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Friendship As A Spiritual Practice
My first mother died when I was six, and I have longed to know more about her. I had trouble finding anyone who would, from my perspective, tell me anything real about her: everyone wanted to make her into a saint. “She never spoke badly about anyone” was something I heard a lot, making me cringe a little because I adore snarky comments. (Sorry, Jesus and First Mom.) I also had something like seven different women tell me “She was my best friend.” I’ve finally stopped being irritated by that comment and began understanding it a little more, because I am blessed with many close friends.
In 2014 on a retreat, I created a “Rule of Life,” and one of the practices I committed to pursuing in order to feel closer to God and enrich my spirituality was seeing friends three times a month. During my years of a low-residency MFA, this practice fell away (other than the months that I had a residency!), and then COVID hit. I’ve recently started trying to be intentional about it again. In October, I saw three friends all at once on a retreat, which was glorious. This month, shortly before Thanksgiving, I was blessed to see three other friends in the space of three days: Teri Ott, author of Unexpected Abundance, spent the night with me after speaking to my church’s book club. The next night I had dinner with my friend Andie Rohrs and her children; then on Friday, Shea Tuttle and I had our monthly walk around the local botanical gardens. Something about seeing friends in person stirs me spiritually.
Teri and I have known each other via social media and for three years and have been in a weekly cowriting Zoom group for two years. Getting to actually hug was wonderful, as was introducing her to members of my church, with whom she conversed about her book. Andie and I have known each other for twelve years, and I loved spending time with her kids whom I knew when they were little babies, learning about their friends and interests. With Shea, we adore experiencing the different flora in Virginia throughout the seasons. We’ve been walking around the gardens long enough that we know what will be in bloom and walking while talking encourages deep conversation.
I also got to see my friend Samantha earlier in November, the friend with whom I’m writing a book. I’ve worried that working with a friend would strain our friendship, but so far it has brought us closer together. And I still check in every morning with my “writing soul mate” Dana, whom I haven’t seen in person for more than three years, yet we are extremely close. There are many ways to cultivate friendships, which makes me think back on that Rule of Life, in which I committed to seeing friends three times a month. My check-ins with Dana certainly feel like a spiritual practice. Are seeing friends in person the only way to prioritize friendship?
What about you? What role do friends play in your life? How do you engage with friends? Let me know in the comments.
Traces: I was thrilled to see this book out. Pat and I were in a book-length manuscript workshop together three years ago, and I loved her book. What a thrill to revisit it as a published novel! She imagines what life must have been like for Daniel Boone’s wife. We are going to read this book in my church’s book club, and Pat will Zoom with us.
Shutter: Intriguing thriller about a forensic photographer haunted by ghosts from the crime scenes she photographs.
Last to Vanish: Thriller.
The Furrows: A woman haunted by a tragedy in her childhood.
Just Like Mother: Not my normal reading. Extremely creepy.
What I’m Writing:
The Bible study I wrote for Forward Movement’s Good Book Club is available, and it’s free. We’ll be using it on Wednesday nights at St. David’s in Epiphany:
What Other People Are Writing About Me:
I was interviewed for Publisher’s Weekly! Check it out here.