Thank You for Being a Friend
On love in all its forms.
Earlier this week, my path home took me through an outdoor holiday market. As I strolled through the catacomb of vendors bathed in the glow of twinkle lights, past stalls of handmade soaps and knitted slippers and some sort of layer-cake-in-a-jar, I was transported back in time.
This week last year, I’d just received some upsetting news. When I told one of my oldest friends, she said, “I can come into the city for lunch tomorrow.” It was a statement, not a question.
The next day, we shared one of those long, meandering conversations where hope and fear and vulnerability all come to the table. It was that rare gift where you walk away feeling more like yourself than you have in a while, because you’ve given voice to everything you’ve been thinking but not saying. Afterward, we wandered around for a bit, soaking in more of each other’s company, and wound up at that market.
Now, the very sight of it felt comforting.
Friendships are an interesting lot, both over-and-underrated, depending on who you ask. They shift. They fade. They drift apart, and sometimes find their way back together. They take a pause only to pick up right where they left off. They get packaged in platitudes about chosen family. They weather storms, and sometimes cause them.
While they are the subject of great art, literature, and entertainment — the true heartbeat of the likes of Sex and the City and Insecure – they don’t often receive the same fanfare as romantic love. This has always struck me as odd. Give me a buddy comedy any day. The Golden Girls had the right idea — there are much worse places to end up at the end of a night than sharing a cheesecake with friends.
I wasn’t quite prepared for the ways friendship takes on a different shape in adulthood. As priorities and allegiances shift, certain topics may be off the table. Face time may be harder to come by. Making new friends as an adult is notoriously difficult. There are schedules and obligations to contend with. There are also, if we’re being honest, more hang-ups in place. It can feel harder to put oneself out there, especially when everyone seems entrenched in their groups and set in their ways.
But are they?
I, for one, am always open to new connections. Even if it means shimmying out on the branch of discomfort, and even if it takes a bit longer to forge them. Sometimes they’re active affairs — the realm of advice, favors, road trips, nights out. Other times, they resemble a favorite moment from the children’s book Frog and Toad Are Friends: “Toad sat and did nothing. Frog sat with him.”
That, to me, is the mark of an excellent friendship.
I’ve many fond memories with the friend from the holiday market, but one of my favorites happened maybe fifteen years ago. I’d just moved into a new space and she and a new acquaintance came over to help me unpack. The two of them were placing clothes in the closet while I unpacked dishes in the kitchen. This was a very tiny studio apartment, so we were well within earshot, if not arm’s reach.
“Like this,” my friend said, gently placing a top on a hanger. “Carrie is very neat, so she’d probably like all her clothes to face the same way.”
I hadn’t asked them to hang things in any specific direction and wouldn’t have minded however they did it. But she was right — had I done it myself, I would’ve done exactly as she said. It was such a simple moment that I’d wager to guess she doesn’t even remember it. But I’ll never forget. It’s quite something to be seen.
Strolling through the market, I remembered this moment. Deep in the season of cuffing and gifting and cheer, I was reminded that love can look so many ways.
At this moment in time, my phone is overburdened with everyone’s shared AI selfies. It can be novel, amusing, even enlightening to see oneself as an oil painting, a rock star, a nymph with skin like a just-glazed donut.
The thing is, it’s hard to be inside ourselves, day in and day out. Harder still to be the only ones to digest the cinema of our lives. How refreshing it feels to view the angles we can’t otherwise see. Our hidden slants. Our potential.
The robots may be impressive to some. But their contributions are not nearly as beautiful as when we catch a glimpse of ourselves through the eyes of a friend.
Card of the Week
Here is this week’s card for the collective, as well as some thoughts to carry into the days ahead. As most modern readers will tell you, the tarot is not about fortunetelling, nor is it about neat, definitive answers. The cards are simply one path to reflection, a way of better knowing ourselves and others through universal themes. If this reading resonates with you, great! And if not, no worries. Take whatever may be helpful and leave the rest.
The Three of Pentacles is a card about collaboration.
Many interpretations are quick to make it about career, whether the focus is on apprenticeship, mentorship, or teamwork. And while it can certainly apply to those things, the larger meaning supersedes all that. This is a card about building something.
The Three of Pentacles wants you to find your team and discover what you can create together.
One of the most iconic depictions of this card shows three people working together to build (or renovate) a church. The idea isn’t that these figures are strictly unified by religion or architecture, but rather that they’ve come together under a shared ideology. These are people who get one another, share similar values, and are joining forces to make exciting new things happen.
Where the Three of Cups is about celebrating those ride-or-die connections and recognizing true love in relationships of all kinds, the Three of Pentacles is about forging (and reinvigorating) such associations in the first place. It’s also about the magic that can happen when you do.
This particular image shows three pentacles before an imposing mountain. Are they planning to scale it? Or are we encountering them on the other side? Is this a symbol of the magnificent heights one can reach together? The answer is anyone’s guess.
Whichever way you interpret it, this card calls to mind the oft-quoted African proverb, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
A friend once received a related piece of advice from her mentor. “Build your personal board of directors,” she said, similar to how executives recruit people with diverse skillsets, talents, and backgrounds to help advance their mission. You might have one person who speaks to career matters, another to personal matters, another who’s awesome at life advice. You might balance out a “serious” board member with a funny one, a creative soul with a logical mind. You’d be well-served to include people with strengths that are different than your own.
While it’s a sound piece of career advice, the truth is we can apply this idea to the entirety of our lives. We can seek friends with different personalities, world views, communication styles. People who complement and challenge us. People who support us, and whom we may support, in different ways.
Collaboration begets a wonderful alchemy of spirit, where individual contributions meld to form something that could never have existed otherwise. Even for those who are lone wolves in their approach, or who may have been scarred by past collaborations gone awry, there is something to be found in the realm of togetherness.
This card encourages us to remain open to the ideas of others, and to speak our own thoughts and dreams into the air. Creativity and innovation thrive in an environment of safety and receptivity. This is just as true among strangers or would-be competitors as it is among friends.
To that end, I suspect the Three of Pentacles is a fan of David Gate’s poem “Like Every Selfie,” which you may have seen as it made the rounds over the past year:
Be kind about the names
Your friends give to their children
Praise their haircuts
Love their tattoos
It doesn’t really matter
If that’s what you would do
Like every selfie
All of them
Clap their songs
Cheer them on
You were born with a limitless
Supply of encouragements
Use every one of them
Don’t wait for the eulogies
To speak out loud
That your friends are precious
And they make you feel proud
Encouragement costs nothing. Neither does appreciation. May we offer it freely. And may we recognize when it comes our way.