Mastering the Art of Long Distance Friendship

co-authored by two long-distance friends, Emily Ruch and Chloe Sayers

And by master, we mean “navigate in the dark without a flashlight and minimal bruises along the way.” Everyone knows friendships change after college. What we didn’t anticipate was how the new marriages, new jobs, and new states could create both
emotional and literal distance between friends. No two friendships look alike and different friendships will react differently to the strain of distance, but here’s some lessons these two long-distance friends learned along the way.

1. Reset Expectations

When you live in close proximity, whether that’s a few rooms down the hall or across town, you grow to expect and gauge the health of your relationships by your frequency of 11212707_10153812461504908_672609704767413814_ocontact. Once you’re 3,000 miles and 3 time zones apart, that’s just not realistic. Quality trumps quantity when it comes to connecting.

…. and set Realistic Expectations

Now that the days of spontaneous coffee dates and late-night-dance sessions are few and far between, it’s important to regroup and set new expectations for the friendship. It is most likely unrealistic to think that you will be able to talk to each other every day. Sure, you may go through stages where texts are sent back and forth in quick succession, but typically you are on different schedules (or time zones). It’s important to find the routine of staying connected that can be easily obtained by both parties.

2. Be intentional

You’re not going to bump into your friend around town, so a long-distance friendship forces you to stretch that intentionality muscle and make the friendship a priority by scheduling time to talk, writing notes, and just generally not falling off the face of the earth.

3. Small talk is OK

One of the hardest things for me about long-distance friendships, is that I felt like I was spending all my time talking with friends on the phone just catching up. Since it would be weeks between talking and our lives were moving fast, there was a lot of just general ground to cover each call. I grew to realize that just keeping up with a friend was a blessing and not every conversation had to be a philosophical discussion to keep the friendship healthy and thriving.

4. Allow Yourself to Grieve

“Grief is the conflicting feelings caused by the end of or change in a familiar pattern of behavior.”

Long-distance friendships are hard. If you are coming right out of college, it can seem especially painful and abrupt to have your best friend suddenly absent from your day to day life. It’s okay to grieve that loss, because that is what it is. This is not to say that you throw up your hands and throw in the towel, but rather give yourself some grace while you navigate the transition.

5. Make New Friends

Still working on this myself – seriously, after college how does one make a new friend? Suddenly it’s not as simple as walking up to someone at Swing Club and saying “Hi, I’m ____,” or striking up a conversation in the omelette line at brunch about that group project due tomorrow. But it’s an important step in the process.

Do you feel nervous about making new friends/your friend making new friends? It makes sense. There is an inherent panic that the introduction of a new friendship will somehow cause the existing pair to find someone that they get along with better/enjoy more. But this comes back to the intentionality that you set up; while life may have a mind of its own sometimes, you do have the power to make sure you don’t drift apart.

And making friends where you are will only strengthen your long-distance friendship. It will allow you to flourish where you are and lose some of that panic over the change, because you will realize that your friendship can remain strong in the presence of other relationships. If something is important to you, you will make time for it.

At the end of the day, you can make a long-distance friendship work but make sure to work in some face-to-face time too!

Living with Ghosts

Every single time I drive to work, Bad Blood plays at least twice on the radio.  And every time I 295591hear the sad saga about the inadequacy of Band-Aids to cover bullet-hole sized wounds, I try to gather up those “I hate my back-stabbing friend” emotions (it’s a long drive and it gets boring) but I can’t think of a single friendship that ended with knife scars.  I almost wish I could, partly so I could empathize with Taylor, but mostly because even a angst-filled relationship sounds good right now compared to __________ (I’ve got a blank space and I’ll write your name).

We joked about getting all of life’s transitions (graduating college, getting married, moving away from home, moving across the country, starting new jobs) out of the way in two months but the reality of that drastic upheaval is wishing you were part of a T-Swift video just so you’d have some friends nearby.  To the many friends I do have, thank you for keeping up.  Thank you for the texts, calls, letters, and e-mails that remind me that I am loved and in a way, who I am.  I know we shouldn’t define ourselves by who we are to other people, but we do and I have learned how much I depend on those coffee dates and conversations to help me process life and determine who I am and where I’m going.

Taylor Swift may be ubiquitous but there are so many things in Southern California that are new to me.  My runs around the neighborhood are a full aromtheraputic experience, ranging from roses to delicious Mexican dinners.  It’s different working full-time instead of being an eternal intern.  It’s far different to be a wife than a fiance and much more wonderful.  I can see palm trees out my bedroom window and the work break room and everywhere else.

How To Lose That Ego Weight in 2016

Stop for a moment and imagine the most annoying person in your life right now. Say their name in your head. Think about the last time you interacted with them, what they said, how you felt about it.

Would you feel any differently about them if you knew for certain that they were doing their absolute best to navigate this messy maze of life? That’s the revolutionary (at least to me) idea that Brene Brown proposes in her book, Rising Strong. It’s a wonderful book recommended to me by a dear friend, full of valuable truths about acknowledging emotions, their limitations, and how to, well, rise strong. Expect more references in the next few posts.

