She fixed her soft eyes on me across the café table. “Tell me about your kids,” she said. All she had to do was ask the question, and my maternal floodgates opened, spilling deep and wide. So few people ask the question, and then give one the time and space to answer. She teared up a little when she told me what a gift her grown children gave her when they all came back. It’s the coming back all mamas hope for, the one that makes a friend out of the funny little people we send out into the world with our beating hearts and best advice shoved down deep into their knapsack.
She asked me other questions too, so many thoughtful, curious, gentle inquiries that I felt myself unfolding like a cat when it finds a patch of sunshine. She said a mutual friend told her that our hearts might beat for the same loves and causes, and one Earl Grey Tea Latte later, I knew our friend was right.
Had this friend not connected us, I’m not sure we would’ve known to seek one another out. Our lives bump up against one another along the very edges, but we don’t often find room for a true connection. I wonder about all the other women whose friendship I miss out on when I pass them in the hallways at church, in the aisles of the grocery store, or in the cars zipping down our neighborhood streets. What kindred spirits will I never know?
I’ve found that for me, friendship is very much tied to proximity. Sure, the best friendships can transcend it, but seeing one another on a regular basis matters. I want to bump into you at the post office, or meet you regularly at the café. I want to see what your house looks like on a regular Tuesday morning, what you throw into your cart when you shop at Target, or the way your braid swishes back and forth when you run. I want to see the details of your life. I want to watch you unfold.
I don’t always want the bump in the hallway, the quick “How’re you doing?” and the 30 second big picture answer. I think we buy into a lie when we believe this is true friendship–that a double tap on instagram equals intimacy, or a like on Facebook equals true interest.
Friendship takes time, and we offer each other so little of it. It takes breathing room. It takes asking the right questions and waiting while a friend unfolds in a patch of sunlight with her answers. I don’t know about you, but I have precious few friendships like this. The amount of time and investment needed for a relationship to grow makes me feel defeated before I get started.
I want better for us as women, don’t you? I want the soft eyes and the gentle questions to become more of a rule in my relationships rather than the exception. I know this will always begin with me.
Do you struggle to cultivate female friendships? If not, what’s your secret? If you do struggle, what do you find the hardest?