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Nikki Newman: How Friends Make You Feel

women and friendship

Friendship is like a good book.

If you find one that makes you laugh, sways your heart, speaks directly to your emotions or lights up things in your brain that illuminate the world around you, you’ll keep that book, just like that friend, for life.

You might lose the book, lend it out, or allow it to sit on the shelf for years collecting dust, but somewhere it will flutter back.  You may have changed how you feel about the book as you grow older, but you’ll always hold onto the way it made you feel when you were first introduced.  Or you may re-read it until it becomes as comfortable and close as your favourite sweater.

Like books, you may not see a friend for a long time, but when you meet, you’re still the same 8 or 18 year olds you were even when you’re 38 or 88.  You slip back into that easy space, where silences are never awkward and jokes are always funny.

While writing this piece I have one of my best friends visiting from England. We met aged 18 and despite the eddies of life that swirl us in different directions, whenever we meet we fall into that same easy space.  It’s been almost 4 years since we last met yet in a few days we’ve covered every topic from the mundane to the philosophical and back again with ease and familiarity.  It’s the same for only a handful of friends I’ve been lucky enough to carry with me through the years.

There are best friends, close friends, dear friends, good friends, fun-time friends, work friends, e-friends you may never even have met, even exes as friends (a whole other topic!).

For some, a family member can be a best friend too, for many, friends are their family.

At school I had three best friends yet when we left, we each headed in entirely different directions and within a year had lost touch.  It’s as though we were similar enough yet different enough in equal measure so as to be brought together in the hothouse of high school but sent flying apart out into the great, wide world.

Then there are those friends who only flit in briefly as a result of co-dependence, the drinking partners in the bad times or someone you share a coffee with because you’re both in the same boat.

This friendship often fades away – as you expected it too – and it feels okay.  Or it ends suddenly and you feel like you’ve been dumped. I’ve experienced both.  Lovely friends I met in my first year at college for example, but we drifted into other circles and though I hold them with fondness in my memory, I don’t feel inclined to look them up on Facebook or reach out.  Then there was the friend I made on a short evening college course, we shared some good times, some great chats, we were keen friends, but suddenly she stopped responding to my calls.  No explanation.  It felt different.  I felt hurt and confused. What did I do?  There’s nothing you can do but move on.

But the friends you can count on one hand are the ones that never go away. Living overseas I meet and make new friends, I feel very lucky but I also feel so guilty about keeping in touch. I beat myself up for not doing more but I do what I can do and hope that it’s enough to keep  the friendship intact until the next time we meet face to face.  The one thing that keeps friendship alive across ten – or a thousand miles – and over days or years, are words. Blogs, Facebook, email – they may not have the romance of postcards and hand-written letters – but the essence of the old fashioned pen to paper is still there: words, words, words. Sometimes it’s just posting an updated status on Facebook.  A way of sharing a snapshot of my day or life, a thought or an observation; what I hope it implies is ‘hi, glad to have you here, please stick around’.

Friends and their words can change your day or change your life.  When I was low, I apologised to my friend for whingeing.  ‘It’s not whingeing, it’s sharing’ she said warmly.  I felt supported and valued.  Those words stuck with me. That’s kind of how I view my Facebook updates.  Sharing, not complaining, rambling or boasting. That’s what happens in friendship.  When I was depressed, my sister, my friend, sent me a song, it gave me a hand in the dark.  When I’ve been lost, another friend has shared his stories and sent me books like treasure chests. All these things, all these words, have changed the course of my life for the better.

Storytelling, offering advice, giving comfort or expressing loneliness – connecting through the ethereal internet – is this magical web of words that keeps us all afloat. An email from an old friend that reminds us we are loveable or talented or special when we feel anything but can be like finding religion – creating meaning and worth in a few well chosen, heartfelt sentences.

Friendships come easier and grow stronger when you not only learn how to share words but listen to them too. I love to listen, I hope my friends know that.  Like a good book, there’s so much you can learn when you pay attention to the words you’ve being gifted.

But what about you? How have your friendships changed over time? Do you regret losing any particular friends over the years? What went wrong? And what do you think is the secret to a good friendship?

Nikki Newman, 36, from England, currently lives in Qatar, where she moved this year due to her husband’s work. A former teacher and proud mother of 7-year-old Oliver, she’s currently focusing on settling her family into their new lives, while also pursuing her passion for painting. To see Nikki’s work please go to: www.nikkinewmanart.com

5 Comments

  1. Karin

    June 9, 2011 at 9:28 am

    Hi Nikki, loved this piece. You’re an amazing writer.

  2. juli

    June 9, 2011 at 9:35 am

    Sweet 🙂 Nicely put Nikki. Thanks to facebook, me and a long lost, but dear friend have been reunited. We spent a weekend slumber party barely sleeping because there was so much to catch up on. Wow, even after such a long time apart we never missed a beat. Nice to know I have people in my life like that.

  3. SusanDevey

    June 9, 2011 at 2:23 pm

    Great article Nikki! So much of it rings true too. I’m so glad we found each other again, you’ve been a great source of advice and support. The internet has been so instrumental – just the odd word or brief post can make all the difference.
    Perhaps in the not-too-distant future we can close the gap and sit together over a drink and catch up. I still kick myself for the four years I spent in Devon not far from your home town…the times I drove through the places you’d spoken about and thought ‘I must look Nikki up!’ Well, it’s never too late!

  4. April Brucker

    June 10, 2011 at 9:13 am

    Loved this piece myself. My friends never cease to amaze me with their kindess and sometimes are so wonderful they make me cry. Sometimes they also slip me that common sense pill I so need. Sometimes they are the words I need to hear.

    One friend of mine, who was quite a character, struggled with addiction for years. Part of being his friend was not strangling him. However, he always had a quip or a quote to make me laugh. Do I miss him? Hell ya. But whenever one of his crazy quotes pops into my head I know his spirit is around me.

    And then there is my friend Nicho, always positive and thankful and also gives me words of encouragement and love. He is my favorite new friend.

    There are Justin, Carlos, Denis, Wyatt, Joey and Egardo who want to make the world more beatiful and as well as the people in it.

    There are Derek and Ferando in Queens

    There are my homies on facebook

    There are the Whittings in Atlanta

    There are the Clarks in CT

    There are of course David and Joan in Staten

    The list goes on.

    Would I trade them for the world. Hell no!

  5. Rachel

    June 11, 2011 at 8:40 am

    Nikki, great piece! I really related to your guilt about not keeping in touch when you moved…it has been hard for me to stoke so many long distance friendships, when family, and life gets in the way and takes up any extra time. There are some points in my life where I am on top of keeping in touch; I call frequently, email frequently, post comments on their FB page. The last few months I’ve been barely keeping my head above water and find myself not calling, not reaching out because honestly, getting through the day is all the effort I can muster. I can only hope that my true friends will understand, and when I’m “back” we will be able to pick up where we left off. Those truly are the best friendships because there is safety in knowing the door is always open.

    Fabulous piece Nikki! And as one of those e-friends you’ve never met, I hope we can meet someday soon!

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