How to Be Loved: A Memoir of Lifesaving Friendship

I just finished this book earlier this week.

I saw it out of the corner of my eye when I was leaving the library after work on Friday afternoon. I read the title and immediately thought, “I need to read this.”

Thankful that I did.

Friendship has always been an essential and life-giving pulse to my life. And this book describes the dynamics of friendships within chronic illness and cancer and brain surgeries. And friendships are not the sub-plot, secondary characters–but friendship is the main thrust of the entire book.

I laughed and cried. I cherished this book, because in so many ways I felt like I was reading my story. Not because all the details were the same, yet similar thematic arcs.

2 people white people socialized as female. Dismissed by the medical system. Highly competitive, thinking you can just push through. Used to being individualistic, self-reliant. High disregard for the body. Begin to undergo this process of softening, begins seeing friends as people right in front of them, accepting what they have to offer. And from this transformation, seeing the world differently. Starting to see the systems behind individual illness cases.

“Parity was all I’d ever known about friendship. That a certain kind of score was kept. That reciprocity might not happen immediately, but that it needed to happen at some point: the invitation returned, the dinner bought, the phone call answered, the paper edited, the money sent. But I couldn’t reciprocate. Definitely not now, and possibly not ever. I think maybe just let them love you? Allison said, after another friend had come, given me food and a book, and left. I told her I’d try.”

The entire book explores the question, “What is the role of receptivity in friendship?” Can I just receive love because I believe I am worthy? And yet the book also dives into the difficult dynamics of boundaries within friendship, knowing one’s limits, what friendships can look like when multiple people have an illness. And of course, asking for help.

I’m so grateful this book has been written. I’m so grateful for my friendships–past and present. This memoir leaves everyone with the question, ‘To what extent am I valuing my friendships in the present moment?”

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