your first trimester. while barfing at truck stops. you never once complained.

you very gently suggested that maybe one pair of shoulder pads was sufficient.

you called in sick for me when really, I was partying on the band's bus headed for Buffalo.

you didn't make me wear taffeta to your wedding.

you lent me $200 bucks that made all the difference between rent and groceries that month. you tucked it into my purse when i wasn't looking to save me the humiliation.

you held my hand when i got my tattoos, and my wisdom teeth out, and my first really expensive pair of shoes.

you babysat so that i could be with my mother when she was dying.

you dared me and then said: if you don't trust you, trust me.

my baby was two days old. you came over and scrubbed my kitchen floor, made a lemon loaf, and rocked the baby so that i could take a nap, but i didn't sleep. instead, you and i just stared at the baby on the bed, together.

you bring me trashy magazines and don't judge me for loving them.

you coax me out of my own brain. make me stop working and have fun. and you have no idea what I do for a living.

you are how i know god is real. you are my heart honey. my harbor. my metric of faith. my fresh water source. my soul sherpa.

girlfriend, i could not, would not do this without you.

not ever.

you, girlfriend. you.

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Danielle LaPorte is the creator of WhiteHotTruth.com, which has been called "the best place on-line for kick-ass spirituality." She is the author of The Spark Kit: A Digital Experience for Entrepreneurs, an inspirational speaker, and a former think tank executive. Her next book, The Fire Starter Sessions: A Guide to Blazing Your Own Trail in Life & Work, launches in April 2012 from Random House. You can find her on Twitter @daniellelaporte