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Posts Tagged ‘relationship’

Friends


It’s been a couple of months since I spent the weekend at Jan’s new retirement home in the beautiful mountainous region of Asheville, N.C.  Before that it had been maybe six years since our last visit, that time at my house in East Tennessee when she and her husband were passing through the area.  Other than that — a couple of periodic visits back to Pittsburgh constituted our time together since the years we were colleagues in that city.  And no matter where or how infrequently we visit, our conversations pick up as though it’s been just a few days since we last spoke.

My friendship with Marilyn is just like that.  We’ve been friends since we were kids, growing up just a few houses apart in the neighborhood where we both spent our childhoods.  We’re as close today as then, though we both went to different colleges, have been through different life experiences and lived in different states since those days.  Each time I see her we start talking and don’t stop until it’s time to leave.  Our bond is as strong as ever and the friendship has grown with the years.

Marianne, my college room-mate, is another life-long friend.  We pick up where we left off and continue from there, each updating the other on the trials and tribulations in our respective lives.  The two weeks I spent at her home last summer were just like the old days, except she went to work each morning and I played in my old stomping grounds of Pittsburgh, visiting other friends and former colleagues accrued during the 13 years living there.

It’s amazing the different roles friends play in our lives.  These days I continue to stay in touch with life-longers while also enjoying my theater friends, bicycling friends, neighborhood friends, work friends, spiritual friends and now email, Facebook and blogging friends.  And of course, my husband, who’s probably my best friend, and my sisters who’ve become close friends over the years.  All of them touch different parts of my essence, exercising various intellectual and emotional muscles within.

A recent piece in the New York Times by Alex Williams challenges our ability to make friends after a “certain age” when a busy life tends to preclude the time necessary for real connections to be established.  He identifies the conditions that sociologists find important in forging friendships to be proximity, repeated and unplanned interactions, and a setting that encourages people to let their guard down and confide in each other.”  Perhaps that’s true; friendship does seem to rely on shared experiences of some kind, though proximity can now be established through the miracle of digital interaction too. I’ve made new Facebook and blogging friends whom I’ve never even met in person.  And bonds with former work friends have grown stronger on Facebook than they were during our work days together.

Two friends

Two friends (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What we all seem to crave is connection.  For me, friendship is about authenticity.  When we are free to be ourselves with someone else and that someone else still wants to maintain connection, a friendship can be born.

A former hospice patient, for whom I was a companion during the end stages of his life, was described as one who never met a stranger.  What a poignant description of a person who loved to love.  And he was well-loved in return.

Reach out and a new friend can be made.

What do you say about friendship?

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According to a news story I just read, boomers are apparently the new favored children when it comes to divorce these days.  Their break up rates have more than doubled over the last decade and researchers expect that percentage to increase.  Right now one out of 4 divorces is a couple over 50.  To some extent, that’s surprising information.   After-all, you’d think that after so many years of understanding each other’s hot buttons and living through the early career days and the challenges of raising children that it would now be time to rediscover the reasons you fell in love in the first place.

LOL Just divorced. And no, that's not my car.

Image via Wikipedia

From a different angle I think it’s cause for celebration.  Looking at it through a woman’s eyes (why not?), we are not the women our mothers were.  Societal expectations are, thankfully, different.  Career opportunities have expanded over the years for women and a lot of us are financially independent and independently minded.  We’re not looking for men to “take care of us,” but instead, to be friends with us.  Confidantes.  Lovers.  Sounding boards. And if that’s not working anymore, then it’s time to move on.

My parents separated when I was 15 and it was a subject not discussed outside the house.  It was taboo then and it made me feel like our family was the pariah of the neighborhood.  I adopted other families to hang around and fantasize about what a happy family would actually feel like.

One particular favorite couple was my girlfriend’s parents.  After synagogue on Friday night we’d walk back to their house to commence a weekend filled with family activity.  I loved her parents; her father was always flirting with her mother and it seemed to me like he adored the pants off her — literally.  We all read books together in the evening and her parents would engage in actual conversation about those books and even current events of the day.

Many years later when my girlfriend and I were grown and catching up over breakfast one day she said that her mother had “finally divorced her father.”  I was stunned silent, left with a gaping mouth full of bagel and cream cheese.  Shock soon gave way to deep sadness.  WHAT??  My heroes?  My role models?  What happened?  She laughed and said that the “lovey dovey act” was for my benefit and her mother would role play until I went home on Sunday afternoon.  That for years they weren’t getting along and that she’d finally found the courage to say no more.  My friend knew I’d be in shock, but it was time I found out.

That moment marked my rude awakening to the realization that people stayed together for the kids and endured the misery of their lives together until it could be changed.  And it was also the moment I was grateful for my mother’s personal truth of “no more.  This isn’t what I want and so I’m moving on.”

Coming from a broken home I can tell you that it does no favor to the children to live amidst vicious fighting and cold body language.  My parents rarely demonstrated physical affection or pleasure about being in each other’s company.  There was no warm sense of family in our family.  And it certainly taught me at a tender age that marriage was not aspirational.

Somewhat surprisingly, I am married and have pets for children.  We were together 8 years before tying the knot and now married for 26, but I can tell you that if it ever stops working for an extended period of time, neither of us would be interested in staying put.  That’s not to say that marriage isn’t worth working at.  It is and a healthy union requires a lot of work.  From both parties.  But there’s no doubt that I’d rather make it alone and enjoy friends, than suffer through a dead marriage.

So I say kudos to those boomers who find the courage to move on when it’s necessary.  There are much worse things in life than staying married to the wrong person.

What say you about marriage?

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