Big Friendship, Big Love & Big Grief

I’ve never really been into Valentine’s Day.

Well, I should clarify, romantically. I am all for fake holidays. I have been known to throw National Cookie Day parties and celebrate National Ice Cream day like the holiday deserves. So Valentine’s has always been a good excuse to buy chocolate (50% off the next day!), send friends cutesy, punny, ridiculous cards that are targeted for children, and obviously celebrate my gals like Leslie Knope taught us. Even the times I happened to have a boyfriend for the occasion, February 14th felt the same as July 17th or November 3rd. In my book, you never need an excuse for a cute card or surprise chocolate. That happens year round.

 

But this year I found myself ordering Valentine’s Day gifts a month ahead of time. I planned an epic galentines (guys and girls!) virtual Netflix party, complete with the same snacks from Target being delivered to all our doors. I scoured Etsy to find the perfect chocolate treat to show up on my friend’s porch. I venmoed some of my favorite ladies a surprise coffee-on-me Saturday morning surprise. Valentine’s, this year, felt as exciting as Christmas.

krysti wilkinson big friendship

Was it my first married Valentine’s? Yes. And while that may have contributed, last year RJ stood me up for our gym date and we ended up eating Domino’s pizza and fighting over the toppings. All that to say, we aren’t really a Valentine’s couple.

 

I told my friends, as I was most definitely going obsessively overboard to plan a virtual movie night, I just needed something to look forward to. What else are we doing to keep ourselves sane lately? With every day blending into the next as we are going on a year in this new world of ours, a bright spot on the calendar is very needed. But also? I felt the need more than ever to remind the people I love how much I love them, how much I need them, how grateful I am for them. Sometimes that’s a sweet text message, a nice card in the mail – sometimes it’s a Target box with pretzel M&Ms, white cheddar popcorn, and matching mugs.

 

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I recently finished Big Friendship by Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman. While you will really love the book if you’re an avid Call Your Girlfriend listener (I am!), anyone will enjoy it. Two best friends co-author the account of becoming best friends, then co-workers ….and then almost strangers. They discuss missed communications, avoiding dealing with issues, and actually going to therapy together to save the relationship. It was so refreshing to read a book about adult friendships (why do we never discuss this??); it was also healing to read them describe things I never had words for. ‘Stretching’ as your friendship goes through a change – and you both have to choose if you’re going to stretch to meet each other in the new place, with new needs and expectations. Shine Theory, which isn’t new if you’ve listened to their podcast. ‘Big Friendship’ is how they coin the kind of friendships that are rare and special and lifelong. They discuss how hard it is to make good friends as you get older(!!!). They normalize therapy. They talk to actual experts and try to get to the bottom of what so much of us experience in platonic relationships, but rarely hear talked about.

Reading their story made me extra grateful for mine. The friends who immediately clicked. The friendships that took time to develop. The people who have stretched for me, the people I am willing to stretch for. The people who have pushed me to be my best and the people who have called me out when I’m leaning towards my worst. Almost every chapter left me wanting to call or text a friend I was thankful for, reach out to someone to make sure they knew how important they are to me.

 

Ultimately, it was so refreshing to read a love story that mimics what some of the greatest loves of my life have been: my girl friends.

 

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The same week as Valentine’s Day was H’s birthday. I knew it was coming, I knew it was going to be hard – but I wasn’t ready for what it was. She’s only been gone 6 months, but it somehow felt like the anniversary of her death. In this weird season where time passing feels like swimming in a pool of jello, it can feel like nothing is changing for other people. When you are no longer physically living life with people, seeing them on a regular basis – it feels like their life just paused where it was. If you don’t see it up close and personal, it can’t be real, right? So her birthday – a very stark reminder of time passing, of a new year – was one of the first times she really, truly felt gone.

 

Last year I posted a poem on Ash Wednesday. She commented on it, saying how much it connected to her. This year I shared the same one, and had an overwhelming sadness she wouldn’t read it this time. There’s so many small, mundane reminders of “this time last year”. It makes her feel closer, in a strange way. I wonder how long it will take for these little memories to fade away. The big things, the obvious parts of her – I hope I’ll never lose. But the small moments? The seemingly insignificant jokes and comments and gifs – how long will those stay with me? Is part of the grieving process grieving the passage of time? I want to stay close to it all, close to the days I can say “this time last year we were talking about this” instead of, years from now, “I had a friend once who…”

 

I am learning Big Friendship brings Big Grief. They go hand in hand.

 

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A month before I met RJ, I remember throwing a fit with God. My best friends in San Diego, my safe places for so long, had slowly started moving (geographically) away. I had stood by and watched friend after friend fall in love. I was happy for them, but I was also a little over it. “When is it my turn??” I demanded. “Where is my love story??”

