I consider myself to be an intuitive person. I am not naive, though I would not go so far as to say I am jaded either. I am vigilant about being aware of my surroundings, and I listen to my inner self when there are any signs of danger. More often that not my initial impressions of people prove to be true. The one area where I have not always followed my intuition has been in the choosing of friends. There have been some missteps along the way. There have been people allowed in who have proven untrustworthy. There were those who played the game when they needed or wanted something from me, when I could provide some benefit to them. There have been some one-sided relationships, decidedly unbalanced and not in my favor. I don’t regret these faux friendships as they have taught me valuable lessons, albeit at times in a most painful way. They have given me one priceless gift, though, and that is the gift of appreciation for my true friends.
As I grow older I am gaining a new level of insight into the type of people I want in my life. While I have a fair-sized number of acquaintances, I keep a small circle of friends. These are the true friends who share in the “real” of my life, the deep down not for publication stuff (ok, not that there is a ton of that, we all know I am an open book). I have set criteria I now use when developing and maintaining friendships. As I first typed that last sentence I thought, “Who are you to set criteria for anyone?” To which I answer, “I am me, that’s who! My life, my friends, my criteria, and they all know to expect no less from me than I ask from them.” So here are a few simple guidelines I use for the “friendship test”:
Find friends in the produce section of the market. No, I’m not suggesting that you try to buy friends, or that you stalk strangers at the grocery store (but do be open to striking up a conversation as you may just find your newest friend). We know that foods that come straight from nature are the healthiest and are best for our bodies. We know that nature itself can do wonders for filling our souls. It stands to reason, then, that we need to extend that thinking out to who we choose to have nearest to us. I opt for friends who are natural- those with no artificial sweeteners and no toxic chemical additives. The people who have brought the most to my life bring with them no pretensions. They are who they are, and they don’t hide behind masks. They tell me the truth even when it doesn’t jibe with what I may want to hear. Surround yourself with these “organic” people and you have a jump start on healthy living for the soul.
Look for friends at the local animal shelter or humane society. This one I mean both literally and figuratively. Adopting an animal from a shelter is one of the most rewarding things you can do, and you will gain a lifelong friend and companion. Animals are inherently loyal, and this happens to be the most important quality I look for in people as well. Along this line, choose friends who do not give you reason to question their trustworthiness. Invest in friendships based on loyalty and love. Just as your cat or dog loves you when you are at your ugliest, your saddest, your lowest, your most anxious and afraid, or your sickest…so should your friends. These are the peeps who cannot be scared away, and just as they are there for the ups so will they stick around for the downs.
Seek friendship in those who have long since left high school behind. (For any younger readers I understand this may not apply to you in the literal sense). What I am saying here is that I choose to maintain friendships that are relatively drama-free. We all have intense stuff that happens in our lives in the form of break-ups, divorce, illness, death, etc. By no means am I advocating jumping ship on your friends in their times of need. I certainly expect my friends to be around when I need to vent, cry, throw things, or eat a gallon of Rocky Road ice cream, and I expect myself to be front and center when I am needed most. What I do mean is that I steer clear of relationships with people who create drama, those who thrive on it. If the only purpose I serve as your friend is the sit listening for hours to the most recent round of boyfriend crisis only to be set aside when said crisis is averted, then it becomes painfully obvious that we need to part ways. If you are the first to jump into the fray, the first to get involved in someone else’s family/ spouse/ friend dramas, the first to stir whatever is simmering in the pot, then we are not meant to hang together. The reason my husband is also my best friend is because we have set up a drama-free zone in our home. So please, save the drama for your mama, and let’s enjoy our time together!
Always opt for the variety pack. These days I feel that I am beyond blessed with the friends that fill my space. They have different personalities and varied interests, but they all share at least a few things in common. They are the quirky ones, the misfits, the hipper-than-I’ll-ever-be, the funny, the fun-loving, the loving, the honest, the loyal, and the supportive. They all bring an immeasurable joy to my life. They have all taught me how to be a better person. They are the ones who make me laugh until I cry, and the ones who let me cry until I laugh. They are the people who I cannot imagine a life without. They are my friends. They are you. Cheers! Karen
“And I thank the Lord for the people I have found,
I thank the Lord for the people I have found.”
(from Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters, lyrics by Bernie Taupin, performed by Sir Elton John)
As always I welcome your thoughts and conversation. What traits to you look for in your friends? What is most important to you in forming a lasting friendship?