Gretchen Rubin’s goal for the month of June was to improve her happiness as it relates to friendship. My friends are so important to me – the ones I’ve had forever, the sisters-in-law I married into (plus the one my brother married), my book club gals, friends I’ve made at work, friends from my community, and friends I’ve made online – one in particular (you know who you are!)
Not all are subjected to my deepest, darkest secrets (which of course I hold in abundance) but I have some fantastic women in my circles. (Funny I said “women”…aside from some that I work with, I wouldn’t say I have many close male friends. Other than my husband. Of course. And my friend’s husbands, but I consider them sort of friends-once-removed. And my brother. Okay, there are a few.)
Anyway, with all of my other commitments, sometimes fostering friendships gets pretty low on my list, so I can certainly jump on board with this area of focus.
Gretchen’s goals, and my take on them:
I think I’m pretty good at this, though I get a bit messed up when we’ve already celebrated someone’s birthday before the actual date, because I think my brain believes the birthday to be over. So I have missed a few for that reason. I even have a list at work of staff members’ birthdays that I’ve compiled over the years, and I try to acknowledge them, even with just a comment, email, or note left on their chalkboard. I have to admit though, that lucky as I am to have a birthday on the summer holidays, I still feel a bit (immaturely) disappointed that these efforts can’t be reciprocated the same way. (I know, I know, I said “immaturely”.)
While I love the ease of throwing cash or a gift card into an envelope (and love receiving such envelopes) birthdays are a bit different now as an adult, at least within my family and those I exchange gifts with. I would make an attempt to change that but…see parentheses above.
Just be there. This probably includes showing up at your friend’s Stella and Dot jewelry party, but it was such a busy week, and I did shop online! I’m much more likely to “show up” on e-mail, text or phone for people who need me than I am to attend functions, but when people really need me, I try to be there.
This is a tough one. When I go to confession and struggle to come up with things to say (realizing full well I am as much a sinner as anyone else), “I gossiped” seems to be a good ol’ standby.
I consider myself a very trustworthy friend, and I will take to my grave many secrets about marriages, babies, illnesses, and jobs. (No, I’m not going to tell you!) Often I will come right out and ask “are you keeping this a secret?” or “Do you want others to know?” just to be sure, and I’ll clarify “When are you telling people?” or “What do you want me to say if someone asks?” so I know I’m on the right track.
At this time of year, my coworkers and I find out our grade assignments and some apply for transfers, leading to much school-based gossip to be told and heard (plus remember, I work in my own community, where my family and friends are also parents) so resisting the urge to gossip can be pretty tough. My goals are to be professional, keep other people’s secrets confidential, share my own information carefully, and try to be positive, not mean-spirited when dishing the dirt. (Though “dirt” probably isn’t the best choice of words if I’m focusing on being positive…)
Make three new friends
Do you ever feel that you just have enough friends? I don’t think I would be very successful this month setting a quota like Gretchen’s for myself, but I will try to stay open to the possibility of friendship. I think for me though, putting more time into my existing friendships would be a more productive (and happiness-inducing) goal.
One of my favourite passages from scripture advises us to do our good deeds in secret, and not let the left hand know what the right hand is doing, so this isn’t a place to list my attempts at generosity, but I can acknowledge that it’s an area I keep working on. Gretchen points out that being generous isn’t just about giving things. You can “help people think big”, “bring people together”, “contribute in [your] way”, and even “cut people slack” as acts of generosity. Giving the benefit of the doubt can be the most generous thing you do for someone.
I will leave you with a quote, and a question for TV lovers of my generation:
“Some people argue that because doing good deeds brings happiness, no act can be truly altruistic, because when we act for the benefit of others, we please ourselves.”
Does this bring to anyone else’s mind an episode of Friends? Wow, I miss that show.
Looking forward to July’s challenge: “Buy Some Happiness”! Perfect for my birthday and the start of holidays…