"To have a friend takes time."
-- Georgia O'Keefe
All respect to O'Keefe, but friendship is about more than the priority of time. It takes values in common, trust, caring, tolerance, compassion, perseverance and even love. Friendship is built on mutual acceptance of our essential natures.
When people write blessings to younger generations, they often stress that maintaining and appreciating friendship is as important as family.
"A friend is, as it were, a second self."
Our friendships sustain and define us. They balance our needs for privacy and solitude (our relationship with ourselves) with our need to connect with and be known and understood by others. Often the vow of friendship is implicit -- never spoken, though maintained and sustained over decades, distance and personal changes.
One way to get a sense of how profound and important our friendships are throughout our lives is through the magic of music. Listen to Carole King singing her 1971 song "You've Got a Friend" with her friends Celine Dion, Gloria Estefan and Shania Twain. Some of you may be moved by James Taylor's version. Even consider singing along before you begin to write to celebrate your friendships. Here's the chorus:
"You just call out my name,
And you know wherever I am
I'll come running -- to see you again
Winter, spring, summer or fall
All you have to do is call
And I'll be there -- You've got a friend."
Here are some reflections / musings as you think about your friends:
- How has the nature of your friendship changed over time?
- How have you maintained the friendship with someone who lives far away, when there have been changes in your or their circumstances, values and life decisions?
- Consider some of the challenges of friendship: building a new relationship with someone as you age, changing your relationship with an old friend, letting go of a friend.
- Consider your "best friend": What is the essence of that relationship and what makes it so special?
- What do you value most about your friendships? Are there values or actions that you won't tolerate in your friends? In yourself as a friend?
- What are the gifts of your friendship?
- How have friends disappointed you? How have you betrayed your friends? How do you, or have you, forgiven one another for these lapses?
- What changes would you like to make in your friendships?
- Describe the sacred experience when you "meet" in the space of your essential natures?
Suggestions for Action:
- It is said that one is rich if they can count a handful of friends. How many do you count? List their names. (The list may include some who are no longer alive.)
- Next to each, write a short description of the qualities and nature of the relationship and what specifically you value in your friend.
- Choose one friend from your list to write a 15-minute letter that celebrates them and your relationship. Consider the history of the relationship, adventures you've shared and what you're most grateful for about them. Your letter can include description, blessing and expression of your appreciation of this miraculous relationship.
- Share your letter as a gift to celebrate the relationship or share it at a special moment in time, like a birthday or reunion.
- As a part of your ongoing legacy writing, you may want to write a legacy letter to someone in a younger generation about how much you value friendship. You may also want to write letters to others you count as friends.
"May your friendships enrich your life
and the lives of your friends."
-- Rachael Freed
Rachael Freed has published several works including "Women's Lives, Women's Legacies, Passing Your Beliefs and Blessings to Future Generations" and "Heartmates: A Guide for the Spouse and Family of the Heart Patient." She is currently working on "Harvesting the Wisdom of Our Lives: An Intergenerational Legacy Guide for Seniors and Their Families." Senior Fellow at the University of Minnesota's Center for Spirituality and Healing, Rachael is a clinical social worker, adult educator and legacy consultant. Her home is Minneapolis, Minnesota. For more information, visit www.Life-Legacies.com and www.heartmates.us.
Follow Rachael Freed on Twitter: www.twitter.com/legacywriter