She’s dependable, stable and has it all figured out (even to an occasional tune of condescension). Predictable- mostly making the good decisions. She’s your first phone call. Shows up exactly when you need her to- uninvited and all. It feels like she saves the day but really she reminds you that you’re the savior and the saved.
She’s the “strong friend”. And if you think you don’t have one in your circle or your family- she’s probably you.
The truth is- she’s human. She suffers loss and sadness and entertains feelings of inadequacy. Yep- beneath the exterior of confidence and strength, the strong friend has moments of debilitating doubt and loneliness. Her struggles are usually stuffed up her sleeve- not displayed on them. She catalogs her struggles as less significant than others and dismisses them in the name of addressing the more pressing ones- the ones that belong to the others.
Naturally, she loves her “strong friend” status which means she’s probably not going to call when she’s not fine.
So call your strong friend. Not because there’s a crisis that needs her attention. Ask her how she really is. Tell her that you see you her and that her experience is important and worthy of attention regardless of where it ranks on the “it’s all relative” scale. That she’s not going to have the status stripped from her at the first sign of her humanness.
Whether your strong friend is your mother, colleague, mentor, sister, neighbor, college roommate or childhood ride or die…make the time and make the call. Especially this time of year.
The “most wonderful time of the year” is an interesting one.
There are lights, shopping sprees and parties a plenty. Elves to hide and nostalgic movies to binge. We busy ourselves with sending holiday cards to update the world on just how full our lives and hearts are. The holidays have a really beautiful way of drawing our attention to the goodness in life. The strong friend is exceptionally good at keeping your attention there.
In fact, I think there’s a strong friend in all of us. The buttoned up one with her shit together who bucks up all the buttercups. This season, check on her. Listen when she wants to slow down but doesn’t admit it. When she feels like a cup of tea/ glass of wine and an honest conversation instead of ANOTHER white elephant party, give her the out. When she needs a good cry and a long run or a punching bag- tell her the final edits on the holiday card can wait. Hell, if she wants to spend that $300 on a massage or a pricey yoga membership or a donation because her heart is aching for the kid santa didn’t come for- give her permission to oblige.
Remind her that gold foil has nothing on the tender, significant state of her soul. Whatever happens to be living there is important: Grief. Contentment. Desire. Loneliness. Confusion. Gratitude.
The truth is, this time of year is hard for many people for a multitude of reasons. Some are painfully obvious. Kids in the custody of the state instead of in the care of loving parents. There are parents who’ve lost a child- the greatest gift they’ve ever known. And then the less obvious kind that we only know about because surveys and statistics show a rise in emotions like stress, sadness, loneliness, anxiety and regret during this season where happiness, love and high spirits steal the show.
While I don’t believe it solves the injustices in the world to shame those whose hearts are happy and full, I do believe we have an opportunity to shift the way we express generosity during this “most wonderful time of the year”.
Maybe this is the year, we busy ourselves with checking in on the one who lost the baby she prayed her heart out for. Maybe in addition to presenting our most camera-ready selves, we make an extra batch of soup for the neighbor who lives alone. Maybe we spend more time creating meaningful connection by being present with what we have rather spending copious amounts of time, energy and money consuming endlessly more.
My prayer for you and for us this season is to feel deeply loved because someone showed up for you (with more than a box and a bow). For your generosity to be the kind that lands where it matters rather than the kind that merely maxes out an AMEX.
In case you’re wondering, you’re a strong one and you’re a human one. You get to be both this season…and in all the seasons.