I never thought I would ever get to a place in life where I need a strategy for making and keeping friends. Like so many things in life, we can take our friendships for granted. We get busy, we get committed elsewhere, we keep secrets, we miss each others significant moments,we refuse to call or return calls, we grow apart. Several years down the line and your college best friend is no better than the strange chic who used to drop in in your First Year Communication Skills class 10 years ago but disappeared soon after.
I like to think I have many friends. Then hubs challenges me to count them– and with every mention, he cancels them out saying those are acquaintances.
“When did you lastly see her?” He asks.
I feel guilty.
“People are busy. At least we talk on phone,” I defend myself.
In reality, I can count my good friends on both hands, and my close friends on one. Sucks!
Mostly, I blame marriage and work and then kids. I got married and I got a best friend. I don’t need a plus one for coffee on Friday or lunch on Sunday or to attend so-and-so’s wedding because I have a permanent plus one whose company I thoroughly enjoy. Offer me an opportunity to do fun stuff with other people or to do it with hubs and I will choose him, even when he intentionally rains on my parade, like harakishas me to go home, or makes a mental note to look miserable because i forced him to accompany me.
That has basically left most of my friendships unnurtured and starving for attention and affection.
There was a time when friendships just happened. Free time and intimacy were in plenty. My bestie as a kid was a girl from my class, who sang with me in Sunday school and whose parents attended church with mine. Then we moved away, went to high school and the next time we met, the conversation was so awkward we avoided each other after that. Distance and lack of communication always do that to people. The lack of casual daily contact does change relationships. You meet a person you thought you knew well and you both have changed physically and in life’s outlook and priorities, and you feel like strangers.
My high school friends were people I admired, people who were fun, whose personality gelled with mine. I’m gad to say that while we are no longer on each other’s Favourites on the phonebook, we can meet anywhere today and have a good laugh over a meal without too many reservations.
College friendships were also easy because we were the same age, with similar worldviews, experiences and problems; it was easy to find those who shared my interests, saw the world through my lens and who thought I was interesting enough to hang around; and we had plenty of free time to have black tea and bread in hostels (Oh those broke days when milk was a treat), hang out idly and do fun stuff.
After that my friendships have continued to be based on people I admire, people who bring extroversion and fun to my rather introverted life and people I can learn from and depend on. Most times we are world’s apart personality wise; but we share basic values.
The funbringers are many. But to find people who share my interests, remain dependable, who stay deep, who keep growing, who don’t judge you (friendship is a love-me-as-I-am zone),who stay ahead of the game, and who still have time for other people apart from their work and families… come Lord Jesus come.
I confess that my time has mostly been taken up by work and family. We gotta earn a living; and small children are pretty much 24/7 engagements. Family has also filled that need for intimacy so I will hardly feel lonely and yearn for friends the same way as a few years ago when it was just me and the cockroaches in my house. Whenever I add variety to my hangouts, then it is with a few couples from way back in college (by the way if you are in college, use that time to build good friendships. They endure a long time). Consequently my life does not have too many opportunities to meet new people, make new friends.
Not only is it harder to make friends, but even keeping the existing one has become challenging. I am yet to go see one of my friend’s babies more than six weeks after she was born. I have a friend who lives in the next estate and this week we bumped into each other on the road headed home and we were like… “Are we still neighbours?”
Another friend moved houses about a year ago and i am yet to know where she lives.
I am a terrible friend who doesn’t spend time with her friends or put them high up on my priorities list. Yet as I grow older I realise how so much more i need good friends.
I was greatly honoured when last December I held a function for my folks to “see” my children and five girlfriends played hostess to my guests, giving of their time, energy and resources generously. These are people who have organised and attended my baby showers, come to “hold” my children, been there for me even when i am a lousy friend. You girls know yourself and forgive me where I have failed you, na nawapenda sana.
But I also grieve the friendships I’ve lost; the single girls whom I couldn’t fit in my overscheduled life full of work, wife and mom duties; college pals who gave up on me or who chose a whole new different circle… I wonder if we made the right choices. I grieve what we have lost. But I guess the beauty is realising that some friendships will die and it is fine. They make room for fresh things.
I have to say keeping friendships with couples has been easier. At least that way the plus ones and kids are catered for. Couples with kids get the chaos in your life (why is there a giant stain on your sofa and why is your wall coloured green with crayons?) and the cancelled commitments because baby developed a fever or the preschooler broke a hand. They also get that many weekend dates may end up being bring-your-whole-family-including-the-nanny dates.
Single friends don’t quite get that you can’t hang out all night when you have a baby who doesn’t sleep through the night, even when you have a stay-in nanny; or the need to rush back home in the evening before the kids are in bed.
Two weeks ago I met a woman I’d very much like to be friends with. We were together for less than two hours but it felt like we had known each other a long time. I wouldn’t want to waste that opportunity to make another friend but I am not quite sure how the friend-dating process goes. After you have added them on Facebook and stalked their wall an entire night to find out what kind of a person they are, do you call them for coffee? Do you fix a play date for your kids? Do you ask to join their chama or invite them to yours?
I am going to be intentional about this friending process, including praying for godly, mature and wise women to come my way.”If you need people in your life you let them know,” a wise girl told me recently. I need these women in my life. I’m gona let them know.
I am also going to take the growth process, learning to call people and find out how they are doing, go to “hold” their babies, attend their parties and honour their impromptu lunch dates, help plan their weddings, invite them for dinner…
I am also going to nurture my virtual friends. We all have those people we are tight with on social media though we haven’t met in years and are hardly likely to take that friendship offline. It’s still fine. We love them, “like” their couple and baby photos, comment on their status updates, are often the first to know where they traveled to or when they are unwell and the doctor was a jerk. We get to answer their questions on Facebook or share their witty status and they return the favour. They are the ones who chat us up when we are bored in a training or are awake in the middle of the night. We know what they are making for supper because they are sharing the photos on Instagram or Pinterest and have so much intel about their neighbours downstairs.. Even these virtual friends matter.
I know as long as we are climbing up shaky corporate ladders until the wee hours of the night, nurturing young relationships and marriages and rushing home to breastfeed and help with homework , this will not be easy. But may be once this season is over, we will reap the rewards of more time, and more money to travel the world and hangout at snobbish private member clubs where we plan our children’s weddings and college graduations.