After reading about this outlandish idea that everyone around me is probably not actually maliciously slacking off with the express purpose of making my life more difficult, I immediately felt relieved, shamed, and suspicious. (1) Relieved because I have a new tool to help me understand others better and get frustrated less often. (2) Shamed because I am clearly struggling with a superiority complex here. (3) Suspicious because if everyone is doing the best they can, I want to hear the full story of why their best doesn’t seem all that awesome to me (back to #2).

There’s the rub. We don’t know everyone’s story but most importantly we shouldn’t HAVE to know. I’m all for getting to know others on a deeper level but I shouldn’t reserve granting basic grace or the benefit of the doubt to those around me just because I don’t know their full life saga. As Aslan gently reminds Shasta in The Horse and His Boy, “Child,’ said the Lion, ‘I am telling you your story, not hers. No one is told any story but their own.”

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I’ve got nothing to lose except some ego. And I could use to slim down that particular feature of mine in this new year.

P.S. There’s no way I could write about doing our best without referencing this hilarious stand-up act. WARNING: Some offensive language used. Enjoy at your own risk.

Impossible Nostalgia

I just wish things were the way they never have been.  174984

It’s fall in Southern California, which means that it’s not fall at all.  Palm trees don’t change leaves, and over-priced cider from Walmart isn’t the same as freshly squeezed apple nectar from an orchard.

At first, I attributed my intense nostalgia to the lack of autumn here and a general homesickness.  Yet, as I attempted to self-medicate this heart sickness through Facebook crawling and copious amounts of decaffeinated tea (official sign of the end of college life), I realized that I was battling an impossible nostalgia.

1043516I have this idea that at some indeterminate point in my past, I enjoyed  quality time with my closest friends while attending a continual coffeehouse and the charms of my hometown.  The reality is, many of my closest friends from college graduated before I did.  School was stressful and cafeterias are inhumane and I was more likely to be serving coffee than sipping it in acoustic bliss. Not only that, but I have dear kindred souls from childhood and high school and none of them are ever in the same place at the same time.  And if I walked through the streets of my hometown, very few would remember my name or face.

It’s a feeling of impossible nostalgia that carries the hope of a reunited tomorrow.

I am not missing out on anything nor can I return to this rose-tinted moment that never existed.   And I have hope for my own Clapham group in the future.  Luke and I are so blessed to have such incredible friends from coast to coast.  Maybe, one day, we’ll all be within driving distance (or at least the same time zone).  I know I’m biased because the common denominator between you all is my husband and I, but I promise you it would be awesome if we gave it a try.  Because you all have already impacted our lives in so many ways for so much good.  Thank you.

Until next time,
Chloe

Hi there.

The very first word that I spoke as a 9-month-old wasn’t so much a word as it was a phrase:

“Hi there.”

Evidently, I skipped over the basics of “Mom” “Dad” “Sis” and “ball” and went straight to informal greetings.  And I’ve been  introducing myself every since.

I met my wonderful and  recently wedded friend by randomly introducing myself at a Swing Club because she vaguely looked like a girl from  high school that I didn’t even know that well but the “soul rejoices in the familiar.”

I met my recently wedded husband by introducing myself in line for a freshman informational meeting because, hey, he was cute, in my Old Testament class, and clearly interested in leadership.  Can you say spiritual leader spouse material?

Don’t worry, I just thought he was cute at the time.

A few weekends ago, I headed back east to see that dear friend get married.  Waves of nostalgia 8202592and longing rushed over me as I gazed over neat fields of Lancaster corn and farms.  Was it really last summer that I lived and loved here? Why did we move to California?

I was caught between two Lands of Lonely.  In Pennsylvania, I was with friends and families and humidity and all things home reminiscent.  Yet I was separated from my forever love.  At the same time, I dreaded returning to So Cal with all work and very little play and no friends.  I started regretting all our decisions–except the marriage one.

But as I re-crossed the country for the 3rd time in two months, I realized that I’ve been looking for the wrong things.  I’m searching for my childhood and college friends amidst strangers.

I’m going to stop searching for my past in the present.

Layers

This is my senior year, last semester.  A multi-layer image of friendships made and lost or faded or stayed. Fun times and hard times, all dictated by the never-forgiving academic calendar and endless stream of lectures, events, chapels, dances, and the occasional game of bowling.  Everything I experience is held to the light of past experiences in the same place and time, just years later.

Loving Better

Since May 15th at 7:00 pm, when I triumphantly handed in my last final of my Junior year, I’ve slept in 8 different beds with 2 more to go before I return to my bright raspberry creamsicle room.

I never expected to stay in (multiple) strangers homes, co-author and self-publish a childrens’ book, go to Boston, or take up kickboxing during this past 3 months span.

