Commitment

My Annual GirlFriend Group: The Benefits of Long Distance Friendships!

Tomorrow morning I fly out to San Antonio for my Annual SoCal Girls Weekend. SO EXCITED! SoCal Girls Group

We used to all live in Southern California (hence why I still refer to us as the SoCal group!) where we would get together weekly for an evening of tea, book talk, and life sharing. I think we met for just over a year before life started moving some of us to new places, but we made a pact that we'd all get together at least once a year for the rest of our lives. We're seven years in to that commitment. I love that we made that decision.

Since I'm always championing local and new friendships, I thought I'd rave today about  some of the pay-offs that come from our time spent with more long-term, albeit long-distance friendships:

  • Provides Ongoing Intimacy: I rate myself pretty low on the "good at staying in touch" with long-distance friends scale.  If it weren't for this annual weekend these would be women who I simply would drift apart from. Sure, some of us see each other here-and-there if we're traveling through each others cities on business or visiting family nearby.  A few texts and phone calls are exchanged between different ones of us throughout the year, and we also try to periodically stay in touch on a group Facebook page and via a couple of scheduled conference calls.  But those are all just updates.  It's staying up all night talking for a weekend that brings us back to real Frientimacy.  These weekends are where we share the real stuff with women who know us.
  • Non-Negotiable Commitment: It's a no-brainer every year to buy the airline ticket. Since we already made the decision years ago that this is going to happen, we don't ever have to ask "Can I go this year?"  We don't get input from our busy calendars, our budgets, or our spouses/kids as to whether we can go this year-- we just say yes. The truth is we can always talk ourselves out of things if we raise the question--work will always be hectic, funds will always feel tight, kids will always need us-- so it's nice to have the important things in life already decided. Our friendship is important to us so we'll keep the weekend short and inexpensive, but we will always be there.
  • Protected From Life Change:  Since our time together is really only a weekend every year-- my friendship with these women doesn't go up in flux if they get married, have another kid, change jobs, move to a different city, or go through a divorce. That's a gift right there.  Most of our local friendships are constantly being impacted by the choices we all make-- we get our feelings hurt when one person is too busy or goes through a big life change. So the downside to our long-distance group is that we may not know each others kids and husbands well, but the up-side is that any of that can change and it won't change the fact that we are getting together for our 3 days.
  • We Know History & See Growth:  One of my favorite parts of our time together is that we all answer a few questions on paper about what our lives look like right now-- things we're grateful for, wounds we're nursing, fears we're feeling, goals we've set-- and we put them in a folder that we only look at this one weekend.  This year, we'll all open our long-forgotten page from last year and see how life has changed from then.  It's like this mile-marker for life, giving us a chance to say "oh yeah, I remember feeling that fear... look at me now" or "interesting that this same thing keeps showing up every year on my page..."  We share with each other what we've written-- sometimes crying, often cheering, but always loving. It's nice to have friends who see us deeply once a year.
  • A Bigger-Picture-Type of Sharing: I love my local San Francisco girlfriends-- we can talk on the phone ten minutes here-and-there, get together for tea, share dinners, and know what we're each facing every week ahead.  There's a consistency there that supports me in the best way ever.  But there's also something really special about the friends who are removed from my day-to-day life, the ones who only see me occasionally. We talk about different things. Whereas friends here might ask what I'm doing today or this weekend, these friends ask about highlights and lowlights from the last year. The conversations give me a chance to think about life in a broader way, to reflect on the bigger issues.  They observe changes in me that might be harder for people who see me all the time to notice. They ask about things I'd long forgotten. They hold a space for me to learn about myself in different ways.

I tell you all this because if you don't have this and want it-- you can make it happen.  We did not all know each other when the six of us all started getting together weekly.  It's not like we were all a clique from college.  I was new to SoCal and just started asking some girls if they wanted to come over for a weekly book discussion. Some of them invited someone else they knew... and our group formed.  You can do that.

For many of you it may be that you already have a few women flung across this country that you love and it may be that you simply need to make the decision to be the catalyst that gets you all together.  It can be affordable-- Southwest has flights on sale all the time, hotel costs decrease when split among several of you, and you can just buy a few groceries to keep it simple.  This kind of friendship is worth the investment.

So tomorrow I board the plane knowing that on the other end will be women that I may not have seen in a year, but that I know will hug me and love me like few others can.

 

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.

Today is National Best Friend Day: How to Make a BFF

Today, June 8, is National Best Friend Day. The easy thing to do would be to write a posting on the glories and joys of a BFF.  But, I figure most of us have a sense of how good it feels when we have that best friend... the bigger trick is how to get it if we don't currently have it.

