I was talking to my friend Z a few weeks ago. I love our candid, no-judgment, bare-your-soul conversations. Somehow, the topic of friendship came up. While we both agreed that every friend fulfills something within us; we also felt that each friend needs to show up to friendship in their own way. Friendship must be pure and dependable. If you are a placeholder for someone or an afterthought when other plans get canceled, is that truly a bond?
I was in India in March of 2022. By the time I reached NYC and had barely unpacked my bags, my dad was in the ICU. I will spare you the gory details of how everything transpired so quickly. But I will tell you that the fear of losing the only parent alive is excruciating. We spent a few critical and scary weeks not knowing what was going to happen.
As a writer, coach, and speaker, I know one thing well: words. Writing is how I navigate my world. As soon as my friends found out I was aching, they reached out. The concern was genuine. My friends of 30 years in India asked what they could do/ how they could help. My friends in the U.S. went to churches/temples/gurdwara and ran a Reiki drip filled with positive prayers and meditations. They called, messaged, and held so much space for my angst and unpredictable grief.
When I decided to fly back to India a couple of weeks ago, which was in mid-May, two of my friends picked me up at the airport. My father-in-law has been dealing with some health crisis as well, so I didn’t want my in-laws to wait at the airport for a 3 a.m. pick-up. My friends came to the airport, brought me to their place, made me tea, gave me space to freshen up, and dropped me off at my in-laws’ place by 6 a.m.
A few of my friends in India flew down to where my dad lives. They all have busy lives and families and work commitments. But they put everything on pause for me and our friendship. They packed home-cooked kebabs, sandwiches, biryani, Indian mithai, snacks and stocked up my dad’s refrigerator. They accompanied me to the hospital, held space for my angst, and drank chai at local tea stalls while we waited for the doctor. Because I was working remotely, they knew I had to log into work by early evening to honor the Eastern Time zone. They didn’t complain even once about not being able to go out to restaurants or bars at night.
While I took calls, worked with my clients, and attended school virtually, my friends spent time with my dad. Be it getting dinner with him or cracking jokes, they showered him with loads of affection. When I felt intense or exhausted, they reminded me to rest. Sometimes with hugs, other times with patience, and a few other times with a kick. I would often find them sprawled in my dad’s living room at midnight…munching on some snacks but silently keeping an eye on everything and making sure everything was okay. When I drove up to see my in-laws, one of my friends got in the car with me. She humored my mom-in-law and drooled over her cooking. She asked about my dad-in-law’s health and healing. Basically, these girlfriends of mine, made my parents and in-laws feel visible. They made me feel like the most loved person on this planet.
My pitta personality is extremely loyal and organized, and the kapha qualities in me help keep my tribe together. It’s a running joke among our close friends that if something were to happen to me, they wouldn’t see each other after my funeral because I am the one who initiates plans. I might be the organizer, but I have friends who come up with fun, impromptu plans and cut the tension in the air. Friends who will board the plane and ask, “Where,” later. I have friends who will rework their work schedule if I need them. We all make it work for one another. We focus on each other’s strengths instead of shortcomings.
Friendship means showing up and being present. Some friends show up emotionally. Some will board a plane the minute they hear angst in your voice. Some friends will hold space for your ebbs and flows of feelings. Some friends fiercely protect you. Every friend plays an important role in our lives—no matter how long you have known them. But beware of the people who are so caught up in their own lives that you are just a passing thought to them. Watch out for friends who show up twice a year to accompany you to bars or new restaurants or shows. For me that’s too transactional.
I get that people show love and support in different ways, but I am no longer at an age where frivolous dinners, social media likes, and wine-tastings once a year qualify for friendship. That’s networking, which has its own place. But they aren’t the same.
I believe in deep friendships where I have my friend’s parents’ death anniversary memorized. Their mom or dad’s favorite color and food. What their kids enjoy. My friends’ triggers and joys. Silliness. Seriousness. Laughter. Vulnerability. Transparency. Trust. Lots of trust. I cannot do shallow engagements and call them friendships.
As a young girl, I had a lot of noise in my life. A lot of people whom I didn’t know very well. But growing older has revealed to me that deep connections ground, nurture, and nourish us. Mindfulness is my favorite attire, action, and emotion. Friendship is my favorite gift in the universe.
Many people will walk in and out of your life, but only true friends will leave footprints in your heart ~ Eleanor Roosevelt
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