My favorite place to hangout with a girlfriend is in either her home or mine. Parks, coffee shops, cafes … they’re all great, but I’m most comfortable nestled in a cozy spot that holds pieces of someone’s story.
My friends Jenny* and Kathryn* both have houses I adore to visit, but their homes couldn’t be more different. Right after shuffling the soles of my shoes across Jenny’s monogrammed doormat I know exactly how it would feel to live inside a Pottery Barn catalog.
Hardwood floors? Polished.
Decorative pillows? Plenty and Plumped.
Dining table? Trendy and seasonal table scape.
Kid toys? Nowhere to be seen.
Kathryn’s house looks more like mine: Not filthy, but knocked around by everyday life.
Carpet? Vacuumed … sometimes, just not this week.
Window treatments? Someday, but until then plastic blinds will do.
Dining table? Hard to see under the piles of paper.
Kid toys? Watch where you step.
Now here’s the truth–and I’ll swear to this on the life of my dark roast coffee–I don’t prefer Kathryn’s house to Jenny’s or vice versa, because in both homes friendship, not furnishings, is the star.
Neither Jenny’s clean nor Kathryn’s clutter stir up feelings of uneasiness or demand my attention, because they don’t matter. We share a bottle of wine or sip sweet tea and we lean in and listen closely. We swap stories about our kids and the nuances of our world.
We talk politics and religion and all the subjects that strangers avoid but heart sisters embrace because the hard discussions sharpen our minds while softening our souls.
We talk of dreams and regrets. We encourage bravery or caution depending on the circumstance.
We problem solve and vacation plan and brainstorm about which celebrities to cast for the Lifetime movie version of our lives.
We laugh until the muscles in our stomachs press against our rib cages. And then we gulp in more air and more drink and laugh even harder as one story leads to an even funnier one.
We pay no mind to the shoes strewn across Kathryn’s floor or the Fabergé-inspired eggs on Jenny’s 19th century side table. They don’t matter.
Sometimes tears outnumber the giggles.
We sigh deep and heavy over news about ailing parents, cancer scares, and marital discord.
We are quiet at times. Like when the words we want to say dissolve in our mouths because it’s too painful to join them with sound. Those moments are for holding hands and passing tissues and tossing throw pillows on the ground because they get in the way of a much-needed hug.
The condition of someone’s home doesn’t matter one bit when it comes to friendship.
Recently, there have been many well-written and well-meaning blog posts about the benefits of being messy. This one I just read suggests that parents with homes like my friend Jenny’s are spending more time cleaning up after their kids than playing with them.
I bite my lip, twist my hair, pop my knuckles and invite all my other nervous tics over to play while I read articles of this nature; because while I applaud the effort to help people feel more comfortable with their imperfections, I worry. I worry that in an honest attempt to fight perfectionism,we are actually swinging the pendulum in the direction of its equally evil twin sister, judgmentalism.
Maybe that woman you know with an immaculate home isn’t trying to be perfect or upstage you. Maybe cleaning is her therapy like writing is mine. And maybe the woman with the disheveled living room isn’t lazy. Maybe she just prioritizes her day differently than you do yours.
The condition of your heart is what matters most when it comes to friendship. If your focus is on the person who lives in the home instead of on the ascetics of the home, you’re more likely to feel at ease.
And when your mind isn’t swirling with questions like …
Am I enough? Is she judging me? How does she do it all? What in the holy guacamole is under the T.V. stand?
you’re going to be better equipped to ask her the types of questions that help build friendship.
Let friendship be the star.
Just as lotions and fragrance give sensual delight, a sweet friendship refreshes the soul. – Proverbs 27:9