Be Our Guest Fridays {24}: Relearning Friendships by Jennine from My Life in Books

T.G.I.F. – Welcome to Be Our Guest Fridays!

Fridays is one of my favorite days of the week here on Mom’s Small Victories. It’s when I get the privilege to showcase my favorite bloggers and authors for my Be Our Guest Fridays series. I started this feature as a fun way to give back to the blogging community and have been thrilled with how it’s grown and continued. Each blogger inspires me in some way and I’m sure they will inspire you too.

Today, I have the pleasure to introduce you to Jennine from My Life in Books. If you don’t already know her, she’s a high school English teacher and the kind of teacher who genuinely cares about her students. I wish I had her when I was in school, I might’ve started my love for reading at a younger age. Jennine writes thoughtful and in-depth book reviews and discussions on her blog and has a fun Begin the Week with Words series every Monday featuring quotes that inspire her or make for good discussion. Today, Jennine’s writing something more personal about her life, being a young mom and how she had to relearn friendship. Thanks Jennine for sharing with us.

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Relearning Friendships and Why I'm Guarding my Heart by Guest Blogger Jennine from My Life in Books. An introspection on how her friendships changed and how she analyzes the health and quality of a relationship.

Relearning Friendship

by Jennine from My Life in Books

I don’t feel old and I don’t think I’m old. Age 35 feels pretty good, even if I do have to say to my students once in awhile “back in my day…” I’m finding that life truly comes and goes like a tide, something I did not experience in the situations of my 20s. How I started adulthood feels like a far cry from where I find myself presently. Especially on certain subjects, such as friendship. 
 
I finished college at age 22 and had three kids by age 25 – two of the kids simultaneous with finishing college. At that point, I began a full time teaching job and finished my masters within the next couple years. My husband worked a night shift that allowed him little else besides sleeping and eating most of those years. Life in my 20s was nothing but survival as my husband and I pieced together what we felt was necessary and needed for our kids, ourselves, and our family as a whole. There wasn’t time for much else. Daily living with small kids is exhausting, let alone when you are establishing the typical pieces of adult life at the same time.
 
Before I knew it, my kids weren’t little any more. They didn’t need as much help. They didn’t take as much time. With time to spare, my eyes opened a little to the world around me. I’d always considered myself pretty independent and as a reader I’d never felt lonely if my weekends were spent at home. So, finding myself almost 30 and craving friendship was a weird thing.
 
I eventually found friends and they found me. I delighted in the feeling of camaraderie. Can you see me? Heart on my sleeve. Way out there. Bursting with all the good feels.
 
And soon enough breaking with all the bad ones, because friendship isn’t all glitter and glam. It can be as hard a relationship as any other. I’ve always understood that people will let you down, but I found myself in a repeating pattern of friendship hurt in the early years of my 30s – and not from just one person. Sometimes the friend didn’t even realize I’d been hurt.
 
I’m not a thin skinned person, so what gives? Quite simply, my heart doesn’t belong on my sleeve. And neither does yours. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for love, sacrifice, honesty, truth, transparency, etc., in friendships, but it doesn’t mean your heart has to hang out there as anyone’s trampoline.
 
Recently, I unpinned my heart from my sleeve and tucked it back where it belongs. I’ve begun to guard it.
 
Proverbs 4:23 reads, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” No wonder I was getting hurt! I did anything and everything for anyone I considered any kind of friend. I brought people quickly into my close circle and overextended myself in any way needed to be considered a friend. I put myself entirely out there and, unknown to them, put my heart entirely into their hands. And when that’s the case, when the heart is unguarded, the heart is in trouble. The joys become hard to come by and fleeting.The smallest things sting and linger. The bigger problems crush and destroy.
 
Tucking away my heart is easier said than done, but a necessary process. Where and how does such a process even begin? Luckily, I had very good advice from my pastor. He told me relationships can grow like mushrooms or an oak tree and because he said it so well, I’d like to simply quote him here:
 
“Mushroom patches grow wide and quick. They lack depth and won’t last very long. The relationship may be good, but just for a short season and not someone you are looking for a long term relationship from. You should continue to enjoy them in their current space and be aware that these folks cause a lot of pain if we allow them too deeply too quickly. (For the record, mushrooms aren’t bad for what they are designed to do and neither are these people. They serve a different purpose than an oak tree.)
 
