How to Be a Really Good Friend

Yesterday, my friend, Elaine, called and asked if it wouldn’t be too much trouble for them (she and her two kids) to stop by with their new puppy.  It was early afternoon and I was knee deep in more of that nesting stuff (garage right now) while the twins were doing what they do best—skipping their nap (because if there’s one thing I’ve learned in this life it is that twins have more fun than the rest of us). 

Two hours later I’m sitting on my patio and looking out across quite a vision. There’s precut lumber paused in front of an unorganized lawn shed. Little puppy Carla is on a leash and Alistair is at the end of it—both are confused about who is leading whom. I see two young boys deep in play: yard toys turned and stacked around each other, sticks brandished, dirt packed and carried. They have hardly spoken to us since they embraced at the side of the house and ran off to play. Two toddlers sit near me, one mine and one Elaine’s, eating what I could snatch from the kitchen: a bowl of barbecue kettle chips and a jar of peanut butter doled out in spoons. 

And this moment of impromptu visiting made me so happy. This was bare. This was a stake in transparency. This was messy but good.  There was no hot food to serve and no rush of cleaning before opening that door. My hair was up and my boots on and all I could do was open my door to our here and now as if to say, “well, here’s how it really is.”

I’ve been blessed with such good friends in my late twenties and early thirties who have truly shown me what it is to be a good friend…

To let a pause sit after something said. To ask good questions. To work (like physically get in there and actually do the thing) alongside me.  To not be afraid to share both their strengths and their weaknesses equally. To speak truth to me even when it’s not the same direction as where I was going. 

But mostly, I feel like a really great friend opens up her doors, her heart, and her mind and says, “well, here’s how it really is.” 

And in that moment, you might cry with her. In that moment, you might laugh with her (because it’s so true for you too). In that moment, you might just listen. In that moment, you might encourage. 

As I age, I’m more and more not afraid of how things really are. I’m trying not to rush in with a band-aid when something obtuse or prickly is said—whether it be as a wife, a mother, or a friend.  I’m trying not to rush in when I see my faults. Instead, I’m learning to stand there and ask instead what is the 1 next thing to do. I’m trying not to rush in with pretty lies when I see an inconvenient truth.  My most recent: “Just being mom is not enough for me. I have to create. I’m burning up inside to create.”

They say making a friend is harder as you get older. I’m 31. I have friends right now that I would love to be even better friends with. What do we call those? Tier 2 friends? Peripheral friends? I don’t know. But there are all those hours and hours of texts and phone calls and getting together as if one long strung out interview to see if we can stick the landing together side by side.  

Oh, and it’s nice to have similar values in friends. I like women who aren’t afraid to pull up their sleeves and get dirty with work. I like women who are leaders. I like women who are readers and thinkers and laughers. And I love women who are crazy about their husbands (and when they aren’t feeling crazy about their husbands still crazy about showing up in their marriage as best as they know how to.)

But really. I don’t need a specific-anything kind of friend.  I just want friends who are real. Who are honest. Who aren’t afraid of how things really are—and are still happy to open the door in the midst of it.  

Because that is grace.  All of our stories carry beauty and baggage. All our hearts have hopes and grief.  All of our to do lists are scratched up and highlighted and dragging behind that thing from two weeks ago we still haven’t done.  All of us have work to do and good to be celebrated and a dishes that get dirty as we eat. 

I’m going to pray today for whomever reads this post. Gosh, I don’t ever speak that way—but I mean it.  I’m going to pray that if you are reading this post you are blessed with the kind of friendship I’m talking about here.  And if you aren’t, that it comes to you.  And if it still doesn’t come to you, that you can find a way to be this way (a rare, raw, open, honest lovely you) to someone else.   And if you already have these things, my prayer will be that your eyes are open to your blessing.  

Now let’s all go be real. Like really really real. 

Love you all,

Ash