Ah friends…when you’re a kid, nothing is easier than making friends.  I’ve got some amazing pictures of my kids with friends they’ve known since they were little, just the joy of another little person around to play with.  I watched my kids this weekend as they jumped right in with new friends, and friends they’ve only met a couple of other times.  It seems like when you get kids together, even if they don’t know one another, its like they all are speaking the same language.  The language of fun.  Of joy.  Of spontaneity.  Of play.  They don’t have to know one another at all, they’re just all there on the same page.  It’s a beautiful thing to watch.  

Even though friendships in middle and high school can be fraught with all the uncertainty and insecurities that go along with those ages, there’s still the beauty of being around all those people your own age and rather than just being play partners, you start to forge those bonds with people who will be soul mates…even if just for a season.  You start to learn to share the deep parts of yourself with others, to take risks and learn to really love people as friends.  This becomes more intense at college, when you’re pretty much living with your friends, for better or worse.  You learn to navigate the ups and downs and frailties of humanity.  To show grace.  To learn patience and forgiveness.  To find people who make you better than you were before.  

All of this happening in oblivion to the fact that its all going to come to a screeching halt once the real world hits.  Life starts.  Work life.  Married life.  Parent life.  Its hard, its work to maintain those friendships.  Where you once were able to just spend every night sitting and talking and pondering and hashing things out…now you do it for an hour or two over coffee.  Or a brief face time on the iPhone.  Or a weekend visit.  Or a dinner once every few months.  

Its hard work being friends as adults.  

And I mean it…you have to work at it.  I haven’t always been good at the work part of it.  I think I’ve spent too many years missing the times when your friend-life just happened organically, just unfolded as a natural part of your existence.  When your friends were as essential to you as oxygen.  Suddenly there are other things vying for your attention and you really have to push to make friendships–on your own, as a couple–a priority.

When I was in Laramie I’m afraid I wasn’t great at making this a priority.  Sometimes that was my own fault for being lazy.  I would just get in a busy rut and kind of “forget” that I had a life outside of my own self-absorbed circle.  Other times I would get frustrated, when you’d feel like you were the only person in the friendship making the effort.  Its hard to keep persisting when it feels like you’re getting nowhere with a person.  When it worked though, when you and your friend were able to put aside your life for a couple of hours to sit and have a margarita or coffee or whatever, with no kids, no job, no husband, no distractions–gosh, it was always so energizing.

When we moved back here to Maryland, I was very much aware that, even though we were moving back to familiarity, to old friends, to lots of family, these people had had their own lives while we spent our 7 years out west.  They weren’t just going to drop everything out of the sheer joy of having the Hamiltons back in town.  So I came in to this knowing that I needed to work.  I needed to put forth the effort.  So I have.  I’ve pursued old friends and family…and miraculously, somehow we’ve managed to make it work.  We meet for coffee. We share dinners and lunches.  We just hang out and enjoy being together.  And I never fail to be amazed at how life-giving those times are.  Even if they’re not the hours of angst-ridden conversation of my college years, or the unfettered joy of a day playing outside from childhood.  The amazing thing is that, even at 40, I’m still even able to make new friends, and that has been a real treat as well.  Perhaps now those times are even more precious because of the pull of the rest of adult life.  More necessary.  I’m finding myself newly amazed at the joy of friends and the richness they bring to my life.  I think sometimes, in my frustrations, in my depression, in my dark days, I think, “I can do this myself.  I don’t need anyone else.”  Perhaps because many things about this move have been harder than I’d anticipated, I’m being more proactive in reaching out, and its really making a difference in my days and my outlook on life.  Friends are good.  I’m very, very blessed to have so many.  Both near and far.

“…sorry friends for the times I desert you most days I feel like I don’t deserve you and I wonder why you’re all still around…sometimes its hard for me to remember I couldn’t do this on my own…the life I chose isn’t straight and narrow it wanders around like a drunken fellow, sometimes its hard for me to follow but if you’ve got my back I’ll go on–if you’ve got my back I’ll go on.” (Frank Turner)