My friends are on my mind a lot lately. I don't need a medical or research study to tell me that friends are good for my mental and physical health. And neither do you. But, it is documented- --hang out with your friends--you'll feel better & live longer!
I got started on this post because two of my favorite blogs, Zen Habits and Happiness Project both had illuminating posts on friendship this month - tips on being a true friend and a user's guide to friendship.
I'll get to those--but first, I have to share an excerpt from a New York Times opinion piece, written by Sally Friedman, last Fall. One of my best friends sent this out to the group of college friends we still see after 40 years. It's a must read if you're somewhere in the third quarter of life (age 42-63+). Here's the link to Times article: Forging a Lifelong Bond While Cheering for the Home Team.
On second thought, no matter what quarter of life you're in, read this article so you'll be sure to keep those connections with old friends alive and well. Friedman writes about a group of college friends who have been getting together for the Rutgers Homecoming every year since 1961, and "How sweet it is."
"We had hit the stage of life when friends become family, something you may have to live in order to understand.
We needed one another more than ever. Our parents were all gone, our children were far-flung, and some of us had even lost easy contact with siblings who had moved to places with lyric names in Arizona.
Those of us who had cheered together for the Rutgers football team for so many autumns were awash in new realities: friends fighting disabling illnesses, children divorcing and a world that was far less perfect than the one we'd imagined back in the days when we all believed that ours was the generation that would build the Great Society. It wasn't so great out there after all. We were, in fact, searching for meaning and connection at a stage of life when both can be in short supply.
So this connection, which spanned so many years, so many mundane and monumental moments, has become even more central."
I truly treasure all my friends, and in this empty-nest stage, now that my responsibilities for my children and parents are complete, it's a blessing to have time for the wonderful mish-mash of friends that we all have. Each one speaks to a different part of our personalities, our interests, our souls. Each one comes from a different part of our life. There's the one who knew you from junior high, the one who remembers your parents when they were young, the one who shares your quirky tastes in books and movies, the one from work who must have been your sister in a past life, the one who always says "Yes" to any crazy adventure you can cook up, the one who keeps the college gang together by always making plans to get together, and the list goes on.
This morning as I ran errands I was mesmerized listening to Krista Tippett, of NPR's Speaking of Faith, interview John O'Donohue, an Irish poet and philosopher who died in his sleep this past January at age 52. His best-selling book in 1997 was called Anam Cara, which means "Soul Friend" in Gaelic.
Here's what he had to say about friendship when Tippett asked him if we are less capable of love, friendship and commitment today than in the past.
I don't think we're less capable at all. I think we're more unpracticed at it and therefore more desperate for it. And I think it's a matter of attention really, just attention.
That if you realize how vital to your whole spirit - and being and character and mind and health - friendship actually is, you will take time for it, you know? And the trouble is though for so many of us is that we have to be in trouble before we remember what's essential.
And sometimes it's one of the lonelinesses of humans - that you hold on desperately to things that make you miserable and that sometimes you only realize what you have when you're almost about to lose it.
So, I think that it would be great to step back a little from one's life, and see around one - who are those that hold me dear, that truly see me. And those that I need. And be able to go to them in a different way.
Because the amazing thing about humans is we have an immense capacity to reawaken in each other the profound ability to be with each other and to be intimate.
"Those that hold me dear, that truly see me. And those that I need." The best definition of a friend that I've ever heard.
Gretchen Rubin, from The Happiness Project blog offers 12 Tips for How to Be a True Friend. For her complete post, and I advise you to check it out, click HERE:
1. Be supportive when your friend has bad news.
2. Be supportive when your friend has good news.
3. Don't gossip.
4. Keep a secret
5. Exchange favors
6. Don't criticize a friend's sweetheart or spouse.
7. Be kind to a friend's children
8. Be friendly to a friend's friends.
9. Show up. Sometimes a friend wants you to show up someplace when you'd really rather not. Recognize a command performance and don't miss it. This one I have been guilty of, and I still regret those times I didn't show up.
10. Remember birthdays
11. Be nice to their pets.
12. Help a friend think big! Nothing is more encouraging than a friend throwing out some huge goal and hearing you say, "You should do that!" "You should write a book, you should start your own firm, you should run for office." You never know, sometimes one encouraging comment can have an extraordinary effect on someone's life.
For more tips on tending to our friendships, check out "A User's Guide to Fabulous Friendships" from the Zen Habits blog: HERE!
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