I know this is going to make me seem like a hypocrite, but I like to be surrounded by books, too. The difference between me and Seth, however, is that I like to be surrounded by pretty books. So, when I spotted this little gem in Anthropologie*, I couldn’t help but look inside.
I only had to make it to the first line of the introduction to know that I would be giving these bound pages a new home because it quoted one of my favorite authors, Margaret Atwood:
“The Eskimo has fifty-two names for snow because it is important to them; there ought to be as many for love.”
Yet, there my little book sat for the next several months, decorating my fireplace mantle. I finally picked it up in February to choose a few quotes for my Valentine’s Day blog. If ever a book of quotes could be described as a page-turner, this is it. I’ve been taking time reading them out loud to Avery while she falls asleep nursing. This process of verbalizing each quote reveals that the words don’t just decorate the pages; they really make you stop and think about what each person meant. Sometimes I find solace in their words; yet, other times I find that I firmly disagree with them. For example, on page 28, I read:
“Friends show their love — in times of trouble, not in happiness.” — Euripides, playwright.
Yes, I realize whom I am disagreeing with. This is by no means an “I am smarter than this guy” assessment. However, I think Euripides may have missed the full and essential spectrum of love shown through friendship.
Of course, real friends reveal their love in times of trouble. In integral part of this is allowing you to express your feelings. With girls this often involves crying. Our eyes well up with tears when we are frustrated, tired, mad, or worn down. It’s not a sign of weakness so much as how we are wired to release negative energy. Yet, how often do we find ourselves feeling uncomfortable when someone cries in front of us? Reactions include, “Would you like to be alone (because I feel weird with you blubbering away in-front of me)?,” “Take a deep breath (so you can stop),” and the ever direct “don’t cry.” I think the kindest thing a person can do when a friend is crying is give them a hug and validate their feelings. This means being okay with your friend crying in your presence. The most comforting words a friend told me during an extremely painful time in my life was, “That is horrible. It’s terrible.” I felt better, loved I would say, knowing that she was okay with me crying because I felt bad for myself and what was going on. She, like Euripides said, was a friend who showed her love when I was down and out.
However, friendship takes more than that. A friend also shows love in happiness. You’d think this would be easy. Who isn’t happy for you when you’re at your best? Everyone loves a winner, right? But, I don’t think this is actually the case. Just as times of trouble reveal who will stick by your side, so do joyous occassions. As I’ve come into the years where friends are receiving that long-awaited promotion, are buying their first house, traveling to exotic lands, marrying The One, having babies, and living out their dreams, I’ve seen friends Exit Stage Left. Their congrats are belated and they are absent in the celebration for their friend. The ones who do show up to celebrate you and your success are providing you with a kind of friendship that is so very special, because it’s about you, you, you. It takes a particularly selflessness to set aside what you have going on in your life and be about someone else. I’m not quite sure why, but I think it’s that it lacks a certain reciprocity or solidarity that you expect in a turn-taking relationship. Your turn may have passed or it may be further down the road. Either way, it won’t be about you for a while.
That same friend who let me cry when I was down and out? She also made the drive - through awful LA traffic - for my shower, attended my wedding, and squealed with joy when I told her I was pregnant. I know it was inconvenient for her. I know she has so very much going on in a complex life. Still, she showed up to cheer me on. I dare say a friend shows their love truly in times of trouble, but shows their love best in happiness.
Those fifty-two words the Eskimos have for love? I’m sure there are as many for happiness as trouble. Maybe even more. Let us learn them all.
*I linked to a site that is not affiliated with Anthropologie, but it celebrates all that is lovely from that store. You should take a look around :)