Friday, November 15, 2013

Writing Prompt #11: Your Friends

This past summer, I ran into an old college friend at Target.  After our initial double-take, we hugged, lugged the carts to the side of the aisle and chatted for a good ten minutes.  If only we had been closer to the lawn and garden section-- we could have just pulled up a display lawn chair, popped open a beverage, and chatted the night away.  However,  the fact that we had kids and husbands and commitments waiting for us at home encouraged us to move on.  So we hugged again, promised to get something on the calendar and said our goodbyes.

As I was driving home, I thought about how great it was to bump into her-- how that ten minutes had  really brought so much joy to me.  And it got me thinking about friends and happiness and life.  Sometimes, when it's sunny outside and and I'm driving with my moon roof open, listening to Jimmy Buffett sing about margaritas, I feel like all is well with the world.  I feel like we're living during the best time in history, among great people doing incredible things.  I feel like I cannot even list the number of remarkable people in my life, so many of them doing so much good for the world.  On days like these, it seems like no matter what terrible things we may be dealt, no matter how far I fall in times of adversity, I'll be caught by a net of friends so wide and so deep that I'll somehow survive unscathed.  And not only will I survive, but I'll be surrounded by so much love and hope and strength that I'll be a better person because of it.  On those days, my heart seems to nearly leap out of my chest with gratitude for the people in my life.

On those days, it's nearly impossible to even remember the very real moments feeling lonely and anxious and doubtful.  Fortunately, these days of anxiety and fear and doubt have lessened in the past few months.  In June, when we sounded the battle-cry after falling on tough times, we were surrounded by friends who jumped to our assistance and walked right by our side.  At that moment, I realized that I've surrounded myself with the type of people who would do anything for you, despite the inconvenience placed upon them.  How lucky am I?  How lucky are we?

And yet, I still sometimes feel like I keep friends at an arm's length.  If you asked me how comfortable I would feel arriving un-announced at any friend's house, sharing their living room for an hour or two, with nothing in particular to say, the answer would be very few.  And yet, those are the friendships that I crave.  I love the friendships that are deep and meaningful and intimate and still easy and spontaneous and fun.  But do these friendships only exist on college campuses?  

With a few exceptions, I met my current "best friends" within the parameters of The University of Northern Iowa.  Sometimes, this fact makes me sad-- why don't I have relationships with other moms like I had with my college friends?  Why can't our park play-dates lead to sipping cocktails on our deck?  Why can't the mom at story time turn into my exercise partner?  Why can't the lady in front of me at the pharmacy ask me to be in her book club?  Is it because most of us are just fine where we are, and that making new friends, real friends, requires some effort?  Is it because everyone else already has their friends and they aren't really looking to initiate anyone else into their cool club?  Does anyone else wonder where they "fit in" among the Mommy-world or is it just me?

Perhaps, the uniqueness of college friends is what makes college friends so special.  What other time in your life will you rely so heavily on your friends based on sheer proximity?  They are your alarm clocks, review partners, and dinner dates.  You turn to them to discuss job interviews and living situations, and new romances.  Together, you celebrate the highs and cry over the lows.  They are who you turn to when some of life's toughest choices begin to arise.  They are always there.  Literally.  A few doors down, a few doors over, a flight up.  Surrounded and surrounding.  Feeling nervous?  Feeling panicky?  Feeling fat?  Sad? Angry? Scared?  Knock three times and head over to their living rooms and grab a comfy seat.  Fill the afternoon with tons of conversation or share silence.  Nap on their couches.  Eat their food.  Things will be fine-- afterall, you have each other.

I realize that these types of friendships are few and far between in Mom-dom,  but it still is part of my 'friend-fantasy'.  My 90 year old grandmother shares stories of her coffee klatsch and card clubs; groups she belonged to when she was a stay-at-home-mom raising young children.  She easily admits that the women got together to socialize with each-other, they were not getting together under the guise of a play-date or extracurricular activity for their little ones.  Of course, the children were nearby, but the women were gathering for themselves, they placed a value on their adult friendships which is something that seems a bit lost these days.  And while I'm all for setting up play-dates and encouraging social skills among three year olds, it might be nice if we grown ups start nurturing and tending to our own friendships a little more.

