relationship

Help Me Blaze the Important Trails of Friendship!

Yesterday I received an email of congrats from an entrepreneurial friend of mine after she saw my name on a press release announcing that I was a finalist for a Trailblazer of the Year Award.  I quickly clicked on the link she had sent and was momentarily stunned... Trailblazing? Really?  I wrote her back and said, "Thank you!" And, "hmm... I wonder how I ended up in that category?"

Trailblazer? Really?

The title of "Trailblazing" is definitely a word I hadn't yet used to describe myself.

Her return email then landed in my inbox:

"Don’t underestimate yourself Shasta!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!    YOU are doing such IMPORTANT work ----- don't you realize you are-   Reinstating the Role of Friendship in Life? Giving friendship a Facelift? Uplifting the Spirit with New Friends? It’s because of these reasons that you are a Trailblazer!!!! Accept it  and write about how you think you are trailblazing for your next blog – this is important!!"

And then I just smiled.  Smiled with the appreciation of having friends in my life who believe in me and help me see myself in new ways. So this blog is my way of accepting the challenge of a friend.  This is for me to own what I want to do in this world, but it's also me inviting you to blaze the trail with me!  :)

Let's blaze this trail of friendship together! We need a world of women feeling connected, supported, known, and loved!

The funny thing is that I know I am definitely on a mission. I wouldn't deny that!  But sometimes we just don't use words like "Trailblazing!" to describe ourselves!  But when I started GirlFriendCircles.com nearly 4 years ago I'd get blank stares from people when I'd describe my business.  And magazines would respond with "Oh we did a story on friendship 8 months ago," as though that meant they didn't need to cover it again this year!  And women would say stupid things like, "Who would be so desperate as to pay for friends?" as though paying for coffee, water, and manicures were of more value to them.  Even now when I try to pitch friendship as the very real health story that it is, editors and producers would rather give you a story about a new technique for stomach crunches even though friendship is far more important to your health!

So when I remember what it was like back then and compare it to now.... while I wouldn't have used the word "trailblazing," that was very much what I have done for the last number of years.

And just to further laugh at myself... I do have a theory that friendship can save the world. (See my 3 min video here.) What kind of a silly girl goes making lofty claims about "saving the world" without thinking she wouldn't be blazing a trail along the way!? Ha! Shows just how much we can do without seeing it through the eyes of others!

What Our Trailblazing May Feel Like...

This experience reminds me of the recent Dove commercial that highlights how we  see our appearance differently than others.  I think the same can be true of our accomplishments, roles, identities, and goals.  Certainly it makes sense that we might focus more on our wrinkles, wide foreheads, and big noses than anyone ever looking at us sees.  But similarly, we see much more of the un-glamorous and non-wowing parts of our  lives than others see. (Which is a good thing because while I'm absolutely okay with you knowing how many days I go un-showered, it's still better that you don't have to see it!)

The truth is that when I think of my life, I just see a girl behind her computer, in yoga pants, with stringy hair, typing emails furiously, scheduling phone calls, and just checking things off my to-do list.  It's not really the same image that comes to mind when I think "TRAILBLAZER!" LOL!

But just because the vast majority of my life moments feel mundane doesn't mean I'm not creating partnerships, pitching stories, creating content, and slowly making the trail one foot longer.

To that end, I started www.GirlFriendCircles.com to help introduce women to each other, wrote a book to help inspire and teach women how to foster friendships into more meaningful relationships, and filled up calendars with speaking appointments, workshops, interviews, and events where I can engage with women on such important friendship-related subjects such as forgiveness, personal growth, physical health, self-esteem, and joy.

This idea is necessary because we are moving every 5 years, changing jobs every 4.4 years, living far from our family, going through our life stages at vastly different ages, and divorcing more frequently than previous generations-- every single one of those changes can uproot our support systems leaving people feeling incredibly vulnerable.  We need new ways of connecting with other human beings with more ease and less fear, while also having the permission and know-how to transform those friendships into deep, fulfilling, and meaningful relationships.

So as I'm expanding into a new word, here's hoping you'll blaze trails with me!  I don't expect any of you to run a media campaign in your community for new friendships, but you can RSVP for a ConnectingCircle or sign-up to be a local Ambassador!  You may not see that as anything hugely glamorous.  In fact, it may even feel awkward, discouraging, and scary!  But that doesn't mean it's not HUGELY important!

Why We Have to Blaze Friendship Trails

We have to remember why we are doing what we do.

Yes, most of being a mom feels more like being a chauffeur, ATM, and chef; but to actually stop and feel the awesomeness of the role-- a life-giver, educator-of-the-next-generation, and the person who will teach real love to another human.  Wow.

Similarly, starting a friendship doesn't always feel that amazing.  We often carry fear wondering if the other person will like us, frustration with how hard it is to get something scheduled, and then un-fulfilled when an evening talking to strangers doesn't feel like talking to our best friends, yet.  It doesn't always feel amazing.

