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Archive for the ‘childhood friendship’ Category

“Tears are words from the heart that can’t be spoken.”

I’ve spent extended time with two close girl friends from my childhood recently. We were in the preschool Sunday School class together.  E and J know me from when I was loud and bossy.  They made fun of me, I made fun of them, we made up.

After church, we spent Sunday afternoons together making movies and inventing new worlds. We graduated from high school at the same time, we got married and now have kids near the same age.

This last week I shared with both of them details about a terrible time in my past, when something happened to me that I cannot recover. I know it means growth in me that I can breach the subject out loud, with someone other than my therapist. I know it means I trust them and that they’re good friends.

In some ways it’s easier to write cryptically on blogs for thousands than to share privately with one friend.  Do you know the feeling of sharing something terrible and being heard?

The day I found the courage to share what I know with close, trusted friends was the day I found healing soaking further into my heart.

Both E and J responded as good, long-time friends now how, intuitively, naturally, with full-hearts.

They listened with their eyes growing wide, they asked few questions, they tried to understand and then, they wept.

I do still, sometimes, cry over this, but I’ve invested enough tears and thought, prayer and therapy to not feel teary-eyed as I watched them reach for some tissues.

I sat beside them watching them cry and knowing they were entering my pain and discovering that I felt like my heart was healing with their tears. It reminded me of Rapunzel’s tears in Tangled.

Tears from friends–I believe they have God-given magical power.

“Faithful friends are a shelter. Whoever has found one has found a treasure.  Faithful friends are beyond price.

No amount can match their worth.  Faithful friends are the elixir of life, and those who fear the Lord will find them”

(Ecc 6:14-17 paraphrased by Elaine Storkey).

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In third grade the most popular girl in school invited me to go to Disneyland with her.

We got to take off school. We were in heaven.

Photo credit: socal.catholic.org

I wore a pair of flowered pants that I thought were pretty. My friend wore spandex pants that looked really good on her legs. A long slouchyT-shirt came over the top, tied at her hip.

Then entire day she kept looking at me and saying things like, “Can you pull your pants up, they’re so baggy.”

I tried, but seriously, baggy pants are hard to find.

I couldn’t tell her my mom wouldn’t let me out of the house in spandex.

I couldn’t very well defend my choice as the best pair of pants for the occasion.

I just sort of slunk around in my bagginess.

On the way home I felt pretty ambivalent toward my friend. Why did she invite me if she was going to spend the whole day telling me how embarrassing I looked to her?

I guess she didn’t realize my behind-the-times wardrobe since we, mercifully, wore uniforms to school.

Disneyland wasn’t as fun as I had hoped it would be.  And our friendship sort of fizzled after that.

She took someone else with her to Disneyland the next year.

Photo credit: stylehive.com

I never convinced my mom to buy spandex.

Thank goodness for the uniforms.

The times a friend has corrected me live eternal in my memory.

There were my closest friends who once all told me to stop being so bossy.

They were right.

There was my third grade friend who wanted me to get with the spandex fashion.

She was wrong.

There was my husband, yesterday, who told me he felt like my voice was too stern for the situation.

He was right.

How to give your opinion?

A few tips I’ve picked up along the way.

Do not . . . 

– offer advice or correction when you’re not invested in the friendship long-term.

– ask your friend to change something she cannot currently change whether because of finances, family upbringing or personal courage.

– require your friend to take your advice after offering it.

– assume you know what it’s like for her before speaking into her life. For example take time to investigate the feelings of a stay-at-home-mother before critiquing or broadly summarizing their lives in public or in private.

Do

– share if an outfit looks unflattering with your friends who are safe and long-term, with whom you have both received and given suggestions and advice on fashion.  This is especially true if they ask you for your honest opinion about their clothes.

– explain the thing that bothers you about a friend when it personally tramples you. For instance, if a friend has hurt you it is appropriate to share this with them, most particularly if they have indicated their openness and safety to listen.

– pray about the things that bother you to determine if it’s your issue or theirs. Consider using these phrases to share if you’re not certain, “I have a problem, I feel confused, left out, etc. . . ” or “I’m not sure what to do right now, I feel (fill in emotion word here). . .”

Overall, it’s a good rule of thumb to avoid fixer-uper friendships.

I do not feel flattered or loved when I find out my friends have taken me under their wing to fix my fashion or my habits or my career choice.

I want friends who see me and say, “Oooh, I like that girl” (Thanks, Molly Aley) because of someone I already am.

