Love them hard. You've seen the trending hashtag emerge over the last little while, but what does it REALLY mean? Who are these people that I'm supposed to find and how do I know if I'm loving them hard enough? I have 4 kids, a Husband, a Mom and Dad, a Brother and Sister-in-law, a Niece, In-laws, 4 dogs and a cat - why do I need more? More people in my life? More people that I have to be concerned whether I'm doing and being ENOUGH for?
And there begins the beauty of a #tribe - they aren't there because they HAVE to be, they're there because they WANT to be.
I was raised in the same city until I left for College. I went to school with the same kids from elementary through high school. I had an amazing, large group of friends. I spent endless hours talking on the phone, going to friends houses and having sleepovers.
I thought of my friends as family, they were an intricate part of every detail of my life. There were things I shared with my girlfriends that I couldn't / wouldn't share with my family, things that only your girlfriends would understand. Almost all of them still live close to the area we grew up in. I was the lone one, the one that left.
I still keep in touch with a lot of those friends and when we are able to get together it's as if no time has passed, we still laugh and chat the way we did all those years ago.
It's a Tribe from a different era of my life, a group of girls who are now women that helped shape ME into the woman I became.
When I left for University, I was devastated to leave my childhood friends, how would I ever replace them? I lived on campus in a dorm and I quickly made new friends, great friends. They didn't replace the ones I had back home, they just expanded my circle.
It was my first time away from home, 8 hours from my family. The friends I made away at school truly did become my family. We lived, ate, studied, partied, laughed and cried together. Four years of memories that shaped my life and they were there for all of them.
They were there when I met the boy that would become my husband. We watched each other go through things that no one else would understand, things that were never spoken of again, they didn't need to be.
We spent our transition from teenager to adult together, the good and the bad. They were at my wedding and they were the first ones I told, "we're moving to Nashville!" (insert shock and awe emoji face). Almost all of them live in Toronto, minutes from each other. I was the one who left.
Social media is a great tool to keep in touch with people but you miss the physical interaction, looking someone in the eyes and hearing them laugh.
Last year while my husband was on tour they all came to a show in Toronto. We went out for drinks afterwards and laughed until we cried recalling crazy times from our days together. I forgot how much I had missed them.
At our wedding I remember looking around and realizing that I had more friends in attendance than I did family. I remember the happiness that brought me, knowing those people were there because they wanted to be, not because they had to be.
My husband always knew how important my friends were to me. He knew I would always make time for them in my life and he respected that because he could see how much fulfillment I got from those relationships.
Right after we were married we moved to a new city for my husbands work. I was excited for the move, for the change, the opportunity. I assumed I would make new friends, maybe through work? Maybe the neighbors? the gym? It never happened. Don't get me wrong, I met people that I liked but I never met anyone I had that "friend, instantly hit it off" connection with.
My husband started touring and I couldn't go because I had to work, that was what I did - worked and worked out and then drove "home" on the weekends. People have asked me if I liked living where we did at the time and I always say, "mmm.. not really".
In all honesty, I probably never gave it a real chance, I based not liking it on not having friends there, not having a social life, not having a group of girlfriends to be with while my husband was away.
Fast forward one year later, I was just about to have a baby and we had the opportunity to move to Nashville, again for my husbands work. I jumped at the chance, get me out of here!
Moving to Nashville was not only a shock because it was a new country but also it was the first time I would be introducing myself as a Mother, I was now a girl... with a baby. What I came to realize quickly is that having a baby or small child with you may be the quickest way to make a new friend, ever.
I joined a Moms group, met other new Moms who I would meet with once or twice a week, just us and our babies, trying to be friends. Which comes to the next question you find yourself asking in these situations..
Would I be friends with these women if we didn't have children? Would I enjoy spending time alone with them? Going out for drinks with them? Do we really have anything in common ASIDE from the fact we both have kids? Sometimes the answer is not yes. But sometimes it doesn't matter. You are a new Mom who needs to have some sort of adult conversation in her life during the day, this will do just fine.
One of my very best friends today I met during that time. I was 8 months pregnant with my second child, a 14 month old on my hip and in she came to the moms group and sat right next to me with her 5 month old. By the end of that morning I knew we would become friends, it was that instant connection I'm talking about - I just knew.
WHERE DO WE FIND THESE TRIBE MEMBERS?
Because life gets busy right? If you don't already have your friends in place when you start having babies who turn into kids who have school and after school activities and weekends filled with Birthday parties then when are you supposed to ALSO find time to make AND nurture friendships? If you did already have your friendships in place than what do we do when our time for friends becomes smaller?
