Think back to the 1980s and the Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal hey-day of "When Harry Met Sally". Hear the Harry Connick Jr. soundtrack playing great Sinatra standards. Remember the scene where Harry sees Sally in the airport and gives her his view on how she was seen off by her boyfriend because it was obviously early in the relationship when love was still blooming. Feel his cynicism as he describes the stages of every relationship.
Friendships are just the same.
In the early years its all about Falling In Like with someone new. You are discovering their story, interested in every detail of their life, mapping similarities and excited by the differences.
Eventually the friendships start to evolve to a stage of Confessions & Indiscretions. You learn about the darker side of your friend, their history, their relationships, their little secrets, and you find this deepens the relationship.
Comfort & Stability comes next. The friend is a part of your daily routine, your regular schedule, your normal life ebbs and flows in rhythm with theirs.
But then comes the real test. You are comfortable in your relationship. You know history, you're involved in the day-to-day strife, you may even be in one another's wills and be named as guardians for dependents. And this is where the Favors & Moves stage kicks in. It starts gradually, in such small increments it actually sneaks up on you. Can you help me with an errand? Can you drop off my books at the library? When you go to the store, would you pick me up a gallon of milk? And they repay you in kind. Sometimes even going above and beyond, with a quick call to you, "Hey, I'm at the store and saw X,Y, Z and I know you need it/want it - I'll buy it for you and you can pay me later." High gear happens when the casual mention of, "Hey, we're moving next month." comes up in conversation.
This? is your opportunity to turn and run. If you don't, you're in it for life and you've now decided the friendship is worthy of the highest level of commitment.
Yesterday, I helped some friends move. This is actually the third move I've helped them with (actually two previous with friend and hubby #1, this was my first with hubby #2). I missed one move with her because my father-in-law was in the hospital and I've never lived it down. THIS is the level of commitment required for the Favors & Move stage. Family hospitalization is NOT a get out of jail free card.
Because this is a later-in-life stage move, it involved professional movers. Ain't it grand to have a healthy checkbook at our age? Oh Joy, I thought. The hard labor will be handled by the pro's and we'll be sipping lemonade and pointing them in the right direction. And when I first arrived, this actually seemed to be what was in store for us. Then, as the day wore on, we realized there were so many things to do and we needed to kick into gear.
Suffice it to say, by 10:30PM - nearly 12 hours after I had arrived at the move site - the movers were JUST arriving at the new house with their 2nd (and final) FULL truck. My love for my friends had kept me going all day, but I have to admit, at that point, I was done. After putting in 4 hours at my office, I had helped with errands, kids, lunches, beverages, cleaning, packing, fridge/perishables, small boxes, odd-shaped unboxable items, setting up bed frames, unwrapping furniture blankets, garbage detail, area rug/room layouts, and the biggest job was calming, soothing, cajoling, advising, and entertaining to keep my friend on an even keel for the much longer haul she had in front of her. I had muscle pains, blisters, bruises and a headache by the time I left, but I still felt guilty as I knew they had another 4-6 hours ahead of them, not to mention the unpacking for the next three months.
Today, as my work day blew up all around me and I'm realizing I need to work well into the night to complete my deadlines for tomorrow I know I could have used that time yesterday to the advantage of my career. But the truth is, any friend who can look at me through those stages of friendship and hang in there through it all, is worth all the time, effort, and, yes, even the bruises.
I'm in it for life. And that's o.k. Because they are too. And that's the beauty of a true friendship.