“The oak tree takes time and care in the beginning. It grows slowly, but its roots run deep. It’s tall and strong and will stand the test of time. The people worth going deeper with are usually worth the wait and cultivation up front.”
 
“If you aren’t sure whether they are a mushroom or an oak tree, continue to enjoy them in the spaces they are presently in until they show you who they are. You don’t have any obligation to move them into a [closer] space until you know.”
 
I really hope you read this explanation metaphorically, seeing the analogy’s parallels. For example, just because a person lacks depth with you doesn’t mean he/she is shallow and lacks depth with everyone. This is a personal situation, varying from one person to the next. Using this analogy to analyze past relationships, I found plenty of times where I could’ve avoided pain by realizing a friend was more temporary than permanent or just not ready to take on a close friendship with me. I also found that my best friendships had indeed formed over years and almost without me trying. Part of this process is about respecting your own space. Your heart and mind are yours to care for and how you use or abuse them will determine the state of your life to a large degree. Why hand them out to the first person or just any person you meet before it has proven a good move?
 
My husband and I have always considered close friends as family. We spend time with them, share experiences, live life with them essentially. We love their kids and we hold their well being close in our prayers. Everything many people reserve for blood family only, we extend to these friends. Now, at age 35, I still believe this to be an important aspect of our lives. The difference? I am more selective, which isn’t to say I ignore or avoid certain people. Instead, I take my time and enjoy the people around me as they are and for who they are, instead of who I hope or expect them to be. I take my time getting to know individuals and carefully consider who I might want in my inner circle someday. I say someday because I don’t take them hurriedly into my confidence. I let time build the bond between us. If it’s meant to be, the roots will grow, and a closeness will naturally flourish.

About Jennine

jennine-my life in books
Photo Credit: My Life in Books

From her blog:

Wife, mother, and English teacher who loves incorporating reading and writing into all aspects of life.

You can find Jennine on her blogTwitter, Facebook and Goodreads

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Wow, Jeannine had 3 kids by the time she was 25! I hadn’t even had my first kid yet. I agree that I got so wrapped up in kid wrangling that my friendships suffered initially. I had a few close friends but didn’t see them as much as I’d have liked. 

As our kids have gotten older, Superhubby and I trade weekly nights off when we can get time to ourselves and hang out with our friends. I get the chance to connect with my blogging friends, my book club or meet friends for dinner. I love my boys but I certainly appreciate and value the time to nurture my own friendships, those that are just for me. 

I’ve lost touch or had a falling out with several friends over the years and whether suddenly or over time, it saddens me to have lost them. Jennine’s post reminded me of the book My Other Ex: Women’s True Stories of Losing and Leaving Friendships that I read last year, essays by various women and stories of losing their best friends. It really made me think about how my friendships have changed and what kind of friend I am and aspire to be.

How have your friendships changed over the years? Have you loved and lost some of your friends? Are you an introvert or extrovert? Are you guarded or an open book? How easy is it for you to make new friends? Tell us and keep the discussion going! 

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18 Comments

  1. Great post! I’m also more selective now in my 30s because free time is limited and the friendships I make now have to be of value and seem like they will last.

  2. What a perfect analogy of the mushroom and oak tree! I want to be an oak tree!! I have found that in my own life, I have to be careful how many I allow in to be an oak tree in my life. Because, after all, they also take a lot of space, time, and care. I love that you also have created your family by choosing friends to be part of your inner circle. Even with family, they don’t automatically receive a pass into your life simple because they are blood. I agree with you…it has to be a relationship that is nurtured and cared for, based on mutual respect and trust. I was also a young mom, so your post truly resonates with me. What I have learned over time is that when I allow too many mushrooms and even oak trees in my yard, it takes away from the “special” oak trees already firmly planted: my children and husband. Friendships-such an important part of life, but one that is quite complex too. Great post and thank you for sharing!!

    1. Yes, good point. Even if you have the oak tree and mushroom thing figured out, you still can’t have too many of them. Then you end up with the same problem as before – stressed and exhausted, leaving out the most important people.

  3. We are a lot a like in this way. I wore my heart on my sleeve and opened myself up to people truly believing that deep down everyone was a good person. I kept getting hurt over and over and over again. After the last bout of friendships that fell through for me, which was 2 years ago, I decided to stop giving people the benefit of the doubt until they had earned it. I still struggle to do it because I’ve been doing the opposite my entire life, but I feel safer now than I ever did before. I still open myself up, but I don’t allow someone in to my inner circle until they’ve earned it. I’m 35 also and just learning how to do this.

