{art tags by soul sister carissa paige}

I had already started writing this post about making new friends when I opened today’s Notes from the Universe, a daily email I receive from Tut.com {such a great way to start the day!}. Here’s today’s message:

Get out, get out, get out even more, Liv! Because there are people you’ve yet to meet, laughs you’ve yet to share, stories you’ve yet to live, and riches you’ve yet to tap into, that will not find you under any other circumstances. Besides, how else can I shower you with surprises?  – The Universe

I totally agree – there are amazing relationships and experiences awaiting me – but I think “the Universe” forgot to include one critical piece of the friendship puzzle: to envision the right relationships for me. A few years ago, I was in need of a few new girlfriends. Many of my closest friends had moved away or faded away into mommyhood, work, etc. I longed to connect with other women, but I kept hitting dead ends.

I was still entrenched in corporate America and was invited to meet monthly with a group of female executives for networking and idea sharing. I hoped it would be a great chance to befriend some smart women with similar professional experiences and ambitions. But starting with the first gathering, I knew it wasn’t the right group for me.

I dreaded every meeting. 

I felt so out of place among that tribe of no-nonsense women in their perfectly-tailored suits. I felt uncomfortable with the way our discussions always led to the same topics: how to get a raise or promotion and what kind of fancy car or house they hoped to afford next. I kept going to the meetings with a knot in my stomach each month, figuring it was the right thing to do as I climbed the corporate ladder, even though it felt so wrong.

Around the same time, I was invited to be part of a monthly Bunco night with women in our neighborhood. Many of them were already friends and their kids were already in school together. So, I often felt like a third wheel in conversations and didn’t know any of the teachers or parents they were gossiping about. Still, my neighbor insisted month after month on taking me to Bunco…and I would go, smile on my face and a knot in my stomach.

It took nearly a year before I backed away from either group. Looking back, I realize the real problem was me: I never took the time to focus on what kinds of friends I was looking for. So, instead of continuing to groan and grumble about the ways those gatherings didn’t fill me up…I started to imagine the types of women and events that could. I made a list of the qualities I was looking for in new friends.

Authentic. Creative. Down To Earth. Funny. Inspiring. Ambitious. Positive. Thoughtful. Soulful.

I wanted all that – plus I wanted my new friends to be low-maintenance, meaning we could go weeks without talking and still feel close {no guilt, no drama}. A tall order, I know. But to my amazement, those kinds of women started appearing in my life. Maybe in part because my radar was up, looking for those qualities in women I met. And maybe because setting my intention for future friendships attracted those women into my orbit. Opportunities to connect with the kinds of friends I’d dreamed of began to sprout up everywhere. And that continues to be the case even years later.

{photo by marilyn lamoreaux}

This past weekend, I met with a delightful group of Minnesota artists who are all taking the Hello Soul, Hello Business ecourse. I was so enchanted by their honest and inspiring stories of love and loss, ups and downs, hopes and dreams. They are authentic. And creative. And all the things I was looking for years ago and continue to treasure in friends new and old. We already have plans to meet again.

When  I think of my friendships today, I feel so content and blessed. A far cry from that recurring knot in my stomach I used to feel. It disappeared once I figured out what I needed to feel fulfilled, deeply connected and valued.

Have you been intentional about forming new friendships? Are you ready to trade in toxic relationships for tranquil ones? I’d love to hear how you’re navigating the waters of creating and maintaining authentic friendships….because they add so much joy and meaning to our lives!