The topic of friendship has been a common one around our house lately. We have several kids who’ve shared a desire for more—or for more likeminded—friends, and after taking off my mom hat when the kids are in bed, I pour myself a drink and confide the same thing to Kyle.
I’d like to have more local friends. And I’d like to have more likeminded friends.
It’s a weird thing, to be almost 40 and confess that it’s hard to make friends. It conjures up playground emotions of vulnerability and awkwardness, because it puts you in a position of need, which can feel …uncomfortable.
But this being a safe space, I want to tell you something on the receiving end of years of emails and private messages from you: a lot of us feel this way.
Some of you are in your teens, and have confessed to me a desire to find friends who share a kindred value of people over things, quality over quantity, meaning over status.
Some of you are in your twenties, doing the career thing and feeling alone, or doing the young parent thing and feeling alone, and overall feeling alone as you navigate some pretty big waters.
Some of you are in your thirties and forties, like me, realizing how isolating some of our roles can be, whether they be breadwinner or stay-at-home parent (or a weird combination of both, like me), and longing for more local support and camaraderie.
And some of you are older than me, walking ahead and confessing that it’s still hard as we get older to make friends.
So let’s just say it together: finding friends can be hard. But finding friends is so very worth it.
Here’s what I’ve been voicing to my oldest daughter, who’s on the cusp of teenhood and in that delicate stage of keeping toes in both waters of childhood and adulthood: partial solutions.
This is something my therapist back in Thailand taught me years ago, it’s something I’ve written about here from time to time, and I say this phrase at least once a week here at home.
Life is full of partial solutions—where there’s a way to get a need met, and it might not be the ideal way, but it’s a way that works.
Partial solutions apply to almost every area of life, from decorating our home, to getting dressed in the morning, to carving out a career for ourselves, to electing a politician.
And it’s absolutely the case with friendships.
When I share the idea of partial solutions with my daughter, I’m telling this to myself, too, because I find it’s easy for me to build a wall and call it permanent in order to hold too tightly to my ideals. When it comes to friendship, I really am, at almost 40, without a best-best friend, and would love to find more kindred spirits.
And I’d like her to be local to me (as in, lives in my particular town), an entrepreneurial breadwinner who gets the challenge of providing for her family both financially and maternally, a Christian—an Anglican, please, so she can share my theology and approach to worship, and while we’re at it, it’d be great if she also currently lives in a fixer-upper and deals with all those challenges therein. Oh, and a mom with kids the same ages as mine.
But when I’m feeling pouty, that’s when I can take a step or two back and realize that this is precisely what I’m doing.
(Another word for this is picky.)
What I’ve been telling my daughter is this: Yes, pray for and hope for new and closer friendships. That’s a good thing to want. But also don’t be so idealistic that you don’t see the opportunities for friendship right in front of you. The person in your life that you least expect might end up the answer to your prayer.
Partial solutions is the best answer for me and my daughter right now as we seek out deep, meaningful friendships.
It looks like taking the initiative when we’d rather wait to be invited. It looks like pursuing that person already in our life instead of waiting for someone who might not exist. It looks like looking out for who might need a friend more than me. It looks like keeping healthy boundaries when we feel particularly vulnerable about all this (I’m looking at you, social media).
It looks like continually keeping our eyes peeled for someone who fits our bill, but it looks even more like keeping partial solutions at the forefront of our mind when we desire companionship.
We can be each other’s kindred spirits in the most surprising ways. It doesn’t need to look how we think it should look. After all, as Ram Dass says, “We’re all just walking each other home.”
And it’s like what that wise sage Winnie-the-Pooh once said: “You can’t stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.”
Top photo by Vanity Fair