|Posted by bradwellbugle on January 7, 2010 at 7:19 AM|
A friend once bestowed upon me words of wisdom I will never forget. He said: “friends come into our lives for a reason, a season, or a lifetime”, which rang especially true for me after starting fresh in two different countries over the past seven years. After moving from Canada to Australia for nearly five years and eventually making my way to the UK, I was quickly reminded of how valuable true friendship really is. In what seems like a short period of time, my two years in London have been filled with all of the typical critical life events-- including dramatic break-ups, subsequent heartache, employment loss, and the consequential periods of insolvency that on more than one occasion inspired me bury my head under the covers until a new day started. And whether sick with the flu, or crying over a boy who made me blue, there was only so much support I could expect with my parents and closest friends living in a different part of the world. Circumstances like these not only made me value the wonderful role my cherished friends and family play in my life but also helped me recognise how important it is to make an effort with new friends I found along the way. Whatever the reason, we all need at least one wholesome, high-quality friend we can rely on to be there in times of need, whatever the worst case may be. Friendship is so vital that we even find it included in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs as part of a top-three under the love/ belonging category. In acknowledging the establishment of reliable friendships as a necessary priority, examining the meaning of a ‘fair-weather friend’ is a helpful first step in finding the most suitable people to fulfil our friendship requirements. In essence, nothing teaches us more about what we need than recognising that which we don’t need.
So what exactly is a ‘fair-weather friend’… and how best can we avoid them? Metaphorically speaking, a fair-weather friend is exactly as the term suggests: someone who is only around when ‘skies are blue and the sun is shining’. Taken out of a figurative context, this simply means that a fair-weather friend is happy to participate in the effortless good times but when the going-gets-tough this same person becomes harder to find than Osama bin Laden. One of my own examples of a ‘friendshit’ downpour includes a two week battle with the flu, where my ‘friend’ sent me an email claiming she was “sorry for not being there” when I was unwell, but that truth be told she “doesn’t do sick”. The question of whether this admission is entirely horrible comes down to one basic fundament: Expectation. The difficulty lies in the fact that we all have different expectations where friendship is concerned and it’s not unreasonable to anticipate the same quality of attention from our friends as we are willing to contribute to these all-important and special relationships. Granted, if you happen to be a free-flying social butterfly and enjoy having a billion acquaintances, lots of so-so friends and a handful of true-blue buddies, then this might not be a problem for you. However, if you are more of a social energy conserver with a lifestyle that only permits you to invest a small, but concentrated amount of time on friends, then getting it right in the buddy department is that much more important. There’s no sense in wasting valuable time on people who are only in it for the pluses and perks but ‘make like Houdini’ and disappear when needed most. Although we can’t always predict when a friend might disappointingly fall into the fair-weather category, by turning our minds to two basic questions we can avoid being ‘unfairly-weathered’ ourselves and hope that ‘like’ really does attract ‘like’…
· What do I expect from a friend?
· What kind of friend am I?
Quite simply, the two answers should practically be identical, and if not then perhaps it’s not only time to re-evaluate the friendships we are spending (or not spending) our time on but also reflect upon our treatment of those friends we depend on and turn to during tough times.
As a current example, identifying true friends seems especially important now considering the recent credit crunch that has everyone treading on shaky ground in some form or another. With a drastically changing economic climate comes a potential increase in social storms as we begin to depend on our friends for so much more than their usual sage advice. But looking on the bright side, this hard time provides an opportunity to not only reassess our financial investments but also encourages us to re-examine our ‘people investments’. Whether the trouble is financial – such as the loss of a job, or personal – like a painful break-up or divorce, adversity plays a key role in discovering who our friends really are and whether we might be wasting valuable time on high-risk/ low return relationships. It is equally important to choose new friends carefully and not rush into full disclosure about every detail of our lives. People are not always as they initially seem and waking up to sunshine is no guarantee it won’t rain by early afternoon… especially in a city like London. Taking things slow with a new acquaintance is wise and should involve the same caution executed when getting to know a new love interest. In fact, we might consider taking things that much slower, as romantic relationships come and go but ideally our friends will linger for the long haul.
At the end of the day, in both good times and bad, close friends serve as one of the greatest investments we will make in our lifetime and as such they are well worth the effort. The fact that there isn’t a Hallmark day devoted strictly to the celebration of friendship the way Valentine’s Day showcases love, simply means that everyday presents an opportunity to nurture our platonic pals. It takes little more than a quick five minute phone call or even better, a good old-fashioned handwritten note or card, thanking even one friend a day for enriching our lives. Showing a bit of gratitude is a healthy way to protect our social stock and ensure that our friendship supply remains plentiful for when we need this support the most. Life throws many curve balls and dodging these might feel like a full time chore; but bear in mind that once the dust settles we are sometimes forced to take inventory to discover which of our friends are still standing beside us… and the best ones stick around to help clean-up the fallout.