There are many ways that the natural world can affect and inspire us. My favorite way is through analogy. Thanks, earth. So, if you’re lucky, your friends are a beautiful and sweet-smelling garden of unique and interesting blooms. If you’re lucky, they complement each other’s features and aid each other’s problems. If you’re lucky…
But you’ve got to tend to them and make sure they grow, along with you, as well as they can. You have to make sure they are pruned, watered, fertilized, metaphorically.
Whether you prefer messy, natural looking friendships where you basically scatter everyone around and they flourish as they may. You might choose instead to keep everyone in neat little rows, labeled and organized. Me, I prefer container gardens: everyone kept separate, able to be moved around easily, and doubling as a form of decoration. Friends can be beautiful to the eye, smell great, provide nourishment, and compost.
Sometimes at the end of the year, you need to look at your garden and be appalled by how you now have so many friends that they are crowding each other out. In flower gardening, this is when you are instructed to “thin out the bulbs.” Dig through the dirt you know about them and start sifting. Keep the ones you instinctively prefer, and the ones that just look great. Luckily with human friends, you can easily tell which ones give the best color and perform best in public. The rest, sell off to other people or trade them for new friends! Friendship is so rewarding!
But first, to grow your garden:
Plant the Seed
It might seem like “plant the seed” sounds like a sinister reference to subtly trying to convince someone of something. That’s not what I mean! Planting the seed of friendship is more like indicating to someone that you’d like to be friends. This can be as simple as saying, “hey, here’s my number,” or even just planning a next hangout. Make it known. Find a way to say We Can Be Friends.-
Fertilize the Seedling
Make sure that your seed has what it needs to grow! Your friendship won’t go anywhere if you just go out for coffee and talk about that TV show you both watched. Get to know them slowly, gently, honestly. Don’t be weird, like that last sentence. Learn about what they think is fun and what they care about, so that you can do things together that you both love.
Water the Sprout
If your friend is droopy, dry, or sad, you’ll need to water them. Ugh this metaphor isn’t going well. Anyway, be there for your friend. With each other’s help in bad times, you can grow strong together.
If your pal needs something, try to be there for them and provide what they need, be it advice, someone to vent to, or just friendly company. Similarly, if what they need is some solitude, don’t over water them, metaphorically of course. Or literally, really. Nurture your friendship, or it’ll get weaker, or unpleasant.
If something goes wrong with your budding/blooming friendship, make sure to figure out what’s going on. Not getting along as well? Talking less? Figure out the pattern and ask your pal what’s going on. Don’t leave it alone or you’ll end up with dead plants. HUH!? Anyway, once you investigate the pestilence or error, work on a fix. Take care of bizness.
Once you become proficient at maintaining friendships without killing them off with neglect, you can go one step further and plan your social sphere so that it is a delight to behold. Stroll among your friends and be pleased with what you see, and be proud of what a good friend gardener you are. It’s not ever as easy as it looks, but it is certainly a lot more satisfying than you’d expect.