A friend of mine has a good friend we affectionately name “Wifey.” We call her this because she loves her friends dearly and takes her commitment to them seriously. This is a longstanding friendship, filled with a rich history. Wifey actually came into my friend’s life as a friend of a friend. (My friend is a well-known friend poacher! Lol) My friend’s best mate shares a house with Wifey. Slowly, over time however, Wifey has shown she is worth her weight in gold to my friend with endless support and kind gestures. Wifey soon became a solid friend of good merit.
Wifey is the kind of friend who gives of herself pretty selflessly wherever she can. She is the type of person who always remembers the details. The one who never forgets to call. She is the first to offer to drive you to the airport, babysit your kid, or arrange a cake for your birthday. At work she is the person who always arranges the collection for a group gift, buys it, and gets everyone to sign the card, and never gets acknowledged for remembering the birthday in the first place.
Wifey is an excellent listener. She enjoys a simple life, keeps to her routines and asks for, or expects, very little in return for her loyal friendship. She is just as happy to spend time walking the dogs with you as going to see a movie. The point is, all she asks for is your time. She enjoys your company and conversation, regardless of the activity or if either of you have much to share. Spending time together IRL is important to her, and if you can prioritise it, your life will be richer for it.
Nobody is perfect. Wifey lives a quiet life, so sometimes she can be quiet. She doesn’t always have lots to say about herself, and can be somewhat mysterious in how little she shares. She seems like quite a private person, although is not private about how much she cares for and values her friends. So it was disappointing to her recently, when a sudden illness struck, causing her to need to call on people for more support than she usually would. Wifey, who is usually a strong independent character, has been struck with an affliction that has knocked her physical abilities, her appearance and indeed her confidence.
Turning to her friends for both physical and emotional support hasn’t been easy. Not only does it go against her nature to receive in the same ways that she gives, it also gives way to a deeply buried fear that her friends do not care about her in the same ways she cares about them. Not only was she beginning to feel like a burden to the mate she lives with, but she also noted that there was no cards or flowers from her work colleagues, or even a single call to find out how she is.
There were no offers of help to walk her dog, cook meals or other practical assistance, and no messages from friends asking to come and visit. None aside from my friend of course. I think, most of us, under the circumstances, would begin to question the authenticity and reciprocal nature of our friendships. Is this fair? The title of this article is “In Sickness and In Health” which is clearly not a vow we make in our friendships. As a matter of fact we make no such vows or commitments, however heavily they may be hoped for and implied when it comes to friendships.
Human nature being what it is, seems to focus on what is not done, rather than what is. I think it is fair to assume that while Wifey’s friends’ do appreciate her efforts, that they take her friendship somewhat for granted. They probably wont notice her absence until it affects them negatively. When she forgets a birthday for example. Then people may start to notice she isn’t there and inquire after her. I’m certain it isn’t intentional, sometimes we just need to be awakened to the fact that we care, and have the opportunity to miss someone before we reach out to them.
So what can Wifey do to restore her faith in her friends? She needs to reach out. She needs to let go of the notion that having to ask negates the good deed or intentions of others. A simple message telling her friends she is unwell although not contagious, but would love to see them if they could spare a few hours would go a long way in bridging the gap. Letting people help her would go even further.
Sometimes, as frustrating as it seems, we have to tell people exactly what we need, want and expect from them. For some people we will sadly learn that we asked for too much, and for others we might be pleasantly surprised. However, it would be a mistake to assume every person who does not visit you in hospital for example is a bad friend. Some people cannot tolerate hospitals due to their own traumas, and others may actually have valid and pressing other concerns at the time of your hospitalization.
The only way forwards is to ask for what you need and focus on those friends who can and do give it to you. To be forgiving of those who failed your expectations and readjust those expectations accordingly. To focus on the ways in which people do offer their support and friendship and not on the ways that they don’t. And to acknowledge that when we are sick, and feeling sorry for ourslelves, this impacts our thought patterns and feelings. When we aren’t keeping our minds busy at work, or on other projects and hobbies, they are known to wander to darker places.
When we are sick, we need to rest to recover and return to health. It is ok to enjoy this time off. Binge watch your favourite shows, eat your favourite foods if you can, meditate if you need to, read, write, colour, craft. Do the things that bring you joy, distract yourself, pass the time happily and relax you. Don’t let your brain trick you into thinking nobody cares. Appreciate the people who are there. They are your core people and they are who matter most right now.
Remember, hopefully soon you will be well again and everything will seem brighter. Until then, do what you can to help yourself feel better and focus on the positives!
Your Best Friend ForNever