Monday, July 21, 2014

On Sandy Toes and Friendships That Last

Last week, one of summer's sweetest gifts was given to me. I got to go for a long walk on a breezy beach with a dear friend on a beautiful day. We were on a girls' getaway trip, just three amazing women and myself. It was the best kind of beach weekend. We rode bikes with baskets on the front for hours and shopped in the most precious little shops. We ate more than our fill of chips and queso and white chocolate fondue and goat cheese stuffed peppers. We read books until we fell asleep and sat on the beach until the sun went behind the clouds. It was glorious. So much laughter, so much food, so much peace. A true escape from my current reality of internship hours and comps studying and the race against the clock every day. And on this escape, one of my friends and I went for a long walk on the beach. It was one of those walks where we talked, really talked about life and what's going on for us right now. We shared fears and insecurities and joys and pains and tried to choose which of the majestic beach houses would be ours in our highly unlikely millionaire futures. It was one of those walks where I knew we probably needed to turn around for more sunscreen at more than one sand castle, but I also didn't ever want to stop for fear of losing the beauty of that moment of our friendship.

Friendship. That's what's ironic, really. Friendship was perhaps the most covered topic of our walk. You see, we are both at this place between college and kids where friendships are changing.. all the time. Honestly, thinking about and talking about friendship is a commonplace for me right now. Not just on the beach but at Greek restaurants and in friends' living rooms and on back porches and in line at Chuy's nacho car. It's an exciting and interesting time for friendships in life and also a really hard one. It has left me thinking all the time about what makes friendships last and what doesn't. And that's what my friend Kaitlynn asked me about on the beach that day. So I tried out my working theory about friendships on her. I said, "I think the friendships that last are the ones that allow for change. Change in the friendship and change in the friend. Capacity to change, that's what makes a friendship last." And so, as we kicked our feet in the waves and sand, she asked me for an example. I didn't have to stop and think for more than a second before answering... "Mary Beth."

Mary Beth, my best friend of 21 years. She holds the friendship that has withstood Barbie days and puberty and high school boyfriends and college choices and marriages and big moves and all the high points and low points in between. And throughout these conversations with so many of my friends and I struggling to figure out our friend scene in these post-college years, I started to realize that there is a theme running through my friendship with Mary Beth and all my other friendships that are lasting well and that is this: Mary Beth has allowed me to change, to reinvent myself time and time again. She lets me figure out who I want to be and then doesn't hold me to it if I change my mind. Not only that, but she allows our friendship to do the same. There have been seasons where we have been inseparable for weeks on end. In our current season? She lives 200 miles away and I've rescheduled coming to see her three separate times now, if anyone is keeping count. (But she isn't keeping count, God bless her soul.) We keep up through texting and an occasional email or call. And that's it. But there she still is, steady and supportive, knowing that everything changes and nothing changes and maybe so do we and maybe that's okay.

Have we always allowed for that space for change well? I don't think so. I remember at times clawing for things to stay the same and never change, grasping at what we used to have and who we each used to be. But isn't that life sometimes? We grasp and claw and fight for what we used to have when something even better and healthier and more freeing is around the corner if we'll just let go. So, inspired by this revelation of the beauty in this sweet friendship, that's what I'm trying to learn to do in all my relationships these days. Build into each the capacity for change. It feels freeing and real and so much easier than trying to hold on to exactly who we used to be and what we used to have.
So today, whether your mind or your toes are in the sand, I encourage you to take a moment to think about the relationships in your life. Are you allowing space for the people you love the most to change and become who they want to be? Are you fighting for what matters and letting go of the rest? If so, enjoy the freedom it brings to keep becoming and to allow others to do the same. And if not, if you're like me and you have had to or need to learn to like (or maybe just accept) change, welcome aboard. It's scary and daunting, but the reward is sweet. Letting go and allowing for change may be one of the most pivotal elements in cultivating sacred space for friendships that you want to last to truly last.

What do you think? How do you cultivate friendships that last?

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