Three years ago I moved back to my hometown of Pittsburgh after being gone for 37 years. We had lived in 2 different cities in the intervening years, bought homes, raised kids, had careers, and made friends. Different friends at different stages of life, but each deeply cherished.
Moving back "home" and frequently visiting my mother, who still lives in the same house that I grew up in, got me thinking about the importance of friendships and how they impact our lives. There were many kids in my childhood neighborhood and we all played outside until dark, roller skated, and rode bikes in packs. Some of those early friendships have ripened over the decades and become even sweeter. Newer friendships, forged in adulthood, are different but no less valuable. Nurturing friendships takes energy and a commitment which can so easily be put on the back burner in our busy lives.
Understanding that social connectedness is a well researched component of happiness motivates us to pay attention to these relationships. The social capital from having friends is far more meaningful than our wealth or material possessions. Taking time to better understand and attend to our relationships is like eating right and exercising. It's proven to be good for our overall health and wellness!
There are different sorts of friends and we benefit from having a diverse cadre of people in our circles. This list is in no way comprehensive but rather a sample of the kinds of people you may call friend. As you read through it, can you identify people in your life who might fit into some of the categories? How would you classify yourself as a friend?
The Cheerleader - who is always supportive and encouraging.
The Honest Challenger - who tells you the truth even when you don't want to hear it but knows it's good for you.
The Kindred Spirit - the one who really gets you and offers emotional, spiritual and moral support.
The Fun Friend - who is always up for anything, ready to go, and laughs a lot.
The Risk Taker - who pulls you a bit farther than you would naturally go, but not too far.
The Polar Opposite - someone with a very different perspective and engages you in lively discussions and helps you practice tolerance and acceptance.
The "Life Coach" Friend --who helps you be your best self, achieve your goals, and holds you accountable.
What other categories might you add in your reflection of friends?
I also asked myself why are my friends my friends? Many started out by happenstance; they lived close by, we worked together, shared some common experience and over time trust, respect, caring, and affection grew. But there are thousands of people with whom I've crossed paths and not all have become friends. Why? I'm not sure I can answer that but one thing I am sure about is that a true friend, a BFF, is someone who can celebrate your joys, as well as your sorrows and who you know in your heart and soul will be there for you and realize what you need maybe even before you do. For that I'm grateful.
What can you do to strengthen, rekindle, or celebrate your friendships?
How can you add a "friendship practice" into your life?