But when you realize it's our relationships that serve as gymnasiums for our souls, giving us the place to practice the skills this world desperately needs: forgiveness when hurt, compassion when tired, cheering when jealous, and supporting even when not understanding-- then we sit with just a bit of the sacredness of this relationship.  For, if we can't practice these skills with people around us who we, at one point, chose to care about, then we have little chance of being able to show up with these skills when we're talking about people who live on the other side of the world, who worship a different version of God, or who vote for a different president.

I'd say there are few things more important than having safe relationships where we can practice being the powerful, big, loving people who this world needs us to be.

Furthermore, we live in a world where increased loneliness is literally poisoning our bodies. Stress is the number one cause of most disease and death and a sense of disconnection is heightening our sense of being "separate."  The less we feel supported by a tribe of people, the more at risk we are of sickness, acting out of insecurity, and behaving in less compassionate ways.

A plethora of research shows that when we have friends we feel like the obstacles in our lives are smaller, that we heal from surgery faster, that we recover from breast cancer at higher rates, that our immune systems are stronger, and that we have more energy to do our life missions. Wow.

I sincerely believe that the more connected everyone is to a group of friends-- the better off this entire world will be.

So to all the trails we have already blazed, and to the many, many more that we will keep making... Thanks to Rock the World for the honor of the nomination, thanks to my friend Shamini for pushing me to sit with the label, and thanks to all of you women who are on the trail with me! xoxo

Defending the Introverts, Defining Mutuality

If I had to put money on the table next to what I thought was a primary barrier to women building new friendships, I'd put it next to a mistaken view of what mutuality means. Sure, lack of time will be listed as a more common excuse, but when a woman decides to be more proactive about fostering healthy friendships around her, the fear of unequal give-and-take can stall many budding friendships before they have a chance to get started.

Our Fear of Unequal Give-and-Take

We use language like "the ball is in her court" and "I don't want to impose" and "I invited her last time so this time I'll wait to see if she reciprocates." We justify our wait-and-see approach by reminding ourselves that we sent the last email or initiated the most recent plans, and we conclude that we're always the ones doing the inviting.   Not this time, we say. This time it's her turn.

While we may not call it a fear of rejection, we are in part acting out of that fear. We don't want to come across as desperate. We don't want to feel like we're putting ourselves out there all the time, unsure if it's wanted.  We've been told we don't need to put up with any behavior that isn't perfectly mutual. We want to feel like they like us too.  We want to feel wanted. We definitely don't want to be the ones who give more than we receive again.  So we protect our egos and wait her out.

In the meantime, our budding relationship never gets momentum so it never really happens.  And we're left complaining that no one out there seems to be interested in a mutual friendship.

Our Misunderstanding of Mutuality

On Friday evening I was sitting in a room with two friends.  Both lean toward introversion when it comes to interacting with people.  (Which means they have amazing people skills but being around people can cost them more energy than it gives them.) I was basking in the glow of how intimate those relationships felt, both of them so able to engage in deep, beautiful, meaningful conversations.  Their questions were thoughtful, their intuition spot on, and their love so genuine.

But if it had been up to either of them to get the three of us together it wasn't likely to have happened. I initiated.

As I had the week before.

And as I had the week prior to that.

The truth is that there are just many, many people out there who have so much to offer a friendship-- but initiating and scheduling may not be their forte.  That doesn't mean they don't love us or want to be with us.  And it certainly doesn't mean they don't have other meaningful ways to give to us. It just means they aren't going to assertively send out the invitation. Or if they do, it won't be as frequently as it might be for some of the rest of us.

This is not limited to introverts.  Take any self-awareness inventory and there are always types of people where scheduling and initiating will not come naturally for them. I've been studying the Enneagram which has nine types of people, and three of the types are withdrawing types, which means they tend to step back or retreat when there is stress (which any new situation can cause.) So that's at least a third of our potential friends who won't be out there trying to schedule time with us.

Even beyond personalities and types, we know that we all have different love languages.  Someone with the love language of quality time might tend to be more aware of reaching out with invitations than someone with the love language of gift giving.

Just add stress and busy-ness to any of our lives (even those of us who are extroverts, schedulers, and assertive types) and we may not reciprocate in the way you want, when you want.  But that also doesn't mean we wouldn't make great friends who will give to you in other ways!

What Does Mutual Really Mean?

As I sat there Friday evening thinking how lucky anyone would be to have these two individuals in their lives, it occurred to me how few people will get that opportunity if they only build a friendship with someone else who reaches out an equal amount.

Mutuality cannot be confined to 50/50 scheduling.  Equality doesn't mean sameness.  Being in a give-and-take relationship doesn't mean we give-and-take in the same ways.

