The Art of Friendship

On Monday, I took Evie out of bed, got her dressed, brushed her teeth and we went out for breakfast.  The week officially marked her transition to pre-school. For the past three years, she’s had the luxury of staying at home with Veronica, our very helpful live-in nanny. Last week, however, Veronica transitioned to a new family, and our baby set off into the real world. Aside from being busy and emotional, the week was a great success. She didn’t cry at Friday’s drop off and, at pick-up, she always came running with a smile. The teachers reassure me that she’s having a great time.

photo 2 (2)During the week, we spent time exploring the magical grounds of the school. You see, this isn’t your run-of-the-mill place. On the contrary, this private elementary school (up to 6th grade) is situated on a huge property in Laguna Beach. You step into a fairy-tale; the land is complete with multiple gardens, a huge teepee, a small tea house and European style one-room homes; each home accommodating a different classroom. A large portion of the property is dedicated to animals. There is an aviary with multiple peacocks, swans, chickens, doves, even rabbits, and a separate residence for horses, llamas and pigs. With language immersion options in German, Japanese, French and Spanish, we are happy Evie can continue learning Spanish, as she has the past three years.

Just like me, Evie loves peacocks. On Friday, we watched intently while one of them strutted around the aviary; acting like he owned the place. So many mornings I remember dropping off my big kids, who attended there years ago, and the peacock would stand there in full feathery display, shaking his vibrant, colorful body, and begging for attention. I would stand and watch, in awe of his majestic beauty, and enjoy his lively performance. I reflect on every beautiful creature, are how perfectly suited they are for this children’s community; teaching life lessons of individuality and diversity.

photo (7)The teachers tell me that Evie has made new friends, but at three years-old, she doesn’t share much about her day. I’m sure they all play together, side-by-side, and get along just fine. It’s hard to watch as your children navigate the open sea that is the art of making friends. This year, my heart broke a little when Tilley received her 2nd grade classroom assignment and found out that her two closest friends were in another class. Of course, after many tears, she found other girls to play with, and now, a month later, is enjoying those new friendships. As parents, I think the experiences are harder on us, as we share in their pain, and remember similar situations from our past. Forced to re-live our own painful memories all over again, in a real life scenario, like a gift, ready for us to dig up and rekindle. We carry it with us and it shadows over our reality like a dark grey haze.

photo 1This month, I traveled back to my hometown of Jamestown, New York and surprised my grandmother on her 90th birthday. I had the opportunity to see my family and many old friends from high school. I was amazed to find that, from a friendship perspective, time had stood still. Twenty years later and our relationships are the same. The connection we shared as children continues on and allows us to easily share our greatest joys and deepest fears. Like nothing changed, we laughed simply, effortlessly. There is something special about old friends, a deep bond and connection that takes away any aspect of “trying”, a shared history and common values, an understanding that transcends normal relationships.

I have been blessed in my life with great friends; deep meaningful relationships that will last lifetimes. As I approach my 36th birthday, I can’t help but think about how my closest friends, the most important in my life, were made before I turned 25. When I reflect on my adult life and the relationships I have (or haven’t) made, I find it ironic. It’s harder to find friends now, even though I am more in touch with myself than ever before. From that perspective, knowing what I want makes it harder to find genuine friendships.

photo (8)Connecting with my friends from home, no matter how many years it has been, is so simple. My husband doesn’t understand and it’s hard to explain, but there is an understanding between us; like they know the real me, no judgment, no fear of rejection. There is a comfort and security from our past, and because of that connection, I’m free to be myself. I can open up and wear my heart on my sleeve. I dig into the treasure chest of my past and extend a long rope of trust. I reconnect to that powerful place and it refreshes me and it gives me a renewed sense of purpose and community.

One similarity all of my friends share is transparency and honesty. You always know where you stand and there is no bullshit between us. It might sting at times when they bluntly tell you what they think, but I’ll take that any day over them concealing their truth. We are honest with each other and that’s what true friends should do. We can pick up right where we left off, with no insecurity about not having seen or spoken to each other for weeks, months, or years!

I really suck at making new friends. Lacking substance and common experiences, I try to find connections through superficial things, like where they live, where they work, or where their kids go to school. My favorite thing to do is play “six degrees of separation” to find out if we share friends in common; as if that’s going to improve our odds of becoming good friends?! Furthermore, finding new friends, after marriage, or “couple friends”, is difficult, at best. But now, as a mother, making new friends is nearly impossible. Simply put, due to our schedules, we have very little time in our life to spend with our current friends, much less to cultivate new ones.

While I was home, I visited with my grandmother at her assisted living facility. I walked into the building and greeted the dozens of women in rocking chairs, chatting away with their similar hairstyles and smiling faces. I thought about how their husbands, probably long gone now, were nowhere to be found, and how I’ll be so fortunate if I reach that time of grey hair and wrinkled, sagging skin. All of us are just trying to find happiness amidst the suffering and change that comes with being human.

Maybe my expectations are high, but I want meaningful relationships, not superficial ones. I want to spend my precious time with friends who stand by in good times and bad, and who won’t go blabbing my darkest fears to everyone they know. I want to have fun going out at night, but I also want to wake up in the morning, so I can take care of myself and my family. I am comfortable in my own skin; those wrinkles are there because I’m expressive and I like to laugh. I don’t need fancy clothes, vacations or things. I lead a healthy lifestyle, eat well and exercise often, but I just walk out my front door. I don’t need fancy gym memberships or care for extreme sports. I want friends who accept me for who I am and I just want to be myself.

Unfortunately, the relationships I’m seeking are few and far between. So when you’re fortunate enough to find even one true friend, who shares your values and priorities, invest in them heavily. Some of Derek’s and my closest friends live 20+ miles away and, in the past, we just haven’t made the time to get together. Instead, we’ve prioritized geographical convenience and ease of scheduling over true friendships. I have wasted time trying to cultivate new (convenient) relationships that simply aren’t there. I’ve cared too much about what other people think of me, not being true to myself in the process.

photo (6)We come into the world as little children, playing side by side, and, hopefully, we go out like those little old ladies sitting in their rocking chairs. In between birth and death we get so caught up with defining and labeling ourselves and the image that we want to portray. We hide behind our labels, our titles, our branding. We are so afraid of what others will think of the “real” person, we put up a façade. I’m the first to admit fault here, as I parade my life in pictures on the internet. But we’re just your typical, every day family with ordinary problems, trying to make it through another day. Through my blog, I’ve tried to be as transparent and honest about my everyday struggles. I probably share too much, making myself vulnerable, as my husband often tells me. But that’s just my way of being “real” and taking off those layers and labels in the world.

On a bike for the first time in 10 years!
On a bike for the first time in 10 years!

It’s okay though. That’s just me. I’m at peace and I have no fear of putting myself on display. I’m not afraid to bare my insecurities and imperfections. Just like the peacock who stands in full bloom, I want to be uninhibited and show the world who I am with all my expressive colors. I want to be me, with all my strangeness, eccentricities and quirks. I wish everyone could feel that way and stop tip toeing through life, worrying about what others will think of them. Instead, I will live out loud, with my heart on my sleeve, and go boldly and courageously into the world. I don’t care if my words fall flat or my ideas are rejected. Not afraid of failure or making mistakes, I will be remembered as someone who lived fully, who tried really hard to be better for others, and who tried to stay in the present moment. Here I am. This is me, with all of my colorful feathers on display.

5 Replies to “The Art of Friendship”

  1. Cristina, I couldn’t agree more! Wish you were here, but as I mentioned, you are some of those friends that we need to visit! Rare friendships, like ours, that come naturally need to be cultivated!!! xoxo

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