I no longer teach in my church women's group once a month, and as much as I love the turning-eight-year-olds that I teach every Sunday now, I really miss it. So when I got asked to give a short presentation for the Relief Society's mid-week February activity titled "How Do I Love Thee?" I jumped at the chance. There were to be three women speaking, each with a different topic on expressing and growing love in our families, with our husbands, and the topic I got, toward our friends and neighbors.
I worked pretty hard on the presentation, and I wanted to share the meat of it with y'all. First though, I am compelled to give you a bit of back story on how I arrived at my approach to the material. I call it my "provenance" and I when I say I am compelled, it's no joke. I pretty much have to do this or I can't go forward, a little thing I learned about myself and teaching style when I used to teach RS. It's sad that I cling to this teaching conceit, my little crutch, but it appears to be my one nod to the streak of OCD that crops up now and then in my family. So suck it up, ya'll... or I guess you could just skip the following, and check back in tomorrow for the first installment of Love Your Neighbor: The Six B's of Friendship.
But where's the fun in that?
When I said earlier that I "jumped " at the opportunity to teach when I was asked, I am mostly telling the truth. My only reservation was that making friends and being a good friend is an area where I have felt weak most of my life. Starting in grade school when I wished so hard for a good friend, a bosom-buddy-friend-for-life type friendship that I had read about in books. Instead I ended up in friendships that were not satisfying and that were fairly shallow. In High School I became one of those girls who you would often hear talk about how being friends with guys was soooo much better, "cuz girls are just so silly, and they are mean... mnyeah!"
Looking back as I started to prepare, I began to realize that the potential for friendships that were nourishing and fulfilling were always there, I just didn't know how to make those connections. I started looking at what was different about me and my approach to being a friend that made this so, tried to put my finger on what worked.
The first thing that came to mind was my mouth. Seriously. My main focus on being a good friend and neighbor is centered on three activities that are managed by mouth. Eating, talking and shutting my pie-hole (both in terms of letting someone else share for theloveofpete, and refraining from gossip). I have discovered as a mother of young children that I was feeling isolated and lonely, and mostly in the middle of the day. So I started inviting women over for lunch. And when I say lunch, sometimes it's as simple as tuna fish sandwiches and a bag of tortilla chips. I think I have even done PB & J's with a girlfriend in my messy kitchen during a problem stretch of time when I was nursing Pearl. Sometimes I make it a little nicer, trying out a recipe that I know my kids and Dadguy will not be able to choke down but sounds good to me. Mostly though, I have this recipe for vegetable soup that I got from Weight Watchers that is amazing; tastes awesome, is filling, nourishing and I have yet to meet a dieter or non-dieter who does not love it with some buttered whole grain toast. The conversation and confidences that have occurred over bowls of Friendship Soup at my table have enriched my life and quite frankly made it possible to keep going with a cheerful heart, or at least a lessening of the obscenity track that plays in my head. Dadguy can tell the days that I have had one of these lunch dates or something similar, I suspect that I am more bearable and fun to be around, so I can even consider these lunches as helpful to my marriage and family. You know it's true; If Mama ain't happy, NObody's happy!
Obviously these lunches aren't gonna work so well for those of you who are 9 to 5, but then again this is not rocket science, we each have our own style and depending on our lives and even the time of life, we have different needs.
The content that I am gonna be posting for the next few days pretty much assumes that you have opportunities to meet other women (work, church, playgroups, school), and yes.... the "friendship" aspects will contain language that assumes you are a woman, and probably growing friendships with other women. Mostly because as a married woman I find it is prudent to not pursue close friendships with men, but also because I was covering a this material for a fairly narrow audience. I don't see any reason to do otherwise, and you can correct me, but I suspect that you can find your own, or broader applications of these principles if you so desire.
Meantime, I am always looking for suggestions on simple ways of being friends. For instance, I have been thinking about starting Mommy Late Overs. The idea being that once ya get the kiddos down at night, leave your husband in charge and come over to my house for a chick flic and popcorn. Whaddaya think? Simple and fun, yeah? No?