A shared agreement to keep going

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Photo by Jamie Taylor on Unsplash

I’ve always loved friends.

As a kid, my first thought each day was wondering who I’d call to come over and play (or “hang out” when I decided I was too old to play).

I was shy, but made friends easily. I had neighbourhood friends, school friends, friends from soccer and dance and gymnastics. I played with my mom’s friends’ kids, my dad’s coworkers’ kids and my brother’s friends’ older sisters. I saw any girl as a potential friend.

In high school, my group of friends was my everything. There were nine of us who spent waking (and sleeping) hours together – at school, playing euchre, renting videos, swimming, talking, gossiping, crying, laughing…figuring out boys and the future and life together. 20 years later, these girls are still very present in my life.

But I always thought friends were a thing kids and young people have. I thought I would do life with my friends until I had a husband and kids to do life with. It’s not that I didn’t think I’d have friends when I was married, but they’d be more of a frill than a foundation.

That Lindsay also thought she’d be married with kids by the time she was 34. She’s not.

And it’s okay. In fact, it’s kind of cool. Sure, marriage and kids is something I wish for and wonder about…but right now, my life is deeply full and meaningful. And that’s all because of high-stakes friendships.

“I wasn’t after low-stakes friendships or people who felt safe to hang out with while I regrouped and tried to figure out the marriage thing. I wanted my friends to consider me as necessary as they had become to me. I wanted them to know that these were long-term relationships and that I’d be there for them, too, in any way they might want. The emails, texts, weeknight dates and weekend outings, secrets, jokes, and tears all rolled into a big ball, giving my female friendships weight and importance that they’d never had before in my life.” – Kayleen Schaefer, Text Me When You Get Home

I read Kayleen’s book while on vacation (with girlfriends, appropriately) earlier this year. It completely validated my desire to invest in and elevate the friendships in my life.

“[A friendship] was two people who remained together, day after day, bound not by sex or physical attraction or money or children or property, but only by the shared agreement to keep going.” –Hanya Yanagihara, quoted by Kayleen Schaefer

The shared agreement to keep going.

This is what makes friendships uniquely fragile. They only keep going because both people want to keep going. That’s it. There really isn’t anything else on the table to keep both of you sitting at it. In reality, you can walk away from a friendship without much consequence.

We can’t do that in a marriage or romantic relationship. We can’t do that in work relationship. We certainly can’t do that in a family relationship. Yes, we may walk away from all these relationships, often for very real and good reasons. But we also stay in these relationships because walking away is too complicated and painful, and the consequences are too much to face.

I would argue this isn’t the case in a friendship…because it’s happened to me. I had a very close friend who walked away from our friendship without an explanation. She simply didn’t share the agreement to keep the friendship going, so it ended. As much as I tried to reach out, I eventually had to respect her decision. No matter how much it hurt, or how guilty, rejected or confused I felt. That shared agreement wasn’t there anymore, and I couldn’t force it. So I had to accept it.

I’ve learned that this shared agreement is fragile. It is so valuable, but can shatter quickly and without much fanfare. So I hold on tight to the friends that do share the agreement to keep going…

They are my spontaneous adventurers.

They are my quiet moments.

They are my difficult conversations in the pursuit of deeper connection.

They are my encouragers and my safe places.

They are my check-ins and rememberers.

They are my inside jokes and laughing to the point of tears.

They are my listeners.

They are my belonging just as I am.

And I hope, I try, to be these things to them.

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