“Make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver and the other gold.”
I remember singing that song every week at Girl Scouts when I was little. Back when making friends was as easy as swapping bracelets made out of embroidery thread or a beaded safety pin on a shoe (I’m probably dating myself with that one).
If you were a Daisy or a Brownie or a Junior then this will probably bring back some memories (and stick in your head for a while):
One of my dearest friends gave me a plaque a few years ago that hangs outside on my deck: “Friends are the flowers in the garden of life.” She’s known me since we were in first grade, and our friendship has continued to bloom for almost 40 years. A bestie for life, and if she’s reading this post today–HAPPY BIRTHDAY JEN! She’s definitely the gold kind of friend.
Last week, I drove 8 hours round-trip to visit another bestie who lives in NYC and happened to be in St. Louis on business. We met up with another college friend for dinner, then headed back to the hotel room to watch HBO from our beds–pretty much just like we did as roommates in college. In the morning she went to work and I headed home. We spent less than 24 hours with each other, yet the time was priceless and just what my weary soul needed.
Another bestie friend knows just when to send me a funny meme or something she read on the internet. It’s like she has friend ESP. And she also knows that when I text her with “Want to go somewhere fun tonight and have a glass of wine?” I will usually follow up that text about 20 minutes later with “And can that somewhere fun be my deck and can we wear pajamas?” Her response is always yes.
I can’t imagine going through this transition without my friends.
Friends see what we need, usually before we do. I have been going through a rough period due to my mother-in-law’s health recently, and an old friend from my hometown reached out to me through Facebook. Although we haven’t seen each other in years, she recognized and could identify personally with what I was going through. She bravely and compassionately encouraged me to ramp up my self-care strategy during this time, and offered other wisdom specific to the situation I am in. It was perfect.
Friends also see straight through our bullshit, and call us on it. A few Sundays ago was Easter, and I traditionally make dinner for my extended family, usually around 15-20 people. I love this tradition, and I love to cook—but this year with our family situations there was more stress and drama than usual. I posted a few pictures on Facebook, including me with my 14-pound ham—which I was pretty proud of.
Later that night, a friend I’ve only known for a few years (but totally gets me) sent this message though Facebook:
“I’m laughing hysterically bc I KNOW the look in your eyes is 1 millisecond from rage/ttl meltdown…(SIT DOWN AND PRAY TO JESUS FOR YOUR LIVEZ AND THIS MARTHA-AF MEAL!!! AMEN, HALLELUJAH, where’s the GD Tylenol!) Or I cud be ttly wrong.”
She was not ttly wrong. And ttly what I needed at that moment to make me laugh.
Make new friends, but keep the old–one is silver and the other gold.
As we get older, and especially for those of us in a transitional period, it sometimes seems like friendship gets harder. Harder to find time to meet, to talk, to share in each other’s lives. As an adult, I’ve come to realize that friendship isn’t a “one-size-fits-all” kind of thing. That it’s okay to allow friendships to grow, change, and even fade away when appropriate. Some friends come into our lives and are there to stay, others might find us at a particular season of our lives and then we don’t see them as much after that season ends.
I used to really stress about that second kind of friend. Those friends that I was so close to for a while, and then besides a few snapshots on social media or a brief flyby at a school function we didn’t see each other or talk at all. For some reason these temporary friendships, the ones that burned hot and fast and then faded, made me feel guilty—like I hadn’t done enough to keep it going. Or, if I felt as though a friend was no longer connecting with me, I felt like maybe I had done something to upset her or hurt the friendship. Way too much guilt and worry to be healthy!
Looking back, these friendships were exactly what they needed to be at the time. If friendship is truly like a garden, I’m realizing there need to be annuals and perennials to provide a good balance of beauty and longevity. I can enjoy all of those friends that come into my life, whether forever or just for a season, and nurture and tend those friendships as they grow and change. I can let them fade away when things change, knowing that they have left love and memories behind. And I’m starting to be comfortable knowing that sometimes I am the friend that is an annual, and it’s normal and beautiful and completely the way it was supposed to be. There’s nothing wrong or bad or even sad–it’s just the way friendships stay beautiful and healthy.
Transitions can be hard on friendships, especially when one friend is going through something that the other can’t completely understand. Some of those “seasonal” friendships have a short but beautiful life, and it’s okay to let them fade without guilt. Don’t be afraid to let friendships turn into memories if they have lasted their season. There’s plenty of room in the garden for more, and a new friendship might be just waiting to burst into bloom.
Do you have annual and perennial friendships? I’d love to hear your take on them in the comments!