Your muscles turn to mush if they're not used frequently.
Sure - that's not the terminology you'd read in JAMA, but I'd say that's a fair description for what happens when your body is sedentary. The same is true for your brain - those nerve endings and cells die away if you don't fire up the synapses in the gray muscle between the ears.
A friendship operates on much of the same principle.
It's nice to think friendships are easy, and in fact, most of the times they are. How can they not be? The laughing and the good times help to push along a solid connection over time. But like any relationship, sometimes you hit a bump in the road and you have to work to get the situation back on track. On occasion, those moments call for a rough conversation or a tough confession to help put things in perspective.
There's a great Indian proverb I love. Don't let grass grow on the path of friendship. I found that quip when I was in high school and I scrawled it in a blank notebook of mine. I guess it was relevant to the time and I find myself pulling at the words yet again.
The days on a calendar run into weeks and then months, and all along the way weeds of distraction and pesky priorities have a way cropping up and pulling us from those friendships. In other instances its harsh words or a disagreement that tears away at those fragile bonds.
And that's when you've got to flex that friendship muscle to help get everything back in shape.
I look back on my life and I can recall a list of people whom I called friend at one time. I became friends with some of those people for a reason and still others for a season. I am blessed to have still other friendships that I expect to enjoy for a lifetime (I'm sure you've read that e-mail before, too). Those lifetime friendships - those are the ones I've fought for. Those are the ones that have weathered the most miles and the roughest terrain, and yet they're also the most solid of all my relationships.
I didn't speak to one of my closest friends for almost a year.
A rough situation cropped up and for whatever reason she and I couldn't compromise amicably. We'd exchange terse hellos and quick e-mails required only because we had to do business with each other. Months passed and nobody said I'm sorry and nobody said I forgive you.
That's until my friend was about to experience a major milestone - a baby! - and she didn't want to go through it without sharing her joy with me.
And so someone said I'm sorry and someone said I forgive you, and we've enjoyed a solid friendship ever since.
Tonight we're going to see a Broadway show together at the Aronoff in downtown Cincinnati. On rare occasions we've talked about that dark period and we laugh it off, because all these years later it seems so silly.
Because looking back on it - it was.