I once had a friend, now an ex-friend I suppose, who was trying to explain to me why she no longer saw it fit to be my friend. It was the first time I had ever had a friend break up with me, and my heart actually felt like it was breaking. Her reasons didn't make any sense to me; she had recently found God and felt that our values weren't aligned. (The whole thing struck me as a very un-Christian-like scenario, but apparently the irony was lost on her.) Anyway, in the course of conversation (I am telling you, it really was like a break-up), she said that her whole life she had never been able to maintain a friendship outside of her family and her husband. Hearing that helped me understand the circumstances a little better, since apparently she was doing to me what she had done to every friend previous to me - no matter how loyal, how charming, how wonderful they were. (Because dammit, I am loyal, charming and wonderful.) It also made me sad for her. Really, really sad.
I would never denounce the importance of family - I adore my family. Family grounds you and is the foundation upon which everything else in your life is built, when done right. But friends, I believe, are equally important. Family, generally speaking, is required to include you and to love you, warts and all. Friends do not have the same set of obligations. Friends can come and go as they please - and they often do - and therefore you must be lovingly attentive to them. You must make yourself a little bit vulnerable, a lot available, and put in some hard work and sacrifices if you want to keep them around.
I've often said that it is difficult to make good friends - I mean really, really good friends - as an adult. In our younger, formative years it is easy. We have school and sports and activities of all kinds where we can meet people. We also have less definition of our inner selves, and quite honestly probably aren't as picky. But as we get older, we have fewer venues to meet people naturally and more stringent views of the world and how we fit into it. So to have friends, be it a solid few or varied many, is a precious and beautiful thing. My friends are one of the many ways I know my life is truly blessed.
I have friends - two of them, actually - who have known me since I was five, went to school with me from elementary school all the way up through college, have been my friends in every major era of my life, and are still my very dear friends today.
I have friends who I am only recently getting to know, and I can't wait to know them more fully.
I have friends who have been at my side on both my darkest and happiest days.
I have friends who do the same work as me and understand how important and difficult my life's work is.
I have friends who started as mentors, and are still mentors but are also friends today.
I have friends with whom I have gone through difficult friendship moments, but we worked through it and still love each other fiercely today.
I have friends who are also family, and even if we weren't related I would still choose them as friends. (Hello, favorite sister and brother-in-law! Hello, frousins!)
I have friends who are not technically family, but really are my family in every sense of the word. (Hello, logical family!)
I have friends who make me laugh about the silliest, most mundane things, such as the merits of the Oxford comma and whether jello is a salad or a dessert. (Same friends, two equally passionate debates.)
I have friends who know my darker side and love me even so.
I have airport friends.
I have friends who share my passions and my annoyances.
I have friends I can sit with in quiet solitude.
I have friends I can spend hours with discussing every possible thing under the sun.
I have friends who would not judge me if I stoop (lower my moral standards) on a stoop (a small raised platform). Not only would they not judge, they would think it made for a good story.
The bottom line is this: I have friends. Lots and lots friends, fulfilling lots and lots of needs. And to this, I say - bless you, my beautiful friends. You are my life's greatest treasure.