True that. You could find a billion t-shirts, mugs, pillows, stitch samplers, picture frames and people who would agree with some version of this sentiment. So it's not like this is a groundbreaking insight of mine. Friends are really, at the end of the day, who and what we live for. Our families are different; they are so intrinsic to who we are that there is very little separation between us. Friends on the other hand... these are the treasures of discovery, the uncharted continent, the freedom of CHOICE. "Friends are the family you choose" is one of those stitch sampler wisdoms...but I think it goes beyond this. Our friends represent the parts of us that didn't quite jibe with our families, the pieces of us we may have denied if not for them; friends help us create the mosaic of our wholeness. Our friends make us FREE, our friends make us WHOLE. And that is why we need to consciously return the favor.
The late, great British author Iris Murdoch once quite brilliantly defined love as the quality of being "inexhaustible" to each other; that is, never feeling done, never feeling as though all of the gold has been mined out of this particular relationship. When I use this as my yardstick, it quite accurately delineates bonds that exist out of history or loyalty and bonds that exist because of true love. I believe true love and passion can be found in any format -- not just for romance, it is equally applicable to friendship and yes, even family relations. "Passion" and "lust" get used interchangeably sometimes and this is a shame. Because passion is the driver of life, the voice of God urging our souls forward. The love we feel for our children literally makes us want to shout from the rooftops, dance in the streets, throw ourselves in front of a bus if necessary for their survival... is this not passion? The love we feel for our friends and family gets us to do all kinds of inconvenient and nonsensical things if we think it will help them or make them happy in some small way. This is the inexhaustible well of love.
One of the biggest mistakes any of us make in love and friendship is to try to box it up, keep it on a leash, limit ourselves or the other person in some way. Sometimes our insecurity makes us believe that "true love" is about bending to another's will, or worse yet, making them bend to ours. If people don't "behave" in the way we have determined is acceptable to us, it is certainly worth a discussion. But ultimately we have a decision to make -- do I choose to have this person in my life for who they really are, or am I hoping they will become who I think I need them to be? If the answer to this question is the latter, then it might be time to move on for both of you. A relationship isn't a "test." It exists for the mutual benefit of the parties involved, and there will be challenges and there will be arguments, but these should always lead to expansion, not restriction. The more restrictions you place on your relationship, the more likely you are to stifle it to death.
Years ago, a friend said this regarding relationships: "You don't go to the hardware store for milk". This has become my relationship credo, as it were. These are the words I need on my t-shirt and stitched onto a sampler. You don't go to the hardware store for milk because you know better. Likewise, you should not go to your "good time/shopping" friend if you need a shoulder to cry on. Any more than you would ask a happily married friend for divorce advice or a shopaholic friend for budgeting tips. We all bring different gifts to the table and these gifts are all welcomed and should be graciously accepted. But as far as I can tell from anecdotal evidence, one of the biggest causes of relationship "crisis" is when one person wants the other person to be something/someone they are not. When they go to the hardware store and become outraged that it doesn't carry milk. To be upset that a person we know to be selfish is behaving selfishly or a person we know to be moody is being moody...well, it's kind of like being upset that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. A pointless waste of energy.
Look, we are all forced into contact with people we would rather not engage with, if given our druthers. Friends SHOULD NOT BE THOSE PEOPLE. It is important to remember that a friend is a free choice you made, not some horrid obligation thrust upon you. As your choice, you need to take full responsibility for it. If how the other person is or WHO the other person is bothers you? Make another choice. Don't go through the motions while secretly resenting the hardware store that doesn't carry milk. Life is too short to choose B.S., you dig? If you have ever felt like you were invisible to another person or conversely come across someone who is an unpleasantly unsolvable riddle to you... trust this. And back away. There are plenty of potential friends for you to choose from, as long as you are OK with the fact that one is handy with a wrench while another bakes a mean cake. As you allow others to be themselves, an amazing thing happens: They return the favor. That is friendship. Don't go to the hardware store without it.