Chicago, Il. June 1, 2011 - There were 10 of us gathered around the dining room table, finishing lunch and getting ready to toast Donna on her 50th birthday. We were a mishmash of women: Republicans and Democrats, marathoners and couch potatoes, Christians and Jews, career women and stay-at-home moms. We’ve all known each other for years, having raised our kids together, but the only thing we all had in common was Donna.
Our hostess, Lauren, spoke first. Lauren and I had a falling out a few years ago, and haven’t spoken much since. I was a bit surprised to be on the guest list, in fact. But, to her credit, she knew this day wasn’t about us. It was about Donna.
Lauren started her toast with “I’ve reached a point where friendship has to be easy. I’m sorry, it just does.” She then went on with a very touching toast about how wonderful and fun and cheerful Donna always is, but too be honest, I didn’t hear most of it. I couldn’t get past that line about friendship having to be easy.
My first, gut reaction was no. Friendship is not easy.
Friendship is wonderful and fun, and all the things Lauren was saying, but it is also being there when a friend needs a last-minute babysitter, or a shoulder to cry on, or a face to scream at, or a little bit of grounding when the world has gone haywire.
The women gathered around that table had been there for me when my car broke down & I had to be in another state in two hours. They had been there for me when my oldest son hit his late teens and spun out of control. Two of us had lost our grandmothers together. And I had been there for them through spousal health scares, teenage Halloween costumes from Victoria’s Secret, and double-mortgage business start-ups.
No, friendship is not always easy.
I was discussing it with another Donna-celebrator a day or so later. Carla, who also wasn’t on the best of terms with Lauren, had a little different take on it.
“I totally get it,” she said, taking me a bit by surprise. “Lauren wants people in her life that she’s comfy with. People who don’t make life more difficult than it already is. So do I. Don’t we all?”
Oooh. Good point. If I am totally honest, I have to admit that there are people I avoid because I don’t want to deal with their issues. There are friends I’ve known for years that I have to be in the right mood to talk with, and if I’m not, I don’t answer the call. Why? Because they’re not all that easy to be around.
Does this make me a hypocrite? On one hand, I say friendship isn’t an easy thing, while on the other I have friends that I only deal with when it’s easy. How do I reconcile these two seemingly conflicting, yet to me very honest, points of view?
It would be easy to say that the people we have a hard time with, or the people we wouldn’t call in times of need, are not true friends. True friends are there for each other in good times and in bad. But does that mean that the woman I’ve known for 12 years who now doesn’t want to do anything but gossip is no longer a friend?
That doesn’t seem quite right. Come on, gossip is petty and annoying, but as long as it’s not hurtful, sometimes it’s fun.
I remember writing in my teenage journal that I believe there are as many kinds of love as there are kinds of people to love. I’m going to apply that to friendship as well. All of the women I’ve mentioned in this article play an invaluable part in my life. Even Lauren. (If nothing else, no one challenges me the way she does!)
While she decided long ago that our friendship wasn’t easy enough for her, I know that if anything serious happened to either of us, the other would be touched by it. So maybe it’s not a matter of friendship being easy or not easy; maybe it’s a matter of choosing to have multiple layers of friends.
Then what about people like Lauren who choose to only have easy friends? They’re missing out on some amazing relationships.
A marital conundrum sent me to the phone asking Anne if she could meet for coffee the next morning.
I forgot that she was leaving on a trip the next day and had to make arrangements for the kids and the house, and pack for a wedding and business trip all in one. She must have heard something in my voice, because she said “I’ll rearrange things if you need me.”
Just like that, without even knowing what was going on. It would definitely not have been easy for her. It would have completely complicated her life. But there she was, offering anyway.
Helping me would have been difficult for Anne, but the decision to help was easy. It came without a thought or a moment’s hesitation. Is our friendship easy? Most of the time, yes. And sometimes, when life isn’t easy, we can call each other anyway. I wonder who Lauren calls.
Julie’s 6th grade teacher wrote on her report card that he wanted an autographed copy of her first book. Since then, she has done very little writing aside from some creative writing classes 30 years ago and, more recently, a bit of journaling. Instead, Julie found herself working at a major Chicago-area bank, first as a word processor, then secretary and eventually a Division Coordinator for a marketing desk on the trading floor. The bank wasn’t a very creative environment, but she is one of the few people around who can type numbers almost as quickly as words.
For the past 19 years Julie has been a stay-at-home mom to her three children, all of whom are beautiful and obnoxious in their own ways. Now that they are all teenagers, Julie is discovering that there is life beyond dishes and laundry, and she is ready to let the dust pile up on the shelves and explore it. Well, maybe she’ll let the dishes pile up instead of the dust; one of the teenagers is allergic.
Oh, and there’s a husband around here somewhere, too.
For Claire Hickey, writing is a newly realized passion. Read more of Claire’s work at
Feed The Mind, Nourish The Soul in the Communities at The Washington Times, her blog Sustenance For The Mind, and the writing group she belongs to at Greater Fort Worth Writers Group .
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