Through a series of  conversations, packing up and moving out, getting caught in the rain (always), making friends at the Y, learning how to write (again), learning about what makes a family, Skyping Siberia, and waiting tables at barn weddings, I finally picked up on God’s creative ways of teaching me to love better by:

Loving Myself Less
I’ve always had a surplus of confidence, allowing me to walk into almost any situation with the assumption that I will not only learn quickly the necessary skills to thrive, but that I would come up with a better way of doing things.  Being an intern for HOPE International, an excellently run organization with competent leadership and a vision way beyond my overly confident self, was incredibly humbling and refreshing.  I was valued for my skills but expected to stretch myself and learn from those around me.  Not hard to do, when surrounded by some of the most intelligent and faithful servants of God I have ever had the pleasure of working alongside.
Loving Change More
Even though I’m leaving the summer with more to-do lists than I came in with, I’ve learned that plans not only can change on a dime–they will.  It’s part of life and being able to embrace the unpredictability of not having the world under my control (who knew?) has released me from the impossible burden of always arranging everything just so.
[This book helped immensely.]
Loving Others Better
 
It’s only because I am a mere 4 days from seeing my fiance again that I can say that this summer has been a wonderfully growing experience in learning how to one day (soon!) be a godly wife and in the meantime, love and serve to the best of my ability.  Of course, a month ago, I would have just whined about time zones and distance.  Thank you to all who have showed me examples of Christ-centered marriages and shared their candid advice.   More on this to come.
Loving Life Fully
 
Its a crazy adventure, but it’s worth living.

Things Don’t Make Sense

To my rationalist mind, the worst judgement that I could pass on anything or anyone is: “That doesn’t make sense.”  I’ve caught myself saying that a lot lately.  For something to be good, it must be logical.  Unfortunately, this rules out a lot of the best things in life.

Like love, for instance.  Love doesn’t make sense.  It is irrational to put someone else’s needs in front of your own.  Likewise, emotions don’t make sense.  They are messy and pointless, but they are what make people real.

War doesn’t make sense.  Fighting with swords instead of words doesn’t make sense.  Unfounded hatred doesn’t make sense.  I don’t make sense.

I contradict myself daily, whether in word or in deed.  I have unrealistically high expectations for myself and circumstances beyond my control and expect the world to fall into my preset categories and calendars and it never does.  Some days I want to smile for no reason at all, and other nights I feel like crying into my pasta salad.  And that doesn’t make sense at all, because according to my calculations, happiness is supposed to be circumstantial and pasta salad doesn’t need anymore salt and it really isn’t sad at all.

The world doesn’t make sense.  It never has, and the stubborn desire of one 19 year-old girl won’t change that.  The world is broken, which doesn’t help this confusion, but so am I.  We must learn to live in this broken, senseless world regardless.  Stomping my feet and scowling at the surrounding nonsense doesn’t help anything.

You know what also doesn’t make sense?  Friends that love you when you are unlovable.   Loyalty that lasts through the test of time and trials.  A perfect God that loves an imperfect people.  Beautiful sunsets that fall every night on a world that doesn’t deserve them.

Things To Remember

Every once in a while, I make a list of the things in life that I hold strongly to.  Some of them are based on experiences and wisdom from those around me. Like many things in my life, a lot of them are rather arbitrary but I still cling to them quite tightly just to spite their lack of quantification.

I am not ultimately in control of my life or who I am.

Happiness is not our main goal here.

Life is not falling apart; it was never all together to begin with.

Life is an adventure.

It’s going to be okay.

Expectations will kill you.

So kill them first.

The times that I am the worst are the times that I am spending the most time thinking about myself.

We are never alone.

There is no point in needless sadness.

But it’s okay to be sad sometimes.

There are always decisions to be made, we just don’t take the time to realize we are making them.

There is much to be thankful for.

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

How’s your heart?

Evidently there is only one way to learn the alphabet as a small child in your stereotypical American home.  You take the letters, set them to the tune of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, and then impress your other four year old friends by rattling them off as fast as possible as many times as possible in one playdate.  This speed memorization by rote process of learning the English language had two side-effects.

1)  It took me about 10 years to figure out that the tune of the “Alphabet Song” was the same as our favorite celestrial nusrey rhyme.
2)  For the longest time, I thought “LMNOP” was a letter all in itself.

Obviously, once I started reading I figured out that there were in fact 5 distinct letters.  Yet I think we still have a tendency to sing-song our way through conversations.  When I see someone I know, we always sing this little diddy.

“Hellohowareyou? Imgoodhaveaniceday.”

Maybe its not to the tune of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, but it may as well be.  To give myself some credit (since I’m writing this and I can)  I genuinely do care about how someone is doing and if I ever got an answer that wasn’t “Greathowareyou?”  I would be more than willing to continue the conversation in that direction.  Yet I can count maybe three times that I have given a non-positive answer to that question myself and feel like that is the case for most people.

My friend and I were talking about a different question you could ask.  Her thought was to instead ask “How’s your heart?”

At first, I thought this was a neat, if not mildly intrusive, idea.  Yet I kept thinking about it and tried to play out a scenario where I would ask someone that and it terrified me.  Am I really ready to know what’s on someone’s heart?  Do I secretly take comfort or at least rely on the fact that no one will really share their heart so that I don’t drown in the depth of others?

I hope that isn’t the case.  More likely,  I’m too afraid to inquire after the condition of someone’s heart because I don’t want to have the questioned turned on me.