I Want a Best Friend, a BFF

When most of us start craving more friendship-- it's usually for that idealistic friendship. We want the women who see us, know us and love us.  We want that relationship that is comfortable, known, and easy.

Unfortunately, we can't just go out and find that BFF because she doesn't exist. At least not yet. A best friend has to be developed, not discovered. Meaningful friendships simply don't exist before we put in the time to create them.

This one little misguided expectation is what seems to throw off the best of us.

When members in the GirlFriendCircles.com community get frustrated, it is typically around the gap in expectations between what we want and what we find.  Meaning, we want deep friendships that are comfortable and require little energy, but what we find are strangers that require us getting to know each other. And so we are tempted to give up.  We sigh in defeat that we aren't meeting our best friends.

How to Make a Best Friend

Best friends are made up of two non-negotiable ingredients, I think.

Undoubtedly, there are a thousand definitions/preferences/nuances... such as if you think your BFF needs to be just like you, have a certain temperament, share specific interests, live in a defined proximity, or have proven herself to you by any number of tests. All things that can increase chemistry and connectedness, for sure!

But for every rule, there is evidence of the opposite being true, too.  Indeed, when most of us start a friendship we, not surprisingly, want that person to be at our same life stage and be as similar to us as possible.  And yet, as BFF's survive history and time together, it's amazing how different our paths can become, proving that friendship isn't dependent on that which we thought brought us together.  Which then makes BFF's this elusive creature where we're never quite sure what fosters the relationships we most crave. So we walk away from many amazing women because we're not sure how to get from meeting people to making friends, from here-to-there. If it wasn't instant, we doubt the potential.

The Frientimacy Triangle

So, today, on National BFF Day I wanted to blog for a moment on what I call the Frientimacy Triangle. I've modified it from various marriage workshops to be used for friendship purposes.

Shastas Frientimacy Triangle

In a nutshell, we all start at the base of the triangle with every person we meet.  And if a healthy committed relationship is what we desire, then we must move up the triangle by both increasing commitment and intimacy at the same rate. An increase on one side of the triangle begs to be matched by the other side.

As our platonic intimacy (defined, in part, by our ability to be vulnerable, and our giving/receiving of affection) grows, so should our commitment to that person.  And vice versa, as our commitment (defined, in part, by our level of engagement and willingness to protect the relationship) grows, so should our intimacy. Should we accelerate one too fast our triangle becomes lopsided and falls, not reaching the pinnacle.

A BFF then, should be a person we feel committed to and honest with. Which theoretically could take months and years.  For none of us should be walking around committing ourselves to strangers, no matter how charming, fun and engaging they are.  No matter if we perceive them to be our twin.

Commitment has to be raised inch-by-inch up the triangle. The highest level of commitment I can make to someone is "I will stay in touch with you and be a close friend no matter what." And I don't make that lightly.  For I know that as life changes-- divorces, moves, babies, our kids fighting, retirement-- that many of my friendships lower on the triangle won't make the transition.  That doesn't make them less important or devalue what they offer for the time we share.  But it's not realistic that I will stay in touch with every person I meet and like.  It's a commitment that is grown.   Commitment is earned, as is the trust that will invite us to be vulnerable.

So neither should we walk around vomiting our emotional stories on new friends. Many women make the mistake of thinking that just because they share something deep and raw that these two people should now feel super close.  Unfortunately, if the commitment is not yet there, the relationship can actually feel quite awkward and shaky, holding too much emotion, too early.                      

(Note: Here's an old blog I wrote on Frientimacy-- highlighting how important commitment is when you increase the vulnerability.)

Celebrating Your BFF Day

So I'm all for gushing over our BFF's.  And if you have one-- by all means call her today and tell her how much you adore her.  It's a good call to receive!

But should you not have one, or want to foster more than one (or the all too common: "have-one-that-I-never-really-talk-to-so-therefore-actually-wonder-if-we-are-in-fact-BFF's"), then I want to encourage you this National BFF Day to give the gift to yourself of committing to the journey of building that meaningful friendship this year.

Acknowledge how much time it takes to build a healthy friendship where both sides of your triangle are growing stronger.  Simply whispering a secret doesn't do it, nor can you just meet over coffee and pinky-promise yourself into a significant friendship. But you can keep doing both of those things and, over time and continued energy, find yourself a friendship that matters.

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Is Showing Up the Hardest Part?

