A new year is a good time to take stock. What does my scale say? What’s in my closet that shouldn’t be? Did I really wear a cropped sweater last year? What life patterns need changing? What health and wellness measures to add? They all goes to the same question I think…
How best to edit our lives?
Picking up on the concept of our life’s “story,” the word “edit” resonates with me. So much is thrown at us in life. It’s our job to pare it down to that worth pursuing. To curate.
Lately I’ve been taking stock of my friendships. I work full time as a lawyer. I have two small, sweet, but suuuuuper needy children. (Thankfully they are funny, which takes the edge off the needy part.) (Also I am crazy in love with them.) I have a husband who – if you know him you’ll nod here – is wonderfully engaging and also fairly chatty. I have a business, Still the Sea, on the side. Busy times.
But…I am also an extrovert, and I am female and absolutely built to connect and relate. No matter how narrow the bandwidth, I’m always going to make the time to hang out with good friends.
Social media has upped the ante for competitive people and social connections. Our contact lists are out there – they are public, and immediately quantifiable. We begin to collect friends, business contacts, and even distant acquaintances, all within the same big web-friendly bundle. Our concept of “inner circle” begins to fade.
Given that free time is so limited in many of our lives, and given the flood of our “connections,” who end up being our very best friends?
There are some pretty icky ways to screen friends. (1) Who can get your career the furthest. (2) Who is the prettiest / thinnest / richest/closest in proximity to Kim Kardashian. (3) Who throws the best parties. (4) Who belongs to the best [fill in the blank] club. (5) Who is the most sophisticated and has the best business card.
Maintaining close friendships with these criteria in mind can be…what’s the technical term…”life sucking.” For you and for them. (Also it’s just lame.)
Friends are those whom you turn to when you need marriage help. When you are trying to discipline your kids without breaking their spirit. When you are super scared/embarrassed/anxious about something and you need a sounding board and some compassion. Friends will talk you out of plastic surgery you don’t need. Friends will talk you into going for that promotion. Friends will tell you (and quickly) if you have something in your nose. Then they will hand you a Kleenex. To me, friends are indispensable for sanity.
My best friends are loving, fun, and creative. Almost all are hysterical, several are brilliant, and each is, to a one, very deep and real. Also, each of them feels very free to remind me when I’m getting…how shall I say…”off track.” By off track, I do not mean “gained a few pounds,” I mean, “doing stupid stuff.”
Have you ever heard of the term “hunting license”? Tim Keller, pastor of New York City’s huge Redeemer Presbyterian Church, mentions the idea in several sermons. A friend with a hunting license is one to whom you’ve said “please confront me when I’m being an idiot…or just plain lost.” You allow them to keep you accountable. You allow them to guide you back home again.
(Clearly any friends to whom you give such license will need to share your faith and belief system. Or else they will warn you to run in a different direction than the one that fits with your conscience.)
While back east in November, I had breakfast with one of my best friends, Jenn. Over the last of our oatmeal at Le Pain Quotidien, she looks over at me expressively, eyebrows furrowed. In her Southern drawl – so wonderfully out of place in Connecticut – she said to me:
I gulped. I knew what that meant. I nodded a tentative yes, scrunching my eyes closed as if that would ward off the bad news.
Jenn said, with great compassion mind you, “I think you are trying way too hard to control things. I think if you keep doing that – trying to plan too much in advance, to put everything in its place – I think you will miss out on some great things God has for you. You’ve really got to lighten up.”
She breathed a sigh of relief, said “I love you!” and took another sip of her latte.
Do you know – I did feel so very loved!! She was just sharing wisdom with me, out of love, to help me live a better story.
Another best friend, Lisa, is in (a) seminary, (b) a worship leader and (c) curses like a sailor, which only makes her more real and loveable to me. I once bounced a very bad idea off her. Her response: “I love you, and I l look up to you, and that idea is ‘effing’ unacceptable.” Her wisdom and the choice dropping of an f-bomb that day saved me from a WORLD of pain and hurt, as I avoided making an awful decision.
Friends also save you from shame spirals, which can be just as important. When confessing something to my dear friend Sarah the other day, she said “that’s great Liz! You have an opportunity to deal with this now, and it’s a great time to focus on it! It’s a gift!” A thousand pounds lifted off of me.
On that note, I’ve been thinking about my mentors. In short, have one. Or two or three. Men or women who help steer you in the right direction. (Shout out to Tricia Rhodes and Julia Hughes!!) And be a mentor to someone (or two or three) too. Pay it forward, right?
The Bible says we become wise by walking with the wise. For me that means a careful edit. How do you choose your best friends? Have you given them a hunting license? Would you be willing?