    1. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one! And I’m so glad you too realized what was happening. I do find myself fighting myself on it sometimes, cause like you said, I’ve already spent most of my life with my heart on my sleeve. Here’s to us Becca – and the oak trees we will find while we enjoy the mushrooms!

    2. It’s a tough lesson to learn. I feel like you. Wear my heart on my sleeve and am genuine with people. Even on my blog, what you see is what you get. But losing people I thought were friends has made me more guarded and jaded.

  4. Great post!

    I love the mushroom and oak tree analogy.

    Something I discovered about myself back in my 20’s is that unless a fallout happens, I pretty much consider my friends to be friends for life. I guess it is just the way I was made but I can spend years having lost touch with a friend, then get back together with them and we pick up right where we left off. I guess I didn’t realize that was uncommon until I learned that some of my friends can’t do that. That there are certain things that need to be in place in order to be sure that the relationship is a “friendship.”

    I’m thankful I am the way I am but it has made me more sensitive, knowing friendships don’t come easily to some. And I’m sure, the fact that I haven’t suffered more than one major fallout, (with a sis-in-law), has a lot to do with that.

    I even sometimes say…”My friend online said…” referencing a book blogger that I have chatted with online but never met before.:)

    I guess I have a lot of mushrooms that provide a great deal of fun and joy for me. The oak trees are there as well, just in smaller numbers.

    1. I think you have it! I have friends whom I pick up with easily after long times too, but for me it’s more about the day to day friendships. My issue has always been over committing myself to everyone I call friend. And there is no one who will do that in return…and they shouldn’t. So it has been about setting boundaries for myself as much as anything else. Also, my issue was that I put all friends on the same level. You can’t just open yourself so deeply to so many people without getting hurt.

      I think you have it right – lots of mushrooms and a few oak tress. And enjoy them all until it changes. (Again, one of my previous problems – I couldn’t handle change when it came to people in my life.)

  5. I’m so glad I stopped by today! I love that analogy of the mushrooms and the oak tree. When I was in my 20s I lost a couple of good friends because they had small children and I was single. It’s really hard to hang on to those friendships! When I became a mother in my 30’s, I really understood how demanding motherhood is.

    1. Kids played a big part of it for me too I think. I was the only of my friends with kids, so now the situation is reversed as my kids are older and everyone I hang out with has little kids. I may have learned these lessons earlier, but better late than never!

  6. Very thoughtful post, Jennine! Thank you for sharing the way friendships and your understanding of them have evolved in your life so far–and there is even more to come (speaking as an oldster! 🙂 )–I know that I still have so much to learn about the depth and breadth of friendships and their ebb and flow. Your words remind me how valid and important it is to care for yourself with love and wisdom while you are sharing your love and friendship with others. My favorite part was where you described so beautifully how you bring those deepest friends into your lives, in a way usually reserved only for family. Thank you! And big thanks to Tanya for bringing us Jennine, along with your own meaningful reflections on friendships.

  7. Absolutely loved this post. In my late 30s, I find that I’m generally more detached and find it harder to “let people in”. Which is not to say that I do not have mushroom patches growing widely around me.
    I have a few close, close friends- (my oak trees!) and these friendships have begun and grown over the last twenty years.
    After reading this, I’m wondering if with age, we generally tend to become more guarded or is it that the need, want to plant oak trees reduces.

    1. Great question. I’m finding myself able to hang out with the “mushroom patch” meaningfully, but reserve the deeper side for the “oak trees.” For me it comes from learning from past mistakes, so I think I’m becoming more guarded. However, if you already have your “oak trees” established, you don’t need much else and you feel secure with where you’re at.

  8. I enjoyed reading this post because she hit it on the nail regarding friendships, especially with women. I have struggled with friendships over the years, because they do change and one thing I have learned is that friends may only be here for a season, then there are those that last a lifetime, if you are one of the lucky ones. It is hard work, and I find even harder as you get older. Good read! Like her depth.

    1. Thank you Michelle. The hardest thing for me over the years has been the friends for a season. I always assumed once I made a friend, we were friends forever, even if not close friends. So as I got older and people started to come and go from my life, it all got very confusing. It’s very hard, but worth paying attention to.

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