“Life is partly what we make it, and partly what is made by the friends we chose.” –Tennessee Williams
My friends provide a mirror for the best parts of myself. It took me a long time to learn to choose relationships with people who valued who I am and how I live in the world. For many years, my friendships instead reflected back my insecurities and my lacking self worth. Having friends who laugh at you is not at all like having friends who laugh with you.
The changing face of my friendships parallels my understanding and ability to be my own friend. As I have come to embrace myself, I have attracted friendships that do the same. Friendships are one of life’s sweetest gifts. Finding kindred spirits that make you laugh, share your tears and get your stories are relationship touchstones that teach us about belonging.
We know ourselves better when we find our tribe. We understand that we humans are herd animals and that we are stronger in a group than on our own. For many people it is the family that defines their closest tribe, but for others, like me, it has been the family I have chosen, my tribe of friends that has taught me about accepting myself first so that I can belong to something bigger than myself.
Here are a few of the characteristics that define life-changing friendships, the ones that are like our most intimate partnerships, in that they sculpt us into our most beautiful version. I laugh until I cry or I cry until I laugh. Even at great distances of space and time, re-connecting feels like two minutes ago. Memory is rich and vivid deep in our tribe, because it is a collective memory. We are not alone in the presence or thought of these dear ones. The meaning of the word ‘unconditional’ makes sense.
I know most people don’t get many of these friends in a lifetime. They are the rare treasures that make life most meaningful. Thomas Mertons described the essence of this most rare tribe of friendships when he wrote: “Do not depend on the hope of results…you may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and even achieve no result at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect. As you get used to this idea, you start more and more to concentrate not on the results but on the value, the rightness, the truth of the work itself…gradually you struggle less and less for an idea and more and more for specific people… In the end, it is the reality of personal relationships that saves everything.”
I am always on the lookout for my tribesmen and value those reunions as more precious than gold.