 

She whispered back, “You’re living it”.

krysti wilkinson big friendship

And God, as She always is, was right. I was working at a job I enjoyed, with co-workers who were actually my friends. I was going to seminary in my free time, something I both enjoyed and felt like I was being led to do. And best of all? I was so known by so many wonderful people. Friends who bought me flowers and chocolate when I had rough days, friends who called me out on my shit and called me to be better, friends who may have lived farther away but didn’t let that distance diminish our friendship. I was part of not one, but two community groups at a church that truly felt like family to me. I had built a life that wasn’t easy or perfect, but that I loved. What better love story is there?

 

RJ changed my life. I’m not denying that. Falling in love with him, discovering this kind of love existed – is something I in no way deserve but am so, so grateful for. Maybe newlywed bliss is part of why Valentine’s Day meant so much to me, why I went all in this year. But as grateful as I am for a funny, kind, generous, intelligent, handsome husband – I’m grateful that falling in Big Love hasn’t changed my other loves. It’s just made them even sweeter.

When Your Friends’ Lives Change, but Yours Stay the Same

We were sitting on the couch, three in a row; two of us looking over her shoulder as she browsed her laptop. She was looking for post maternity clothes, and I couldn’t help but think back to three years ago when we were sitting in the same formation on a different couch, looking over her shoulder as she searched for the color of bridesmaid dresses she wanted us to wear.

These friends have gone through so much with me, and I have gone through so much with them. I’ve walked through engagement and wedding planning with them both. Trying to offer advice and insight but also keeping my mouth shut a bit – what did I know about engagement rings? Fast forward to now and I was holding her newborn, giving mama’s arms a much deserved break and offering color choices – you wear a lot of gray, how about that that stripped one?? – but also trying to keep my mouth shut a bit. What do I know about nursing tanks?friends-lives-change

Life gets funny, when your friends start to enter very different life stages at very different times. When we met, it was all so easy. We were all in college. We were all at the same college. We met up on Monday nights because none of us has class, we lived within a 2 mile radius of each other (and that felt far!), we texted the afternoon of to see what groceries we all had to contribute to our hodgepodge meal that evening. We turned 21, all in a row. We graduated college, all in a row. But suddenly one of us was engaged, which was exciting and new. And then two of us were in relationships and, before you knew it, it was me plus two married couples.

(Now it’s 6 adults and a baby. Our little group grew, as families tend to do.) Read More

How to Adult

Life has been a bit of a whirlwind, lately. It’s been a no-sleep, going-going-going, wait-what-day-is-it?! constant. And in the midst of the crazy, a friend said the sweetest words to me the other day – the kind of “I didn’t know I needed that, but wow I needed that” unexpected goodness that soothes your soul a bit. We were catching up and she said, “Hey, I know you – and you’re doing the best you can.”

 

One of the most beautiful things to me is being known by my People. I spent a whole lot of my life guarded – even to those closest to me – and the past few years have been a lot of un-doing, a lot of breaking down walls brick by brick. When people know me, it still catches me off guard. It still stops me in my tracks a bit. It still overwhelms me, in the best way.

Everyone tells you life after college is hard, and mostly it’s because friendships after college are hard. When I first heard about this, I laughed at the post college blues. Ha. Whatever. Not gonna happen to me.

But last year two of my favorite people moved up north. That sucked.
This summer, my best friend moved across the country. That really sucked.
Then a few weeks ago, I hugged another friend goodbye. And I’m realizing this is an unfortunate trend. One I don’t like – but one I can’t stop. Read More

My Flood Ladies

Somehow we were all free this weekend. Somehow, someway, we found two days in the middle of busy seasons of busy lives to all be in the same place. Somehow, it was like no time had passed.

lil baby freshmen

We’ve officially been out of college for the same amount of time we were in college. That’s so crazy to me. College was so much – so much life, so much growth, so many things, all wrapped up in four years. These past four years of life have seemed like a lot, too, but also, somehow, not as much. They don’t feel equal, they don’t feel quite the same.

This weekend was a mix of catching each other up on everything we’ve missed and also reliving everything we were a part of. I forget how much these girls saw me through, how much we walked alongside each other, how much life happened. When I think of college it’s easy to remember the big moments – it’s somehow easy to overlook the 4 ladies who I saw every Tuesday, who made a community out of nothing, who chose to show up week after week and simply just be there. Read More

Surviving Post Wedding Season

As weddings have taken up so much of my life lately, I figured maybe they should take up a lot of my blog as well. Here’s a special wedding season series – some questions I get asked (or ones I don’t), some things I survived, some truths I’ve been learning. And, an extra bonus: one very special wedding!


I get asked all. the. things. during wedding season. But I think there’s something that we fail to talk about as all your friends get married: the transition your relationships go through.

My friends, once committed girlfriends, are now wives. They have husbands. Some things stay very much the same, yet other parts are forever different. As someone who has never gone through that specific transition, sometimes it’s a little strange to walk through it with them. How do you travel alongside a path you aren’t on? Other times it’s frustrating to walk together – as we seem to be heading two different directions.
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