I love my friends. Like most people, I’ve collected them both haphazardly and so very carefully. I find them at random tennis tournaments, back-to-school nights, yoga classes, and events like board meetings and PSA coffees. They bring everything to the table — joy, laughter, wisdom, entertainment, and, great learning potential! These women (and, yes, only one is a guy) have been in my life for years and years. I didn’t join any existing friend groups from work or the carpool line chat session. None are particularly good friends themselves, although they do know each other. They are the venn diagram of my life. They have been there through my thick and thin, adding different viewpoints and advising everything from the mundane to the monumental. I don’t know how I’ve kept them close, but as I get older, I want to know:
What’s the secret to good, strong friendship?
My friends are the family I have chosen for myself. Women who are interesting, funny, bright, street smart, and most are pretty darn stylish. What I realize now, with friendship – friendship for me – is a combination of three things: 1) they teach me something I didn’t know or have in my toolkit like fortitude, resilience, and all kinds of creativity, 2) they are genuinely kind and have a moral code that clearly resonates with me, and 3) honestly, they have the ability to laugh at themselves, life, and ofcourse, me. Humor is Queen in my book!
So, what does it take to stay friends for a lifetime? Sure, we hear about decluttering life, detoxifying from troublesome people, or healthy relationships as life-defining, and certainly care for yourself first. But, what about those people in our lives whom we adore, we cannot wait to talk to, ask for advice, listen to their stories, learn from their examples and laugh with. Basically, just share living.
How do we keep and nurture friendship?
There are manuals for everything these days—childrearing, love, sex, pivoting mid-life, and the list goes on and on! Has there been one about a huge factor in mid-life well-being? Friendship? Yes, there is. My “super friend” Winnie (mother, doctor, spouse) gave it to me as a gift, a memento of our close frienship. Big Friendship: How We Keep Eachother Close, by Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman, identifies and explores what it takes to have meaningful and solid friendships (at any age).
They even have a podcast aptly called, Call Your Girlfriend.
Here’s What I’ve learned:
Make Face Time Real
That means traveling to the coffee shop or from DC to California. Being together brings shared experiences. Run, walk, hike, drink, eat, watch, volunteer, do whatever you like with your friend in person! With very busy schedules my friend Miriam and I don’t text or chat on the phone that often, but we do try and practice our tennis together at least two Saturday mornings a month. These mornings keep us in each other’s orbit—catching up on everything and learn a few things at the same time!
Adapt to your differences and strengthen what you have in common. My friend Karen is an early riser and loves to run. I love to exercise with her. So, for over fifteen years, I get up a little earlier to fit in those wee hour workouts. A good talk along our 4mile route solidifies a bond we’ve created each and every time we hit the trail or pavement.
Have a “Friend Web”
One or two friends cannot be your everything. I have special friends like Stacey whom I travel with over the summer and plan get-always with once our kids are grown; Karen C. and I have a love of cooking and photography and Grace and I connected through Karen and love a good lunch!
Long Term Friendship
Just show them you care! Make an effort! My dear friend Jane and I try to meet every week. She loves a good coffee, walk, or chat in person and I make sure to connect with her. I’ve learned that shared experiences, no matter how small, build our connection—a connection we will have forever!