When I’m believed in and loved, and know it, I can hear almost any correction.

Do you agree?

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In a recent study in Cinncinatti, BFFs were found to help relieve stress in young girl’s lives.

So girlfriends can continue to be anchors, helpful supports when we’re not sure what to do or how to respond to life’s pushes and pulls.

But not just any friend will do, as I explained last week, some friends are gold and others are silver.  Let me elaborate on that metallurgy.

Photo credit: mariuszstankiewicz.aminus3.com

Some friends are gold and silver, others are . . . rusty tin.

When it comes to friendship, some women are going to corrode your ability to trust. Some “friends” are going to leave you convinced you have nothing to offer.

These friends may be hiding in the shadows, ready to appear when you return home for Thanksgiving this week. These friends may be subtle and sneaky and insipid, but regardless you have the power to invite them into your life or hold them at arm’s length.

Consider the close friends who give you safety to let you be you.  Now use them as your gold template. How do you keep the rusty tin from cutting your arms?

A few tips to preserve your heart and mind for the gold and silver friends in your life.

  • Listen, but don’t share. Ask questions until you find one value you share (see list of values ). Spend time learning about these value in their life. For instance, “How have you been spontaneous this week?”) Give yourself the freedom to hold your values closely and privately.
  • Minefield alert.  Consider ahead of time the topics or values that leave your ears ringing, the places you feel picked apart and devalued by them.  Choose ahead of time to state the minefields to yourself and then plan to avoid these topics as a way to keep the peace. For instance, my friend accuses my anti-Juice Plus stance as the main reason I get sick, so I avoid topics of eating, cooking, restaurants and working out.
  • Sally offers a good list of ways to perk up your holidays, instead of getting stuck doing (or being) the false stuff.

As the Jewish King Solomon says,

“Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up.”

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

Renoir's Two Girls Reading in the Garden

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I have this friend I used to always see on or near Christmas. She and I have been friends for our whole lives. Seriously, we were babies in the church nursery together.

Though we’re now married with children we aren’t in the same places anymore. She and I don’t always see eye-to-eye. Sometimes I’m not even sure I want to see her over those precious, packed days of holiday festivities. When we do get together we spend a lot more time reminiscing than diving deeper. I used to be afraid the time was misspent, but because there is an overlap of our common values, we still make time for each other.

I want to remain friends with the childhood girls who I sold brownies with on the roadside on endless Saturday mornings because I know the common experiences also carved similar shaped values in each of us. For a few of these friends I know we still cherish the same things, even if we express that in different ways. There are still authentic ways we can care for each other and enjoy each other’s friendship as adults.

But I also don’t want to feel so disappointed when it’s not “like it used to be.”

How can I be friends with those in my past with courage to be myself as I am now? How do we, as the old song goes, “Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other’s gold”?

Photo Credit: silversite.info

Take a moment and consider what makes old friends so valuable? What is gold and what is silver?

For me the gold is a friend who values much of the things I value. The silver is a friend who values some of the things I value.

All our values are different, but this doesn’t mean there’s only one set of values that count as good or godly or best. As a good friend of mine recently presented on life transitions at a Soulation Gathering, I learned precisely what values are. As she explained, transitions help us recognize what will stay the same and what must change through the transition. Values, she said, remain steady. Beliefs, she explained, often need updating.

For instance, if my friend moves away, I notice my belief that she would always be geographically close needs updating, but my value for authenticity in our friendship remains steady. It’s just expressed through email and phone calls instead of face-to-face time.

Realizing the distinction between beliefs and values helps me consider how to connect with those friends who are more than acquaintances but not best-ies. Let me break it down.

  1. Figure out what you value.
  2. Figure out what your old friends value.
  3. Take time to notice the overlap and spend time building up those conversations.

Let your values be part of your tool set of “holding onto yourself” as you re-engage with old friends this holiday season.

Here are a list of values (there are many more), use these to find three or four that are yours. Of course, you’ll be tempted to say you value all of them, but honestly, we all have a hierarchy of what we value. Can you find your top 3-4?

Values (in no particular order)

  • Security
  • Authenticity
  • Spontaneity
  • Preparation
  • Integrity
  • Fairness
  • Humility
  • Honesty
  • Simplicity
  • Dignity
  • Fidelity
  • Quality
  • Temperance
  • Service
  • Courage
  • Nurture
  • Justice
  • Potential
  • Patience
  • Encouragement
  • Work ethic / Industry
  • Freedom
  • Modesty
  • Responsibility
  • Kindness
  • Acceptance
  • Golden rule
  • Love

If my life’s values are Preparation and Justice I will find it difficult to simultaneously and equally value Spontaneity and Acceptance. Now let me be perfectly clear, this is not bad, this is actually good, for it means I’m an adult, knowing how to choose what God has put within me, to value the strengths I have and to act on them without constant apology.

