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A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out.–Walter Winchell

I remember a (rather pathetic) moment in elementary school. There was a group of three or four of us who were “best friends.”  This was LONG before the term BFF had come into vogue. For some reason I was feeling insecure about my relationship with one of the girls. She told me I was her best friend–and so was one of the others in our group. So I tried to pin my friend down: “but am I your BEST best friend?” Not one of my high self-esteem moments!

Many years, and a lot of friendships later, I still see the value in that question. Not to ask the other person (please, never again!), but to ask myself. How do I “rate” my friendships? How do I get past the ideal that everyone I share my life with is a really good friend?

The quote by Walter Winchell is a great place to start. The friend he describes is the one who is there for you no matter what. Who will crawl out of bed at 3 am to come get you and take you to the emergency room. This is the friend who celebrates your growth and successes, cries with you when you experience a loss, and witnesses your processes and struggles without trying to “fix” them for you.

With the dawn of social media, many of us have thousands of friends. Or I should say, “friends.” I’ve watched people isolate from their in-their-lives friends to spend their time with online friends. I’ve watched marriages end over virtual, online relationships. Guess what, folks, relationships with flesh and blood, actual, in-person people are messy. Complicated. Sometimes painful. And precious, and worth every moment of relationship-tending that is required.

Think about your relationships? Who do you trust completely? Who are you certain will hold your heart gently? Who have you let in too close, too soon? Who do you need to back away from? As you pay attention to your friendships, and monitor your disclosures and expectations to match the friendship level, your relationships will become more natural. Drama-free. You will be able to relax more and enjoy the people with whom you share your life.

Here’s to friends!