For those of us who live with someone-- we know that having someone else divvy up the household chores doesn't mean we each vacuum half the room and cook half the meal. It means I tend to track our finances and he tends to make sure dishes don't pile up in the sink. Balance doesn't mean we split up every chore, but that we both contribute to the overall picture.

Somehow, in friendship, we have elevated the scheduling and initiating "chore" to becoming the litmus test for an equal friendship.

What we risk if we wait for equal initiations is missing the gift that introverts or non-initiators can bring to our lives.  And we risk feeling rejected if we wrongly attach that meaning to their lack of initiation.  And worst of all, we're still left without the friendships that we crave because we just sat and waited, allowing the momentum to falter.

Give. Give. Give.

I am all for balanced friendships.  I don't want you to feel used.  I want you to be in a relationship that feels mutual.

But if you are a GirlFriend who is good at initiating-- then do it. Generously. Invite her five times in a row.  Be the one who is okay calling to start the conversation. Give where you're best, knowing you will be blessed by how she gives to you in different ways. And know how lucky you are that you have the ability to give in a way that starts friendships!

And if you recognize that you're someone who struggles to initiate-- then at least be sure to tell your friends/potential friends how much you appreciate it when they do. Express your gratitude, lest they ever feel that you're not interested. Tell them what it means to you that they keep calling. Recognize that this gift they give is a necessary ingredient in the building of a friendship.

What we need is a little less judgment of each other and a little more hopeful curiosity to discover and appreciate who the other person is.

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I blogged on the perceived imbalance in give-and-take friendships for a two-part series for the Huffington Post: In Friendship, Do You Give More than You Receive? and Six Ways to Bring Balance to Your Relationships if you're interested in more reading on this subject.

My Prayer: Who I Want To Be

I want to show up in life in such a way that you feel greeted in my presence.

Welcomed. Worthy. Accepted. That means when I see you I start with love.  It means I refuse to  wait until my ego can determine your value to me.  Forgive me for my impulse to judge, I want to un-learn that behavior. The truth is that you are human--my sister, my brother-- and that is enough. Your value is exponential and I greet the lessons you will teach me. Thank you.

I want to show up in life in such a way that you feel abundant in my presence.

hands holding a heart

Abundant in the awareness that you are enough.  More than enough, in fact. Where for a moment, you can find refuge from your inadequacies, insecurities, fears, and judgments.  For I want to see you; the part of you that is innocent, beautiful, perfect, and true. I give you my word that I will seek that in you, knowing that those who seek, find. I desire to be someone who sees your best, even when you can't.

I want to show up in life in such a way that you feel loved in my presence.

For you are. I believe in a God that loves you.  A God that asked me to do the same.  I regret how frequently I do it imperfectly.  Nonetheless, I will keep trying.  For it's never because you're not worth my love; rather, it's always because my own fears get in my way of expressing it.  I don't bestow upon you your loveability, I only affirm what is already there. You are love-able and loved.  May I remember that truth that you might feel it when I'm around.

I want to show up in life in such a way that you feel gratitude in my presence.

May my words and actions remind us both that not only are you enough, but so am I.  And so is this world.  There is enough joy for both of us. I can promise you that when I feel lack -- as I sometimes do -- I will own it as my own hunger; refusing to devalue what you have, or who you are.  You deserve all that is yours and I celebrate it.  May I become the person who holds so much gratitude for your life that I invite you to rejoice in it too.

I want to show up in life in such a way that you feel encouraged in my presence.

Not just applauded, but deeply hopeful. I want to hold enough faith in the universe that I can share it with you at any time.  I want you to be able to look in my eyes and see your best self reflected back at you.  May you feel supported in owning your strength, your beauty, your talent, your power, your love, your goodness.  An encouragement that roots itself in a soil of knowing, and branches out in in vibrant action.

It doesn't matter who you are-- you deserve these things from me.

  • You can be someone I walk by in the grocery store, or someone I commit my life to.  Both can be equally difficult.
  • You can be someone I am drawn to, or someone I feel repelled by.  Either way, how I show up with kindness should not differ.
  • You can be someone who has loved me well, or someone who has hurt me deeply. My interpretation of my experience with you doesn't change your worth.
  • You can be someone I watch only on TV, or someone I know intimately.  Your inherent goodness isn't dependent on my knowing you.

How I respond to you says more about me, than it does about you.  I know that.  I own it. Indeed there is a gap between who I want to be for you and who I am. For that, I am sorry.  Life is not a competition where one of us holds more value than another.  And no one, other than my own ego, has given me permission to go around making judgments about your merit. So when I show up, as humans often do, without being all that I want to be, forgive me.  And just know it's no reflection on you.

My prayer is that I keep growing in love, becoming, expanding, inviting, welcoming.  I trust that as I see my own worth more clearly, I might better show you yours.

My prayer is that the best in me honors the best in you. That I can have God-eyes to see you the way you are.  The way you are meant to be loved.

May it be so. Namaste.