Friday, January 29, 2010

Want Friends?

Last night was my turn to host our monthly girls night out group. Since it was January, I made sure to have some veggies snacks along with homemade chocolate chip cookies. We drank greyhounds (grapefruit juice with vodka) which I got from a mutual friend who had moved away's Facebook page. I felt bad we ran out of vodka. We are not a big drinking group but almost everyone was there last night. We talked, we painted toes, we prayed for one friend's son. We hit the big topics, the silly topics. We got to know one another more deeply yet again. I found out there is a new cupcake place just one town away that I now have to try. It was a wonderful evening with a few of us hanging on until after midnight.

I write this not to make people who don't have a group like this feel bad. I have been the new person in a room at the women's spring tea listening to the speaker tell us about all her amazing friendships and being really annoyed. I don't really need to hear how much people like you. I need to know how to get friends of my own. Having moved as much as I have here is what I have learned about making friends, real friends that you can talk to and laugh with.

1) Be available. Show up. Keep showing up.
Making good friends takes time. I remember when we moved to California and I was all alone and my husband worked all the time. I was desperate for human contact with adults and this was before I discovered Facebook so I had to hang out places where other moms hang out. I joined the mom's group at our church. I hung around the preschool after pick up and started little conversations with the moms. I got discouraged at times. But I kept showing up. It took a long time but sometime in January, I was having play dates with two different families. And by the time we moved away they were two dear friends. Same thing happened in kindergarten. The room mom invited everyone over for a coffee the first week of school. I was nervous. I had Little Man who might tear up her house. I did not want to get sucked into the cult that is the PTA. But I said yes because that is how you make friends. That is how you get to know people. One of the best yeses I have ever said. What an amazing woman she is, a beacon of hope to this mom of three a little farther behind in the journey. And what an amazing group of kinder parents I got to know! Miss them all so much. So say yes. But also know that if you are the person that flakes on a group of friends enough, they may stop calling you. Or if you don't say yes the first time or two, they may think you don't want to be their friend. So say yes. Make it work. Find the time. Friendship takes face time and a length of time to grow.

2) Take the initiative. Be brave.
I was the person that did start the girls night out group that I mentioned at the start. I really wanted a girls night out group, a book club, something to get me out of the house once in a while. I kept waiting but no one invited me to join the book club. I had waited for two years in California to get invited to join a bunco group, or dinner club. Never happened. I sort of missed the boat a bit because my kids were born up north and I found that with preschoolers most of us made our friends when our kids were babies and were now busy, the groups were full. My baby friends were up north and I was alone in California. I was making a few friends through church and preschool, but even there someone has to make the first move to invite people over for coffee or out to dinner. But I think we are all a bit scared and insecure. It feels like middle school all over again. What if they don't like me. Will it be a pity yes? or even worse a no? When I moved back home I decided to make a group. I asked two friends from my church to join me, we had met in a small group years before and I was so glad to be back with my friends. They said yes, and then I asked them to think of more people from our church that might be needing some deeper connections with a small group of girls. (I do think it is funny that I still think of us as girls, though the insecurity in the initial inviting people to join our "club" made me feel like a girl.) We had some yeses, a few too busies. And our group was born. We had a plan. Meet once a month. Rotate the host. Invite new people - though we keep it to people from church who are local. I did this last month with someone I felt like I was supposed to invite but was worried because while we have been in small group for a while I was worried she might not like me. Silly me, silly insecurities. I am loving getting to know her in a different setting, a more relaxed sillier setting. Last night seven women were here while our pregnant friend was at home catching up on rest. We are growing together. We are supporting one another. We are loving each other. Don't get mad at us that we did not ask you to join us. If you know us, ask, we love new people. Or better yet, start a group. Find one friend and go from there. Take the initiative! Don't sit back and wait for the invitation.

3) Be yourself. Be truthful. Be real. Be authentic.
It is so much faster to get to know someone when you actually are getting to know who they really are. Now there are times and places for this. I don't need to share my love of reality tv and twitter with my Bible study small group at church. But I have to be myself with the people I really want to come alongside me. I fight this sometimes because I know that my real self can be a bit brash at first. I grow on people like I wrote here and sometimes I want to make a good first impression. Which is funny because it rarely works because sooner or later my foot in mouth, loud, brash but deeply caring personality will come shining through. But I also know that being real with people builds connections. Just this week I saw a friend carrying a set of the Twilight books in a bag because someone had just returned them to her (not because she is a nutcase). This is a friend who I have shared in many numerous theological and parenting conversations but I did not know she was a fellow Twilight addict. And in knowing that I felt a kinship that I did not before. I also had a friend recently hit the "like" button on one of my more spiritual status update. She was someone I had no idea even thought about spiritual things. Now there is an opening for a conversation.

So those are my hints. I have been lucky enough to move around a lot and get to make some amazing new friends. Though I have also been unlucky in that I have moved around a lot and have had to say goodbye to many wonderful friends. Which is why I love Facebook, blogs, email and Christmas cards. I worked hard at times to make my friends. I am not letting them go without a fight!

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