My list of best friends used to be long.
I’d prattle off a list of 20, 30 names, believing each person held and knew and understood a different part of my core. I’d count the number of weddings I’d been not only a bridesmaid in, but also a maid of honor in, not-so-secretly believing my ability to maintain close friendships with so many people a rare ability I alone possessed.
Now, hear me out: I’m not necessarily proud of my words as I type them now. But I am proud of the truthfulness with which I write.
Because what I once staked my very identity on – that uncanny ability to hold seemingly intimate relationships with so many people – does not define me anymore. I don’t hold more than a handful of deep friendships now, mostly because I can’t hold and do and be what I used to hold and do and be when it comes to relationships.
And I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing. In fact, I dare say it’s a very healthy thing, and how we were designed to operate in the first place. But because I believed this my superpower for so long, it took this relational superhero awhile to realize her limited human capacities.
Sure, little blips on the radar popped up along the way: I moved, a lot, up and down the west coast, for school and jobs and marriage just the same.
And when you move, for instance, a couple of things happen along the way: first, you realize how hard it can be to start over. You find yourself yearning and longing for conversations with people who get you, with whom you don’t have to explain yourself. Eventually, you might learn how to find contentment with just you, yourself and a box of take out sushi on a Saturday night. If you’re lucky, you learn that being alone doesn’t have to mean being lonely.
But you also learn that some of the people whose friendships you held most dear were for a particular place and season. You learn that some people, soul-worthy as they may be, are really, really good at being best friends when you live six blocks away, but not so good at staying in touch when you live sixty minutes away.
And it’s hard when you realize you hold different views on the same friendship.
Do you remember that old chain email that went around, back in the day when we communicated via email forwards, long before Facebook was even a twinkle in Mark Zuckerburg’s eyes?
The message went something like this:
Friendship is for a reason, a season or a lifetime.
Some people come into your life for a specific reason. They’re a one-hit wonder on the record player of relationships in your life, but the chance encounter you had with them may very well have changed you from the inside out.
Other friends are there for a season: maybe you share similar life stages, so you intimately understand what the other person is going through, be it singleness or young children or divorce alike. Whatever the circumstance, they’re in it with you. They choose you and you choose them for that particular time and place in your lives.
But seasonal relationships are not meant to be a forever thing.
That’s why lifetime friends exist: so we may experience the raw and rare beauty of just a handful of souls. These people are the ones we hold most dear, for they hold the keys to our hearts. They’ve known us at our ugliest, and they’ve seen us at our finest, and you know what? They love us just the same.
In fact, dare I say, they love us because of it. When all the ugly and beauty and parts that make us us collide, they say, I love everything about you, friend.
And they mean it. They really, truly mean it.
So, here’s what I’m learning today, in the messy, holy crux of intimate relationships: we’re only meant to have and hold a few of these rare gems, and that’s okay. There are only a few people we’re meant to call lifetime friends, who pursue us and want to know us just as much as we pursue and want to know them.
My best friend list may only be three or four names deep now, but the depth of that list digs deep into this earth. It twists and gnarls and spirals downward, and the farther it goes, the more I feel known.
And I think that’s what we all crave most of all, anyway.