How do we not let other things overshadow their importance? Friendships are an investment and you only get out of it what you put in. Sometimes you have a friendship that you keep investing in but the return is not there.
Your time is valuable, you only have a certain size of the pie to put friendships in - make sure the ones taking up that space are deserving to be there. If you don't keep contributing to a friendship it won't grow, if you start withdrawing from that friendship it will dwindle away.
If you're like me, you've had moments or events in your life that reveal the beauty and true meaning of friendship.
A few years ago I found myself in a vulnerable situation after I lost my drivers license due to a sudden health issue (a topic for another blog post!).
I had 4 kids at 3 different schools and a husband on tour. Not long before that we had decided to build our dream home out of the city, on a beautiful piece of land. No neighbors in site, no traffic, just peace and quiet.
But now, everything I loved about where we lived had turned into an obstacle. I couldn't walk anywhere from our house, Uber hadn't come to our city yet, taxis you had to book 2 hours out, there was no subway, no bus, no public transportation at all.
It was during this time of feeling lonely, frusterated and somewhat helpless that I realized the full meaning of friendship. I've always believed that everything happens for a reason but this was a hard one for me.
I didn't feel lucky or fortunate, I didn't see the silver lining. I felt sorry for myself, I was not at my best. I was not what someone would consider a "catch" as a friend. I now came with baggage, and you'd have to put that baggage in YOUR trunk because I didn't have a car to drive ;)
I wasn't looking for new friends during that time but looking back, if my situation hadn't been what it was I don't know that they would be in my life the way they are today. I think the story would have been different.
Meeting them was nothing short of a divine intervention. That day that changed everything because they all watched it happen to me, at the gym in the middle of class.
Until that point, I had walked in, done my thing and left. I didn't need to make friends there. I valued my privacy. I had become suspicious of people when they showed too much interest in me, I always had my guard up. But now I was different, I was vulnerable and my walls came crashing down whether I liked it or not.
I was overwhelmed by the outpouring of concern and support from total strangers. I was at a place in my life where I was so isolated and there they were, showing up day after day, offering to come over to visit, pick me up to go to lunch, drive me home from the gym, pick me AND my kids up to go and do something just to get out of the house!
My husband would say, 'that's so nice of her to do", and it was but it was also genuine, the only thing anyone ever wanted back was friendship.
At a time in my life where I felt the most alone, I slowly started to feel surrounded by these women, we began to form our own group, our own Tribe.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO LOVE THEM HARD?
It means I will drop everything I am doing to be there for you. It means that your problem, your heartache, your sadness becomes mine as well. Your happiness, your success, your triumph makes me happy for you, not envious. It means if you call or text me any time of day and need something I will do everything in my power to make it happen.
It means that sometimes my kids have to WAIT A SECOND (gasp!) because you have something going on that's more pressing. It's giving someone an external support system that doesn't judge them, where they can be their true self.
It means encouraging them in whatever it is that they are doing, their young-life, mid-life, old-life cheerleader. Saying, "If you don't like them, I don't like them. If they hurt you, they hurt me because I HAVE YOUR BACK".
ONE TRIBE, TWO TRIBES, THREE TRIBES OH MY!
Maybe your Tribe is one person, maybe it's a few, maybe it's 10. Maybe you have multiple Tribes from different times and areas of your life. Sometimes it's important to know which of these you need or don't need in your life.
My experience is that women need other women. You may be someone who would rather have a handful of great friends vs. a ton of women you view more as acquaintances. Maybe you need that large group of women, that you can pull from at any given moment? One is not better than the other, it's knowing and learning what YOU need and it may change over the years.
I think everyone we meet is placed in our life for a specific reason. Good, bad and everything in between. It's up to us to decide whether they are there to stay for a lifetime or just a season. They may have shown up in your childhood or not until adulthood.
They are there to find you when you least expect it, when you need it most. But you have to be open and willing to the possibility. You have to put yourself out there, let your walls down, risk being dissappointed if they don't turn out to be the best friend there ever was. It's a lesson, there is always a lesson in every experience.
My husband has said to me more than once, "one of your greatest qualities is that you are a good friend." Hearing him say that feels like winning the lottery. I don't know if he knows what a compliment that is for me.
Being a good friend is not hard, it's not rocket science. Be someones cheerleader, be their shoulder to cry on, give them your ear, your time, your words of encouragement. Be present, be reliable, be trustworthy, be their "person".
This is how you love your Tribe of 1 or 10 or more, this is you - loving them hard.