Maybe what makes this hard for me is that I do have these old, deep, intimate friendships, but most of them are not at my fingertips.  Many of my close friends are spread out across the Midwest and Rocky Mountains (with one rogue friend living in Arizona).  Maybe I'm just a little homesick for them because of all the history between us.  Maybe I'm just craving a night on their couches with an old "Seinfeld" re-run, or a good belly laugh over margaritas.  Maybe I secretly am having a hard time letting anyone else into my own cool club that has been so tightly reserved for my college besties.

Seeing Bridget that day made me ache for her company and realize that I do have a another wide and deep net of friends close by.  The thing is, these friends are like are the Tums in the medicine cabinet.  You know they're there if needed, but you rarely use them (unless you're like Kelly and me in High School, when we ate them like candy).  Sometimes, you even forget about them for days or weeks, but when you feel a little "not right" you know exactly where to look to remedy the situation.

This summer, when things got all topsy-turvey in our world, my friends supported me with that crazy strong net.  I received texts and emails and cards in the mail.  They called and stopped over and invited us for dinner.  The extended their arms and I fell right into them.  And it felt really good.  In fact, it felt amazing.  And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it's crazy for something messy and ugly and sad to happen in order for me to feel my friends' arms around me.  Why do we wait until things fall apart to reach out?  Why don't we call and write and invite all the time?  Is it because we don't want to?  Is it because we're the first generation of humans not meant to? Or is it because we're all "so busy"?

I've begun to realize how much I dislike those words.  Because honestly, if we really want or need to do something, it happens.  Things get inked onto the calendar and as crazy as that day is, we make it happen.  For some reason, we justify running around like crazy to get kids to practices and ballgames and parties with their friends, but we rarely ink in time for ourselves.  How many women do you know that would admit to running around like crazy --for themselves?  Who do you know whose busyness is because of their events not the events of their family? Have you ever heard a woman breathlessly explain that her weekend was crazy because she ran a 10k the morning, then rushed to have coffee with a friend, went out for lunch with her sister, and then had book club later that evening?  Even writing that sentence seems so.....weird.  What a crazy selfish person that would be, right?  But what if that woman did even one of those things each weekend?  Still seems a little selfish or just impossible, but why?  Why not take time for herself and her friends? Why not put those things on her priority list and make a statement that of course she's busy being involved with her family and her friends.  We have 8,760 hours to spend each year, yet it's difficult for us to find one hour a week to devote entirely to ourselves--doing whatever we want.  And if we devoted just one hour every week to ourselves, we would still have 8,708 left for our jobs and kids and errands and eating and sleeping.  I think that's plenty of time leftover to even check facebook.

As I write this, it dawns on me that perhaps it's my turn to do the inviting-- maybe I need to start the book club, or invite the mom from story hour, or ask others to exercise with me.  Perhaps that is the first step.  Will it ever evolve into a wide-deep-tangled net of friends who know the ins and outs of each-other's lives?  Probably not, but I suppose that's okay.  I suppose just connecting with others, as we humans are meant to do, is a good start.

(I know you're dying to see pics of those college days....reluctantly, I give you these gems...)
(Kelly, I have no pictures of you during this time. WTH?)

Random Thursday evening road trip to Colorado.  One of many taken in '98-'99 when gas was honestly .98 a gallon! 

Spring break in Madison. 

The infamous 21 crown--somehow never lost by the end of the night and always saved for the next 21st b-day.


Grad School. 


  1. I know I'm not in these college pics, but damn it, I made that 21 crown!!! lol Love you Karah and this blog entry brought tears to my eyes. The time spent with you, Sara, Sarah and Mindy was SO special to me in November. Just nothing like getting together with the girls who just "get" you, nothing needs to be said, because we experienced it together. Love you all so much!

    1. Carrie! There was one pic that I meant to post here--- not sure why it didn't upload because it's funny-- of us singing in your living room with wooden spoons. (??) Anyway, I don't have many pics of college but have tons of memories... and you guys are in all of them. I miss you ladies a lot and wish you were still in my backyard. This is why I will NEVER give up those November girls weekends-- they mean so much to me. :) Love you! :)