By Angie Mizzell
Abby and I met online. First, she commented on an essay I’d written for a parenting website. Then, I popped over to her blog and learned that she’s also a writer —smart and funny— and I felt an instant kinship. Even though I live in Charleston and Abby lives in Baltimore, we led somewhat parallel lives: chasing our young children while trying to fit our creative work in the cracks.
Blog comments led to emails; emails led to phone calls; phone calls led to a few visits, and over time we developed an in-real-life (IRL) friendship. We hit our stride a couple of years ago, when we discovered a pocket of time at 2:30 in the afternoon as we sat in the school pickup line. We talked almost every day. But then our oldest children went off to middle school and my schedule changed, and we spent the next school year mostly missing each other.
As our kids get older, life get busier. In recent conversations, we’ve confessed feeling an undercurrent of loneliness as we move about our days. We’ve joked that we’re both looking for a sister wife — someone who’ll show up in our kitchens unannounced with a bottle of wine; a relationship where life’s collective burdens and joys are shared.
It’s not that we’re not comfortable being alone. We are. And it’s not that we don’t have close friends who live nearby. We do. But like us, our best girlfriends are busy with work and family obligations; always in the car and shuffling children here and there. Everyone has her own stuff to deal with.
Here’s the irony: In this stage of life, we need the deep bonds of friendship more than ever. The social aspect is a small part of it; the big part is the connection and support that we can only get from a girlfriend. But how do we make and maintain those connections when we have no time?
Never fear. Abby and I solved this problem on the phone one day.
While we were lamenting, we realized something. Just because we live 600 miles apart and can’t meet at the gym, escape to happy hour or take turns watching each other’s kids, it doesn’t mean that our bond doesn’t count. Every ounce of attention, love and support that we’re able to drop into the friendship bucket counts.
Face-to-face contact is ideal, but that’s not always possible. Talking on the phone is nice, but it’s often difficult to find time to chat in private without listening ears all around. Abby and I have tried so many ways to stay in touch: voice messaging apps, video chats, sky miles and hotel points. Typically, we text. It’s more than throwing likes and loves at each other on social media. (Although we do that, too.) There’s no right or wrong way to do it. We do what works. When it no longer works, we try something else.
We have to make the time. It’s true. We have to dig around in our overpacked schedules like a mechanic and find time that technically doesn’t exist. We also have to trust that the bond is there, when we simply just can’t. We need permission and freedom to go dark sometimes and trust that the other person won’t take it personally.
Trust is earned. If there’s one thing no woman has time for: it’s drama, jealousy and pettiness. Abby and I noticed that over the years, our radar for true friends has improved. When someone has our best interests at heart and loves us exactly as we are, we know. And when we feel that way about someone else, we know.
That mutual knowing is what makes a friendship stand the test of time. It’s the quality of our friendships —not the quantity— that counts. As much as I’d love to discover Abby suddenly standing in my kitchen holding a bottle of wine, I’ll happily accept a text and a selfie of her drinking a glass of wine. (Like she did on Thanksgiving while hosting extended family.) It’s the comfort of knowing that no matter how much time has passed, we can pick up where we left off.
Angie Mizzell is a contributing writer for Skirt. She’s also the co-founder of Charleston Storytellers which directs and produces the Listen To Your Mother show. A former television news anchor and now a mom of three, Angie writes a personal blog about creating a life that feels like home. Connect with her at angiemizzell.com.