December 18, 2021

The Vital Relationship we tend to Neglect.

 

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We connected over art, nature, and heartfelt thoughtfulness.

As she walked away from my local art market booth, carrying the purple sunset, sky-themed woven wall hanging, purchased from me as the perfect gift for her cousin who recently lost her mother, I thought, “I would love to be friends with that woman.”

She then found and followed my small business page. With curious excitement to explore the potential of our organic connection earlier in the day, I went out on a limb and followed her from my personal Instagram account. Which, in my current life stage as a mom in a decade-plus committed relationship, is the modern equivalent of asking a high school crush for their phone number.

We made plans to meet the following week at Wolverine Farm Publick House’s courtyard for a cup of tea to be enjoyed near their outdoor fireplace. Surprised upon arrival by the live music that was being scheduled, this chilly Colorado December evening quickly unfolded into a first date that would put most initial meetups from match.com to shame.

The dark, cloudless sky with twinkling stars, accompanied by a canopy of warm, white lights strung overhead provided the cozy outdoor space with a dreamy glow. Centered in the courtyard was an eight or so foot tall artistically sculptured Christmas tree made of books laid on their sides, with tiny white lights adorned around it.

We found a fireside spot, just far enough away from the music, to indulge in evocative conversation and peppermint tea. As I lifted my handmade ceramic mug for my first sip, she interrupted the action to clink our mugs together in a quick “cheers!”

We chatted about our unique life journeys thus far, culture, travel, art, DIYs, books, politics, our families, our husbands, our kids. There was raw vulnerability and easy laughter. It was the opposite of surface-level small talk, dripping with depth and connectedness of conversation one has with a longtime friend or a loved one.

Hearted by

Joking and gushing about the evening we just shared, both a bit hoarse from the two and a half hour without-lull conversation, I walked with her to her car and pulled one of my favorite books from my cross-body purse for her to borrow. We air-hugged goodnight, both looking forward to “doing this again soon,” and truly meaning it.

“Ultimately the bond of all companionship, whether in marriage or in friendship, is conversation.” ~ Oscar Wilde

I’m no stranger to quality friendships and sincerely covet the handful of soul-sister-level friends I currently have. Since moving to Colorado, 1,000 miles away geographically from my closest gal pal, cultivating new local relationships has been one of my biggest priorities.

Two and a half years in, I’m confirming it’s easier said than done, especially in the midst of a global pandemic.

Going as far as ironically choosing community as my word of the year for 2020, I opted to throw myself into friend-making opportunities without abandon. Unfortunately, whilst ignoring red flags, it ultimately provided me with more life lessons than anything else.

The cherry on top of my 2020 was a “from Instagram to real-life friendship” that took a bizarre turn.

Upon removing my phone from airplane mode the morning of New Year’s Eve, I found a 1,000 word off-the-wall fabricated accusatory essay, DMed to both my husband and me, which quickly led to a friendship divorce. In hindsight, a relatively simple resolution could have been accomplished from a little curiosity, compassion, vulnerability, and communication on both ends. I’ve learned from this experience, and, hopefully, she has, too.

Moving on from this relationship going south, I’ve shifted my perspective to inward versus outward. Focusing on my own needs, boundaries, and considering what I bring to the table as a quality friend.

Many of the relationship-focused articles here on Elephant Journal are written with partnerships in mind, but much can be applied to encourage flourishing friendships. Loyalty, trust, vulnerability, curiosity, support, honesty, kindness, generosity, gratitude, laughter, reciprocity, and communication are all qualities that build foundations for strong friendship bonds—especially those that can evolve into the chosen family level.

I’ll be honest, writing this story with the intention to share out in the world has come with a little insecurity and personal judgment.

When my new friend reads it, will she cringe at my adoration? Am I romanticizing or coming on too strong?

I hope not. But relaxing, being our authentic selves—social awkwardness included—is how we welcome others to do the same, which may be the single biggest key in any relationship.

Plus, the other day, she mentioned bringing me up to her mom who extended an open invitation to my son and me to come to see the donkeys and peacocks on their property. If she’s sharing our budding friendship with her mom, I likely have nothing to worry about.

Circling back to words of the year, my choice for 2021 was intentionally on the vague side: enrichment. I’m closing out the year feeling glee and gratitude, as the addition of a beloved new friend without question improves and enhances the quality of my life.

Let’s normalize and celebrate new friendship love stories in 2022! I’d love to hear yours.

 

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