Seeing old friends gives me a chance to take note of some values (still valuable, let’s call them the silver) that are not my values (also valuable, let’s call these the gold).

Photo Credit: goldalert.com

So you take the time, and you meet with an old friend or two. And after egg nog or hot apple cider and cookies we will find ourselves glad for the gold and grateful for the silver. And we will be also glad we’re adults, and no longer children. And we will be able to notice the sparkle and beauty that makes the holidays a time to thank God for his variety and purpose on this good earth.

Photo credit: designcrafters.com

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I’ve always had a thing for guys with freckles, brown hair, blue eyes.   It wasn’t a phase. I married a guy with freckles, brown hair and blue eyes.

But back in grade school, Colin Benner (not his real name) had all three, a fact that was not lost on me.  I nursed a crush on him in secret from second until fifth grade.

Dale with baby Finn (who also has dark hair and blue eyes, no freckles, yet)

One afternoon in the Spring, Natasha Brown (also not her real name) came over to my house to play.  She and I lay on the large green hill in our front yard, inhaling the eucalyptus air and telling secrets.  I don’t think she asked me right away, but soon enough she said,

“Jonalyn, who do you like?” she asked.  I sat up, very serious and looked into her blue eyes, round as buttons, full of interest and attention.

“You cannot tell anyone!” I said. “Do you promise? You won’t tell anyone, especially him?”

“Oh, of course not, I would’t do that.” She was sitting up now, too. “I promise!”

“Okay.” And I reluctantly told her.

The shock of disclosing my crush left me feel exposed. I can’t remember anything else we said. I know I felt both closer to Natasha and more at her mercy, sort of like she held a power over me that could make us better friends.

The very next day, during P.E. our class ran the mile.  I noticed that while I was pushing myself ahead to get my best time, Natasha had paired up with Colin for the entire run.  That bothered me, more and more as I noticed Natasha never once looked at me as we passed each other. Those two ran side by side, preoccupied with talking.  I began to pray Natasha would remember her promise.

During dismissal, where we all stood in the box marked for fourth grade waiting for our parents, I hoped for the miracle of my mother arriving on time, even early.

Waiting an interminable amount of time, I watched Colin walk out and instead of standing with his tribe of guys, he walked up to me. Perhaps you will remember how in fourth grade you can crush on a guy for years without ever having talked with him.  As he approached me I began to tremble.

Colin asked, not unkindly, but with chutzpah that undid all my composure,

“Jonalyn, do you have a crush on me?”  No prefatory remarks, no “Hey, how did you do on your mile?”

Straight for the heart.

I was horrified, embarrassed, disgusted all at once.  All my anger surged at Natasha.  How could she? How could she totally sucker me in and then lie to me?

I remember responding with one inadequate word, “NOOOO!” my face beet red, my emphatic answer betrayed by my own blush.

My mother mercifully appeared at that moment to take me home.  I fled into the safety of our Volvo and must have looked so wretched that my mother inquired into my day. I started to sob and told her the whole story. That was the one and only time I recall my mother driving through the dairy and treating me to an entire candy bar, of my choice.  The Butterfinger I devoured soothed my tears, but it could not undo the mark Natasha Brown had left on me.

I never talked with Natasha again. She never apologized, and never invited me to play.

I returned the favor.

I vowed that day, a promise I kept for more than ten years, that I would never trust another person with my secrets, especially where cute boys were concerned.  No matter how much I was teased and prodded into the wee hours of slumber parties, I never told.

My fourth grade vow molded my friendships, even where trustworthy friends came into my life.

We get betrayed usually during formative friendship years by girls we thought were our friends.  I’d imagine you have a hamper of stories where girls have hurt you, laughed at you, made fun (subtly, of course) of you.

My solution was to cut my friend off as unsafe.  I also learned to hunt for safe friends, ones I could take baby steps to share my feelings and then watch like a hawk to see if they kept my secrets safely hidden.  Natasha made me very aware of gossipy friends and helped form what I want in my target friendships – those in my inner ring of privilege. In some ways she helped me choose better.

Can you think back to grade school and the vows you made?  Do you have any stories of hurting or being hurt? What do you think your childhood friendships taught you about friendship?

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