Our chosen family, our friends – they’re so important to surviving and thriving in this world. We have to keep tending, caring, swooning on, loving, holding close, cherishing and doting on them. Here are five ways to make that happen:
Do The Things
We bear intimate witness to our friends and their lives. We’re up close and personal to all their messes, their needs, their burdens and their desires. Do something for them.
What do they complain about the most? How can you make their lives even a little bit easier? Can you provide childcare for a couple hours? Can you pick them up from work after a crap day?
It can be a random act of care that makes a big impact.
I hate the commercials on Hulu. I refuse to spend the extra couple dollars. My feelings about both things are about equal, so I do nothing and just end up grumbling about it most of the time. One day, out of the blue, I got a Venmo transaction from my friend for 4 dollars. It came with a note saying “here’s your Hulu bill difference – now you can upgrade for a month – commercial free and money free.” It was the sweetest gesture.
Pay for something that annoys your friend. Do their dishes. Take out their trash. Just do something that’s really specific to their needs and wants.
Recover the Art of the Letter
If you want your friends to know how special they are – tell them – literally write it out. When is the last time you checked your mailbox and found something that wasn’t a bill? Write your friends letters. Send it to them.
I’m extra. It’s my nature. I like to find really pretty paper. Get on my typewriter. Write out a letter in prose. I like to dab it with lavender essential oil and sprinkle flower petals in to the folds. Then I seal it with wax and a seal with my initials.
You don’t have to be that excessive… although I strongly encourage it.
It doesn’t have to be long. It doesn’t have to be deep. Write it on the back of an envelope and tuck it in their pocket, stick a post-it note in their kitchen, write them a really long text message, send them a sweet email or Facebook message, mail a quick postcard even if you live in the same city, pick up a blank card from the grocery store. There are so many options.
Don’t wait for their birthdays. Don’t wait for a sad event. Write out how you feel about them and share it. It’ll give you the space to reflect on what they mean to you and give them the opportunity to all the ways you appreciate them.
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Support their Identities
We bring our social identities with us into our connections. Be aware of how the things in the world are affecting the various communities that your friend is a part of that you aren’t. That could mean anything from putting your body on the line in a protest to remembering not to offer them anything with pork. It will look different depending on what you both are coming to the table with. Lots of times it means opening up the space to listen and have potentially difficult conversations.
Support their Goals
Uphold your friends’ dreams … whatever those might look like. Do they have their own business? Do they make art? A podcast? They got a Soundcloud? An Etsy page? If so, support these endeavors. Promote them on your social media pages. Hype them up. Ask them how those things are going, if you could help in anyway. If they sell stuff, try not to ask for free things if they don’t offer it first. Let them know you value their labor and their goals in those ways.
Maybe they’re trying to make a shift in their life. Support them. Help them find a new job. Send them fellowship applications. Look up grad schools. If they are trying to change their spending habits and save up for something, gently remind them of their end goals as they are about to order their third overpriced cocktail. What are they striving for – how can you help them get there?
Or maybe they’re well on their way to their goals but could use support sustaining themselves on the journey. One of my best friends works in finance. He makes a ton of money and generally enjoys what he does. However, he works exceptionally long hours and gets little time to no free time to do the things he used to. I send him poems, playlists of current music, books he should order – things that get missed in his work grind.
Support your friends’ goals and celebrate the hell out of all their successes.
Communicate the little things
The more comfortable you are with friends, the less you actually need to say out loud. It can be really convenient.
I have a friend I’ve known for about 20 years now. We know each other so well we can basically read each other’s minds at this point. She’ll get up to go get me something to drink from the kitchen before I even realized I was thirsty. I can tell how much she likes or dislikes a person we’ve just met, by the way she shakes their hand.
There are so many things that go unsaid between friends, because they can be. But this doesn’t mean they have to or they should. Never get too comfortable to express gratitude or accountability. Remember to say your “thank you’s.” Remember to say your “I’m sorry.” Just because my best friend expects and will forgive me for the rest our lives for being late to everything, doesn’t mean I should stop apologizing when I do. And just because I have always and will always take out my friend’s trash without her asking because I know how much she hates it, doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate how grateful she is when I do it.
[Featured Image: Two individuals are sitting on a flight of stairs outdoors. The person on the higher step wears a long sleeve shirt, shorts and a fitted cap. The person sitting below rests on their leg in a red sweater and shorts as they look up. Pexels.com]