I am still amazed and almost startled by the fact that my new lifestyle allows me blocks of time to just sit and think. I can ponder on all sorts of random thoughts and topics. This week I have been reflecting on the importance of friendships and why some last and some do not.
Friendships can last for a lifetime, but they can also end in dramatic ways. All through junior high and the first couple of years of high school, I had the same incredible best friend, Gina. She was smart, funny and beautiful. We shared the trials and tribulations of learning to navigate the world of bellbottoms and boyfriends. Then she began dating someone who became the center of her life and our time together dwindled. I was thrilled when she called one afternoon and asked me to meet her halfway between our houses as we had done hundreds of times over the years. When we met that day and started walking back to her house, she insisted that I tell her what I really thought of her boyfriend. She said I was her best friend and I needed to tell her what I truly thought. So I did. In my opinion, he was not the right guy and was in no way worthy of her. Sadly, the reason she wanted to know was because she was pregnant. I hugged her and we both cried. She left school, got married, and had the baby. Our friendship was never the same.
But more often, friendships simply fizzle out. We have friends or family who just stop calling or we are the ones who drop the ball. There surely are a thousand reasons this happens. Illness, family problems, just plain crazy busy or self-doubt about oneself. Sometimes people just change.
In my case, I relocated. I have found it challenging to stay connected with friends after Mr. Smith and I moved several states away. You are no longer a part of each other’s daily lives. Everyday intimacy and shared experiences are strong bases for a friendship and without them maintaining a close connection can be much more difficult. It takes more than Facebook and an occasional text to nurture a friendship.
Now that I have more blocks of me time than I have had in years, I find myself recalling memories of old friends who were part of my life. I spend time thinking on whether to try and reconnect with them and wondering if you can recapture lost connections.
You would be hard pressed to find anyone who denies the importance of friendships for your physical and emotional health. Everyone from the Mayo Clinic to Good Housekeeping writers stress the importance of positive friendships to our wellbeing. While most people are lonely at some point in their life, studies indicate that loneliness, particularly in our sixties, seventies and eighties, is widespread. It seems a little perplexing because I find older women so fascinating. We have outgrown much of the drama and competition. We are stronger and more empathetic. And probably have more time to nurture friendships.
There are friends of circumstance, folks we meet just living our lives, and they are lovely. But there are also those friends of the heart, kindred spirits you feel drawn to. I am an introvert and a bit of a loner, but still long for that connection, a partner in crime. Someone who allows me to grow and feel good in their presence. My sister comes pretty close to fitting the bill, but she is 13 years older than me and still sees me as the “little” sister. Mr. Smith and I are two peas in a pod, but I believe having other people in your life who add additional dimensions make you a better, more interesting partner.
Australian novelist, Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach reflected, “Old age transfigures or fossilizes.” I want to be one who is transfigured. The ups and downs of the past 64 years have made me both stronger and kinder and I have learned the value of women friends in my life. I haven’t seen my old friend Gina in almost 40 years. I heard she got divorced and remarried. I know she has at least two children. I do wonder if she is also a grandma. And I wonder if I am in her Friends Hall of Fame, because she certainly is in mine.
C’est la vie.