On friendship.

friends. | kourtney thomas fitnessThe last month or so has been really interesting for me in the world of friendship. I mean, my life has been really interesting in terms of friendship, but it gets infinitely more interesting each year.

Fortunately, these days, it tends to be interesting in a good way. In ways that encourage me to grow as a human. Help me to better communicate and interact as a person in the world. Help me to curate the meaningful social relationships that I really want to be a part of.

Historically, friendship has been troubled for me. It’s a very, very old story. One that dates back to elementary school and has continued into my 30s. It has always affected my social interactions, and until recently, I simply didn’t know any other way. Put bluntly, I didn’t think I could have friends. So, I went a long time without them. I went a long time telling myself this was how it was.

Which, by the way, is a default response that I no longer choose to accept in any area of my life.

What I didn’t understand for all that time is that the scars of those stories and lived experiences amounted to erecting more walls than I realized. And on the flip side, a certain desperation at any inkling of someone wanting to spend time with me. A whole lot of not-good-enough, but with a side of I-don’t-need-it-anyway.

Over time, I’ve been able to work through how that looks and build some really wonderful friendships. I feel a much better balance these days of quality relationships with supportive people who I know will be there for me when I need them, and who I’d do anything for, as well as strong connections with people I share common ground with, but am OK with not making their short list.

My friends range from fitness industry buddies, to local friends I’ve gathered through the years (most of them started as clients at one point or another because that’s how I roll), to a couple stragglers from high school and college. I can most definitely still count my friends on less than two hands, but it’s more than one now, and I consider that a win. Plus, based on all the new folks I’ve been meeting lately, I think my community will be expanding as those relationships get nurtured. I like this.

Anyway, the winter has been kind of an odd combination of all of these things crashing together. I reconnected with the Saint Louis friends I missed, spent some in-person time with my fit friends, and got together in real life for the first time in nearly twenty years with a woman I knew in high school. Each of these things has been wholly different than I thought they would be.

One example: I have been feeling pretty low, so I set out the other day to just wander some stores and get out of my house and not sit in front of my computer. I was in the neighborhood of one of my friends, so I texted her to see if she was home. She said yes (thank goodness), so I stopped by.

We ended up hanging out and playing with her silly 3-year-old for a couple of hours, catching up on life in more detail, and talking about a lot of stuff that, honestly, I really needed to talk about. I told her about some of my recent experiences, some of the feelings that were coming up for me, some of the tugs I felt in my gut about recent interactions. I even told her about these long-held narratives of mine (which almost kept me from texting her in the first place). All these complexities, insecurities.

And she listened. And it was a joyous relief.

And for all the time that I have spent talking about boundaries in personal relationships, she reminded me, very frankly, that I wasn’t doing a good job of executing my own. People change, situations change, and sometimes, we have to honor that and change too.

It was a great reminder of why I consider her such a dear friend, which we also talked about. We expressed how we’re craving more actual human social interaction, but just random stuff like this – texting at the last minute instead of this contrived business of planning around “OMG I’m so busy! How about Tuesday two weeks from now? I can fit you in from 9:30-10:45am!” Quality, genuine contact with those folks with whom we are comfortable. No expectations, just openness. Try when it’s right, let go when it’s not.

Remarkably, the exact same thing happened the next day. I had the exact same conversation with another treasured friend about how we’re no longer interacting much with people we know on social media. We text, call, or make standing lunch dates. Walk dogs. Take trips. And stop doing activities we don’t want to do with people we don’t really want to do them with. Basically, we choose who we interact with, and make sure it’s people who don’t make us feel like shit.

Life is way too short for that.

I’m nearly 34 years old. It has taken me all of those years to even come close to figuring out any one part of this. And like I said at the beginning, I’m still learning and growing every day. I’m better at giving things a chance, but I’m quick to learn when the chance is no longer deserved. I’m better at prioritizing the mutually sincere friendships versus the light and intermittent acquaintances. I’m better at knowing when it’s about me and my stories, and when it has nothing to do with me.

And it’s a process. Like every single other thing I ever talk about is a process. The truth of the matter is, this process is a challenging one for me personally, whereas for a lot of other folks I know, it doesn’t even register on their radar. I’m OK with that, but also, I’d encourage you to get quiet for a second and think about where you really are in this process versus where you think you are at first gut reaction.

Point is, I’m grateful for the opportunities I have to learn more about myself alongside those who help me do it best. I can’t recommend highly enough doing the same for yourself.

Don’t discount the opportunity to do this in the same space with some amazing, like-minded women. Build Your Big Life registration is open today. And I’ve met and curated some of my closest friendships through my own damn group. But more importantly, the other women in it have done the same, and wouldn’t hesitate to tell you that you will too.

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