I woke up this morning feeling open and vulnerable and joyful. But also melancholy and tender hearted. Inspired to keep discovering ways to grow more, give more, create more, love more. This inspiration springs from the deep connection I’ve been cultivating with a group of friends with whom me and my wife have become more intimate in recent months. I also feel sad as a result of recently reconnecting with two childhood friends who’re both navigating some difficult circumstances in their lives — broken relationships, death, gun violence, substance abuse, and mental illness.
This combination of empathy and pain that I feel for two old friends who’re struggling and needing my support, along with the gratitude and love I am feeling for my current group of friends, has led me to sit down and write on this rainy Sunday Spring morning.
For most of my life my primary intimate relationships have been with family. My siblings (a big brother, little brother, and little sister). My parents. My cousins. My aunts and uncles. In recent years, my wife and children and my nieces and nephews and my siblings’ partners. I’ve had friendships at varying levels of depth throughout my life. Some people whom I remain in touch with and many others with whom I no longer have a relationship. But I am realizing now that choosing my family relationships above friendships limited opportunities to cultivate depth with many of my friendships. As I write this morning I am feeling the unique energy and beauty and love that has revealed itself as I’ve chosen to prioritize my relationships with friends on the same level as those with my family. I never imagined at this stage in my life I would discover such a profound level of connection and intimacy I am now experiencing as a result of my friendships.
A few of my key ingredients to a recipe for intimate friendship are:
The masculine and feminine valued equally — There’s nothing wrong with a group of dudes gathering to watch a football game or a group of women going to the spa together (I acknowledge my implicit bias with these examples). But when we co-mingle together with the intention, beautiful things happen. I can’t say it any other way. Compliments and reflective insights about one another flow freely. You’ll often hear “you look so beautiful” or “What I really like about you is…” or “I’m here for you if you need me.” To witness my male friends appreciate the unique gifts my wife has to offer, and vice versa, is an experience I love so much!
Shared inspiration — Since we are so open with each other, we’ve learned our strengths and weaknesses, our edges, our growth areas, our superpowers. We call each other out on our bullshit. We reveal withholds. We don’t gossip. We are all inspired to live in our zones of genius and live our most inspired lives, and we aren’t afraid to hold each other accountable if someone is wavering off their path.
Authenticity — We engage in conversation about real shit. We name our emotions and share how we feel. We ask deep questions. We allow space if someone is struggling or needs support. We acknowledge that we all have wounds that need healing or blockages preventing us from growing and support one another in our respective paths to wholeness.
Gratitude and humility — Each of us acknowledge the privilege of having one another. In a world when disconnection and loneliness and anxiety and depression are all epidemics, we often look at one another and exclaim, “Do other people have what we have? How lucky are we to have one another?”
I heard about this longitudinal study from Harvard University a few years ago that studied the major contributors to joy and longevity in life. The study found that “Close relationships, more than money or fame, are what keep people happy throughout their lives.”
The energy that I’m experiencing from my friendships makes me feel like I’ll live forever. Or at least after my body lets me free the love will endure. So I love my family. I love my children. And now more than ever before, I realize how much I love my friends. You all know who you are. Thanks for being a part of my life and here’s to many more years together in community and on the path to collective growth, transformation, and unconditional love.