Friendship requires sacrifice.
There, I said it.
I have met and talked to a lot of lonely people lately, and let me tell you it breaks my heart because I remember those days like I remember the smell of burnt popcorn. That memory is never going away, and when I think about it the ache it throbs like it was yesterday.
In Brene Brown’s book Braving the Wilderness, she says that being lonely even shortens your life expectancy. I don’t say that to create fear, but to let you know that longing is LEGIT. I think we’ve treated friendship like a luxury for far too long; friendship isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity.
Listen, here’s what I want to say even though it might feel like salt on an already wounded heart (I promise you I wouldn’t say this if I didn’t think it was really, really important):
Good, deep, lasting, sister-like friendships require sacrifice. To have good friends you have to be a good friend. If you’re only willing to invest a once-a-year meet-up, you will get back a once-a-year depth of friendship. If you never text back and you cancel every get-together . . . you will not get back deep friendship.
Listen, I know you’re run ragged and you have almost nothing left to give. I know you’re exhausted and fed up and you can barely make it through the day. I KNOW. Believe me, I know. The problem with finding friends in adulthood is that we are all exhausted and on our last pair of yoga pants. None of us have a ton of extra. Finding a tribe in this stage is like a bunch of starving people on a deserted island trying to help each other find food. It’s pretty rough. No shame or judgement here but the thing is, if you want a tribe you have to find a way to make space for those relationships.
It means showing up.
A couple years ago my son broke his arm on the trampoline. Our friends happened to be there at the time. My husband jumped in the truck with my boy and rushed him to the ER, and without a word our friends loaded me and the other kids up and followed them in. While I ran shaking into the emergency room, they went and bought pizza and comforted our other three sobbing kids.
These friends have shown up again and again, and we’ve shown up for them. Nothing can substitute the history of the times we stood alongside each other through hardship. Nothing.
It means making sacrifices.
I’m a big advocate of boundaries; it’s super important to take care of your needs. I also think it’s important to make sacrifices for the friends that you choose (key word, the ones you choose). Maybe that means meeting up with them when you don’t feel like it. Maybe it’s doing something you don’t want to do to help them out. Deep friendships require serving, loving, and giving.
It means not being a fair-weather friend.
It means not disappearing when the going gets tough. A few summers ago I had an absolute meltdown. I was so anxious I couldn’t leave my house without multiple panic attacks. One of my friends showed up every single day. “What are you scared of today?” she would ask. I’d tell her and she would say, “It’s just the anxiety; you aren’t dying I promise.” And I would weep.
I still get tears in my eyes thinking about it now.
I try to be a “fun” person to be around and I feel insecure when I’m struggling. This friend showed up when I wasn’t fun; in fact, I was down right depressing to be around. And now this friend isn’t just my friend . . . she is my sister.
It means pursuing.
It means sending texts to check in on them about that thing they were worried about. It means grabbing a gift when it makes you think of them. It means asking them to meet up for coffee or even better a kidless, glass of wine.
It means texting back when you’re almost asleep and you get a text, “hey you up?”
It means dropping everything and grabbing two large Diet Cokes to bring to their house when they’re feeling down.
It means choosing.
Listen, you cannot give the same level of friendship to everyone. You have to choose the people you are going to pursue and to whom you give your heart to. I’ve come across the idea (often) that it’s wrong to leave anyone out, but I kinda think that’s silly. That’s like saying that it’s selfish to marry one husband because, what about all the single dudes. We should be kind to everyone (obviously), but we cannot give our heart to everyone. It’s definitely OK to choose the people you invest in; in fact you have to if you want depth of friendship.
Side note: just because someone has a lot of needs DOES NOT make her your person. Sometimes the people who shout the loudest force their way into the center of our universe. Make sure you’re choosing your people on purpose and that they’re the kind of people who will give friendship back.
You my friend are worth it. You truly are. Even more than the spa day and the 10 minutes alone in the bathroom . . . you need this. We all need this. We just weren’t meant to travel this life alone and in my opinion, there’s no time we need each other more than in the season of motherhood.
This article originally appeared on Wonderoak