A Little Help From My Friends – We all know the value of a having someone close to us through life. Some of our dearest friends are the ones who have shared our lives for years. Others may be new from the internet and we have never met them in person. We all cherish our relationships no matter how or when we met. That is because friends are the ones who see us as we are. I know from experience that anything can be done with a little help from my friends.
“I get by with a little help from my friends.” John Lennon and Paul McCartney
However, in recent years, I have had to look at my friendships in regard to my health issues with liver disease and the Hepatitis C virus. It is wise to be aware of how close you can be with others when you are sick. Have you ever considered all the different levels of friendship there are?
I have an analogy that is used every year in a lesson plan with my students. High school kiddos need a little help in navigating the tough social circles or cliques that make up teenage life. My lesson actually applies to everyone. Let’s look at all the different ways that we can nurture good relationships by setting healthy boundaries, accepting others unique qualities, and giving our best gift of ourselves to our cherished friends.
Follow me a minute: Picture your perfect dream house. Imagine the street or lane that it is on. What does the lawn look like? What kind of fence and driveway does it have? Is it made of brick, wood, or stone? Is it one story or more? Does it sprawl out in the yard or is it a cozy nest surrounded by trees? Are you with me? Now pretend that the house is YOU.
Passerby Friends – Many people will pass by your home in your lifetime. If you are as old as I am, there are thousands of people who could drive past and know that it is YOUR house. These are what I call passerby friends. They may be a school mate, someone you worked with, or maybe a soccer mom that you sat next to for a season. You may not see them for years, and yet they recognize you in a crowd with a Don’t I know you? kind of smile. These people may know you socially, but they don’t know a lot about what is really inside you.
Passerby friends make up a big portion of your social circle. They can help you to feel at home in a new group, such as when your kiddos start school. As a Nana, my grandkids parents have become passerby friends. When I was on Hepatitis C treatment, the moms were always glad to see me at a tumbling practice or soccer game. When I stayed away for a while and then returned with a wig, they greeted me with hugs and encouragement. They rarely if ever heard my details.
Front Porch Friends – These are the ones that you have shared a meal with. You have probably also shared some intimate joys and heartaches with them. You know the milestones in each other’s lives. When your babies were born, when you bought your first home, when you had trouble in relationships – they were there for you. When the bottom fell out and you couldn’t hold your head up, they knew. You have given them a lot of your heart and soul. You could call each other and know that there would be support, love, and prayer.
Some of my passerby friends were not part of my inner circle when I was really sick. I felt protective. Explaining myself to others who really didn’t know me that well at this stage of life simply took too much energy. I withdrew from activities and when I saw them, I just smiled and acted like everything was fine.
It is okay to set that boundary. It’s a matter of survival. I accept the relationship for what it is and try not to expect too much from them. They would not get it anyway.
The only Way to Have a Friend is to be one. Ralph Waldo Emerson
Living Room Friends – Now we’re getting to the small group that less than 20 people could be counted in. Think of how many would fit in your actual living room. If you are sick, these are some of the beloved friends that could get past your front door. You can trust them to always have your best interest at heart. That is what they are – heart friends. They fiercely defend you against anyone who dares to say something bad about you. You would do the same for them. The protection that these friendships offer is one of your most valuable assets. I would not trade a million dollars for my Living Room Friends.
They are the ones you call when you are mad at your spouse or kids. They will be mad with you; they will also forgive them when you do. They are the ones you call when your dreams are not coming true. When your boss, your dog, or the whole world is against you? Yep. They line up on your side and cross their arms daring anyone or anything to harm you. “They’ll have to get through me first” is a statement that they make without even thinking about it.
Henri Nouwen, one of my favorite authors says, “When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand.
The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.”
I think he is describing the next level of friendship.
Down the Hall Friends – These are the ones you call when you are really in a pickle. They will bail you out and take it to the grave with them. They have been into the messy places where only the invited ones go. They can look at your stuff and without judging you. They know your weaknesses and laughingly remind you of your mistakes.
Consider these friends the Wise Ones because they see the big picture of your life. The door down the hall of your life that has been locked since you were a kid? They have the key. They know better than to disturb it. Yet if you need a little help rearranging the mess that is inside that room, they bring a bucket of soapy water and a mop. But they always wait to be invited.
Friends are truly the jewels of life. By looking at your friendships, you can learn a lot about yourself. Your Down the Hall Friendships are nurtured with love and sacrifice. It goes both ways and you have learned to give of yourself if you have a circle of friends who are that intimate in your life.
The Living Room Friends are proof that you have reached out to many others in social settings and drawn in a group that thrived on mutual trust. Most of us have experienced placing our trust in the wrong people and ended up moving them back to the Passerby Friends status. Making, learning, and loving with friends is one of life’s greatest teachers.
There is a whole new category that got added to my life after being diagnosed with Hepatitis C and Cirrhosis. My Cyber Friends have moved into the deepest corner of my heart. We crawl all over each other’s houses from attic to basement. There is not a lot of holding back. We are shoulder to shoulder in a battle for life. The intimacy we experience through the internet is amazing. You all have saved my life. I picture a big ole lake with a bunch of inner tubes. We’re connected. Bobbing along and keeping each other’s heads above water. I like that thought.
I love you all and am so glad to have understanding friends in my journey. You are all irreplaceable and welcome in my house anytime. I get by with a little help from my friends, Xoxoxo from your sleepy sappy BFF. Karen:)
Have you told your friends how much you love them lately? Pick up the phone. Post on their FB timeline.
Friends who stick by you through illness are angels in disguise.
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