"In everyone's life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit."
~ Albert Schweitzer
This is one of the most perfect quotations on friendships I have ever read. I have to admit, my inner fire is sparked...actually it has burst into flames just like good old Mr. Schweitzer has said. I have been toying with the idea about blogging on friendships, but I have been hesitating because I feel like no matter what I write, I will not do those friendships their due justice. So instead of trying to do them justice, I am going to speak from the heart (that seems to work for me!)
I had a conversation with my friend Kate about a month or so back and a comment she made profoundly affected me. I don't even think she realizes how much! We were waiting for her kids to come out of school and she just turned to me and said how lucky I was because I had such great friends, really great friends. She had heard me talk about this friend or another helping me out with this or that and had seen many exchanges on Facebook (my friends on Facebook are actually people I know in real life!) It kind of caught me off guard because even though I knew that, it was startling to hear someone else say it with such conviction. We also got to talking about toxic friendships versus friendships that are nurturing and sustaining. It really got me to thinking about how different my life has become over the past two years because of how my friendships have evolved.
Friendships of course come to us during all different phases of our lives and because of different experiences. I have friends whom I have known for 22+ years... friends who started out as a "work friend" and became a lifelong friend... friends who I didn't think I had anything in common with and now am blessed to call them a soulmate... friends who I have reconnected with after years and years apart (oftentimes through Facebook!) only to find out that we are more connected now than ever...friends who are also family members...friends who have been romantic partners and then just friends again, discovering that it is the friendship that is truly special. No matter where they came from or how our friendship has evolved, they sustain me.
I think oftentimes when people go through different crises in life, they get more of a sense of what is really important to them. I know I did. I had always held my friendships in high regard but now looking back, I don't think I always gave them the proper attention and nourishment they needed. This isn't meant to sound as a harsh criticism of myself, just a reality check. In some ways, it was unavoidable because of certain negative life circumstances but at some point, we have to take responsibility for these negative life circumstances (i.e. unhealthy marriages, stressful jobs, etc.) and decide what kind of life we really want for ourselves. During the period that I was divorcing my ex-husband, selling my house, trying to deal with failing health and losing a job, it struck me how much my friends rallied around me. It was overwhelming. I could be broke, jobless and sick but when you are loved for who you are, that is one of life's greatest glories.
My friend Kate was so right in what she said. I have been incredibly blessed with the people that I call my friends. One of the lessons I have learned along the way from them is how to be a better friend. See, because they inspire me. You know how it is said that you can pick your friends but not your family? Well, I have picked wisely. By the way, that is not an insult to my family!! I love them dearly. I like them a lot too! I just haven't always picked wisely (previously) in the friend department. I don't want that to sound arrogant or spiteful. It just means that although no one (including myself) is perfect, life is too short to always spend it in conflict or negativity. It is important to find friends who nourish us and enrich our lives. I have to admit, my current life circumstances allow for me to spend more time with friends than the average person when I am physically able to. I don't have children to look after (just a crazy dog) and work is not currently an issue. Not a day goes by that I am not well aware of this and I see it as a blessing that I get time to experience these relationships more fully. However that being said, these same friends that I have DO have families, careers, and other obligations that they have to juggle along with their friendships.
How have my friends inspired me? They inspire me by living their lives with purpose and conviction. They support me at times when I have nothing left to give them back in return. They hold me up when life just gets to be too much. They forgive me when I am selfish. They have reconnected with me when I have dropped out of their lives. They listen endlessly and problem solve with me. They put up with my incessant babbling about the love of my life-my dog. They show up with groceries and supplies when I am too sick to do it myself so that I can live independently. And of course, they make me laugh...they always make me laugh! They inspire me by example. They have taught me to forgive more easily, trust more readily, and live more fully. In essence, they rekindle my inner spirit....