One of the hardest parts about friendship seems to be simply showing up for it. That sounds silly, but I've been engaged in this subject long enough to know that showing up truly seems to be the defining issue between those who have a circle of friends and those who don't.

It's the difference between Intention and Action. Desire and Doing. Hope and Reality.  The little thing that differentiates between your heart whispering that you're lonely and your soul feeling fed and connected.

The Importance of Showing Up

It's much easier to sit on the couch wishing I was in better shape than to show up at the gym to make it a reality. 

It's much easier to say I want a better job than to take the risks necessary to pursue that career fulfillment.

And, it's much easier to say I want friends than it is to meet strangers who have the potential to become those confidantes.

We simply want the results: the lean body, the dream job and the circle of friends without being willing to keep showing up along the journey.

Sometimes we muster up our courage and buy new running shoes, update our resume and sign up for a women's friendship matching site.  Which is a great first step.  But it's not showing up for the dream.

Showing up means to be present. To commit. To be on time. To RSVP. To walk in the door to meet a group of potential friends. To risk feeling silly. To be tired and do it anyway.  To want the end result enough that it's worth the present energy expenditure. To follow up because it's important to you.  To schedule another get-together to build familiarity. To not only show once and expect to see results. To show up again.

Showing Up Doesn't Guarantee Immediate Results

Yes, getting on the treadmill is tiring and defeating when your body doesn't seem to change. Yes, sending out that resume is discouraging when you don't hear back.  Yes, a ConnectingCircle is scary to RSVP for since you don't know who else will be there and chances are high that you won't leave with a new best friend.

You have to show up again.  You have to go to the gym 3 times this week.  And you have to send out hordes of resumes before you get a call back.  And you have to meet several women at least 3-5 times before you'll feel the bond of familiarity.

And sometimes you'll go to the gym faithfully for a month and not see the scale move.  And sometimes you'll look for a job for months and not see doors open.  And sometimes you'll attend a ConnectingCircle where you didn't like anyone you met.

But that doesn't mean it was in vain.  Your showing up is moving you closer.  When it's easy to give up-- you have to keep showing up. Our bodies do get healthier, our jobs do change and we do build friendships. All require you to show up though.

Our Showing Up in GirlFriendCircles.com

It's intriguing to me how many women sign up and pay to participate in GirlFriendCircles but then seemingly never attend a ConnectingCircle.  Fortunately, the vast majority do.  And of those who do, nearly 90% of those who have attended at least 3 ConnectingCircles have reported that they are now following up with at least two potential friends.  Three nights of your life-- meeting somewhere between 6-12 women-- and they now feel that they have 2 friends.  Those are some good odds!  Way better than the lottery or romance!

  1. But you have to show up.  Which first starts with RSVP'ing for a ConnectingCircle in your area.  Even if it's ten miles away.  Even if no one else has signed up yet.  Even if you're nervous.
  2. And then you have actually show up.  Follow through on your RSVP.  Feel the hesitation in the parking lot and still walk in the front door.
  3. Then you have to show up with specific women after meeting them.  Writing them a follow up email.  Deciding to all RSVP for another ConnectingCircle again. Scheduling a brunch.
  4. And you keep showing up.  That's how it works.  :)

Showing Up or Saving the World

In January we implemented a Show Up or Save the World campaign where we decided we'd make donations every time we didn't show up when we said we would. And I'm pleased to announce that it reduced our no-shows and cancellations.

The cool thing is that even if you didn't show up-- no matter the reason-- you contributed to our non-profit pot.  Thank you!  Thank you for not whining, but engaging & giving!  For letting the small $3-$5 donations inspire you and help us do something together. Thank you!

To that end, because in three months so few of you didn't show or cancel, I'm going to match the amount raised to give double our amount.  GirlFriendCircle members contributed $183 in our first quarter.  CARE, our chosen non-profit for this quarter, can train a teacher to provide hundreds of girls with an education for $170.  You bought one.  I'll buy another, on your behalf.  :)

That amount won't teach the whole world, but it leans us into what's important to us.  And we'll show up again this way.  We know that one donation doesn't make all the difference.  But we do believe that showing up each quarter with a check to a different non-profit will slowly change us to be more generous and will compound the results on the other end. We showed up.  And we'll do it again next quarter.

I want to show up where my company gives back.

You want to show up for friendship.

Let's show up!

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I welcome all suggestions for your favorite non-profits that give to women.  I'll be picking the next one soon!  And, I hope I wasn't too hard on you in this post...I know it's easier said than done! Courage!