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The Responsibility of Friendship

Friendships have been the greatest gift & lesson in my life.

As a lifelong traveler (because of my mother's work, then continuing myself after high school) I've had the privilege of being a part of wonderful communities around the world, and made friends with some incredible people, but it wasn't until I truly started to work on myself that I was able to step up as mindful companion- romantic, or familial. Though my ego stings to admit it, I am a far better friend now than I have been.

This is due to two equally important parts- my personal inner work/accountability, and my community & support systems. I am irrevocably grateful for the lessons that have shaped where I am now, and I would not be the same person without them. They've brought me to my knees, saved my life, & taken my breath away in ways I thought to look for only in romantic love.

Anyone who is lucky enough to know true friendship, knows true love.

Back in the summer of 2019, I attended my first music festival with my dear friend Kayla. We spent three days in the woods surrounded by art, music, & friendship. We talked about everything from our families, & spiders, to the weather, and the meaning of life.

It was at the end of one of these hours-long conversations that we decided a few things:

One- you cannot change other people- people can only change themselves.

Two- trust must be at the core of radical friendship; and there are two sides to this-- not just that you trust them with you & your secrets, but an equally important "I trust you with you".

Three- blind love alone isn't enough to hold space for accountability, joy, imperfections, and life. (If it was, it would have worked by now.)

AND, it cannot be done without love.

Then she told me something I'll never forget. What it meant to be a truly good friend, summarized in six words: "I love you. Work on yourself."

We both laughed, and have held on to that ever since.


 

Friendship begins in a million different ways; whether its at a job, a music festival, school, during your travels, a bar, a disc golf course, or even just in your neighborhood. 

No matter the differences in our individual uniqueness, all of my friendships have a few important commonalities: they're rooted in love, respect, & admiration. We love each other unconditionally. We respect our individual beings, their needs, desires, dreams, goals, minds, bodies and spirits (and boundaries!). We admire these unique qualities and energies. I'm truly in love with each of my friends, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

That being said it was only recently that I've noticed I have relatively high expectations for close relationship. Those of you reading this close to me are probably laughing out loud at what might seem rather obvious. My core values are respect and truth, so I really shouldn't be surprised either.

By 'relationship' I am referring to a reciprocal energetic exchange based on love (the unconditional kind, rooted in respect) and kinship- this includes romantic partnership, blood and chosen family, friends, relationships with our communities, our environment, & ourselves.

I understand perfection is impossible, and while this is relatively easy to allow for in others, it is something I can still struggle with for myself. I don't expect perfection from friendships, and I'm learning not to expect it from myself, either.

What I do expect is presence.

And I'm not talking about immediate responses on social media or text, constant proximity, and unlimited phone availability. When I say 'presence', I am referring to the full embodied version of that person in that moment. This looks like a lot of things, and varies from person to person, and moment to moment. It can look like time spent together, or shared activities like hiking, yoga, spirituality, sports; It can look like a check-in with that person, coming over to help them do their dishes, or running errands together. It can look like someone saying "Hey, I'm not sure how I feel about this right now, and I need some time. Can we revisit this when X is over? or at X time?" so I know I am not being ignored.

When I say presence, I mean showing up for tough conversations just as willingly as showing up for the celebrations.

It is not someone ignoring worrisome texts from their family member while we spend time together because they are worried what I'll think- it is them telling me that they are dealing with something and are a little distracted right then (and I trust that however personal they share with me is what they are willing and able to share in that moment- this is not me saying that one is required to share more than they are comfortable with in order to be in close partnership).

True connection requires nuance. Nuance requires presence.


 

The highest responsibility of friendship is trust. Trusting in the safety and unconditional love & support of that bond. That our 'yes' means yes, that our 'no' means no. Meaning, trusting that when either of us agrees to something, we can trust that we aren't just saying yes only to over-extend ourselves, people-please, & inevitably build resentment (realized or unrealized) within the relationship.

Trusted kinship, true friendship is lovingly holding space for one another. That when tough conversations are called upon, the message is coming from a person who loves and trusts you. (The nuance here, is that you might be wrong about your perspective of the situation, too! But that you trust your relationship to hold the misunderstanding, and as a safe and loving place to talk about those feelings.)

Trusting that the bond is stronger than the imperfections of being human, of communication, and life. This is of course, much easier when you add humor.

As my mother says, "We don't give a shit what everybody thinks about us, but we do give a shit what some people think of us."

That is, having a very select few close "trusted agents" as she calls them. These are the closest layer of loved ones who you lean on when your own sense of yourself isn't as reliable. Mental illness, PTSD, silly mistakes, miscommunications, misunderstandings, and old patterning that we are all susceptible to as humans can cause each of us to act outside of our values from time to time. This is the trust of kinship in action-- trusting that they will mirror back to you what you have said you want for yourself, based on what they have seen of your heart & spirit as a loving outsider to our own internal experience.

Without trust, when we talk about something, even just pointing it out- often times it can feel like judgement. I want us to use relationship as a place where we can talk about things that are tender without feeling like the other person is trying to change us; Where we can still feel loved and worthy in that moment; Where we do not feel like we are being judged just because we are being held accountable.

The responsibility of friendship: presence, nuance, trust-

Love.



 

I've been writing this article for five years. The amount I have learned about both myself and friendship in general is absolutely astounding to me.

Thank you to all my friends & chosen family all around the world. I am so impossibly grateful for each one of you.


J


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