“Find Yourself a Group of Friends…”


Post Author: Allison Unroe


The Reverends Rachel Mastin, Allison Unroe, and Sara Anne Berger during their recent friendcation in Natchitoches, LA.

The Reverends Rachel Mastin, Allison Unroe, and Sara Anne Berger during their recent friendcation in Natchitoches, LA.

Find yourself a group of friends…

 

…who will remind you to take care of yourself.

Just last night I went to set my home alarm before going to bed, like I always do. It was late, and the alarm wouldn’t set. It kept notifying me that the basement exterior door was open. There was no reason why the basement door should be open, so that freaked me out. I went out into my backyard, mace in one hand, phone in the other, two dogs by my side, and peered over the fence at my basement door. It looked closed to me. So I started thinking about calling the non-emergency police number to have someone come out and help me check my basement, since I live alone and basements are scary and it was late at night. Immediately, I wanted to know what my friends would do. Then I thought, “You know what they would say! They’d tell you to ask for the help you need!” So I called the non-emergency number and two deputies came out and checked on everything for me, and then I was able to sleep soundly.

I knew that’s the advice they’d give because it’s the advice they give me all the time. They remind me to eat and to sleep when I’m cranky. They remind me it’s ok to eat reheated Panera soup when I’m sick and just need something easy. They don’t flat out tell me to go to therapy, but when I say I think I probably need to, they encourage and support me in that. Over and over and over again these women have helped me remember to take care of myself, and that is a gift at midnight on Sunday when the alarm won’t turn on because the basement exterior door is open when it shouldn’t be and you don’t want to ask for help.

…who will sacrifice for/with you.

October is friendcation month for me. Each year two of my dear friends and I set aside a week in early October to be together. Sometimes we pick a destination and rent a house there. Other times we go to someone’s home—usually when that friend has recently moved—and spend a week seeing their town. This week almost always involves more compromise than any other area of my life. I’m single and childless, so, ordinarily, my time is my time, my money is my money, and my space is my space. My friends are also single and childless, so it’s possible that they, too, compromise more on friendcation week than at other times.

This year during friendcation I found myself thinking a lot about this. Single, childless people often get the message that we can never understand what it is to be partnered or to be a parent until you’ve lived it. Frequently, that message comes with the implication that somehow a person’s capacities for love and self-sacrifice are stunted due to their lack of partner or children. I acknowledge that it is hard to relate to others’ lives until we’ve experienced something similar ourselves, but I know about love and sacrifice.

I know what it is to read articles you never would have looked at because someone you love asked you to. I know what it is to lose sleep for someone you love, to stay up late and wake up early to be present with them. I know what it is to rehash the same conversation you’ve had a hundred times because that’s what this person needs, and their needs matter to you. I know what it is to reallocate your time and money for someone else’s pleasure and well-being. And I know what it is to do it all by choice, deciding each time that this relationship is worth it, deliberately investing in another person not because you’re beholden to them, but because they matter to you.

You make this choice, because there’s this weird, transcendent thing that happens when you love others deeply that enables you to set your wants and comforts aside to accommodate them and feel good about it.  It’s not the same as parenting or partnering, but it’s not entirely different, either.

…who will lose their mind on your behalf. 

Look, righteous indignation is, like our loving Holy Spirit, as close to me as my deepest breath. I fall into it so easily. It’s my second language, my most comfortable yoga pose, and my most worn, fuzzy socks. It’s familiar in a welcome-home-where-have-you-been kind of way that can, at times, be problematic. But I didn’t realize that I pretty much reserve my righteous indignation for injustices against other people, until my friends expressed it on my behalf. When I experience injustice, I am much more likely to sit down and pick it apart, to ask myself if I’m overreacting or if I contributed to the injustice, to examine what I could have done differently. That’s when my friends come in, usually with a robust chorus of, “Oh for goodness sake…”

We need these people. We need people who are so ardently in our corner that they are going to take on the world on our behalf when we’re too tired or too overwhelmed or too full of doubt to do it ourselves. We need these people to remind us over and over again that we deserve kindness and justice and grace just as much as those we hold dear. We need these people to inspire us to advocate for ourselves the same way we’d advocate for the most vulnerable people we love.

…who will see your jerkface, and raise you some grace.

This last one is pretty short and sweet. My friends tell me when I’m being unreasonable. They tell me with gentleness and love, but they tell me, all the same. It’s a good reminder that they see me—all of me, in my radiant glory and in my scuzzy, no good, very bad, tied up in a knot yuckiness—and they love me. Just as I am. Even when I’m a jerk. Pretending that someone is never a jerk is disingenuous, because almost all of us are at some point in time. Rather than turning a blind eye, their realness and honesty speaks to love that endures, and that’s pretty powerful.

…who you’ll be and do all of these things for, too.

It’s that simple. Every relationship has seasons where one party needs more than another, but those seasons should have some ebb and flow in them. What we’re really doing is loving each other through this life, loving each other into being, over and over again, and that is hard work. Worthwhile work, to be sure, but also hard. Because sometimes loving each other into being means slogging through depression or grief or heartache or shame alongside them. Sometimes loving each other into being means showing up without any way to fix it, but bearing a heart willing to break with and for your people. We have to be for others the things that we sometimes need them to be for us. It’s a dance, a negotiation, but when you get the rhythm down, the fierce beauty that flows from it calls forth life.


The Rev. Allison Unroe lives in southwest Virginia where she is a solo pastor at Fairlawn Presbyterian church and wrangles two beloved dogs.


Image by: Allison Unroe
Used with permission
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