The Perfect Blendship

One of my favorite types of novels are those which involve a group of friends usually coming together to help one another through a tough time.  Sometimes it involves a long standing coterie of friends (like the Friday Night Knitting Club series), other times it’s people who come together in some shared activity and end up as friends (The School of Essential Ingredients was a favorite in that genre).  I love seeing friendship in action in these kinds of stories.  Also, if I’m honest, perhaps I’m looking for tips on how to make friends, or be a better friend to those I have.

Apparently, friendship really is good for your health.  Recently, The Harvard Nurses’ Health Study documented that the more friends we have, the less likely we are to become ill as we age.  Because I’m an only child, my friends have always been super important to me ~ they replace the siblings I never had.  Over the past 15 years, I’ve developed a cadre of what I consider the closest friends I’ve ever had.  We’ve bonded over our shared love of music and young people and travel and books and dogs. These are the women whom I respect most, whose advice I ask, who can make me laugh out loud even on my worst days.

With one exception, all my closest friends are about 15 years older than I am.

You know what that means, of course.  That most likely, I will outlive them all.

What happens when you outlive your friends?  I’ve seen firsthand evidence of that with my mother, who, at 83, has lost all but one of the friends she became close to when she moved into her current neighborhood almost 40 years ago.  When my great aunt died last year, my mom lost the closest living relative she had left, and the nearest thing to a sister she’d ever known.   Even though I see her or talk to her every day, she’s lonely for someone her own age, someone who “remembers when,” someone she can confide in without burdening me.

Of course friendships are volatile for reasons other than death.  I can group my friendships into several clusters over my lifetime – the childhood friends that hung on into young adulthood and then faded away; the parenting friends, the ones made during children’s school days,  bonding over bake sales and field trips, which disappeared when the children grew up.  The  friendships I have now feel the strongest, and have lasted the longest, perhaps because they developed over shared interests and in the pursuit of shared goals.  We’ve traveled together, performed together, sat in hospital waiting rooms together, rejoiced over births, cried over deaths. They feel are (as Meredith Gray put in on an episode of Gray’s Anatomy) my “people.”

So I’m not at all surprised that friends keep you healthier.  Having a social network – and I mean a real live social network – provides the emotional and practical support we all need to get through life.  Friends provide the perfect blend of kindness and tough love, of inspiration and exasperation, of laughter and tears.

How could we live without them?

How about you?  Is your social network important to you?  How have your friends enriched your life?


8 thoughts on “The Perfect Blendship

  1. I’ve never been one to have huge groups of friends, but a select few whose company always inspires me. I’ve also always been better at having men for friends than women, because even though I love perfume, bubble baths, and mani-pedi days, my geeky side far outweighs my girly side.

    Still, the friends I have, both offline and on, are treasured parts of my life.

    • I’ve never needed a huge group of friends either – as a matter of fact, too many are simply overwhelming. A select few very good friends that really “get” me is just fine.

  2. The piece about friends moved me. Yes, they are so very important to our well being.
    One of my closest friends (I don’t have many “close” friends) has been my friend since 5th grade. We have weathered many of life storms together and even if we don’t talk for weeks, the minute I hear her voice it’s as if we were together yesterday. What is most remarkable about this friend is that she is totally blind from the ravages of diabetes and has been since she was 35. (We are both 63 now.)
    But, she has never felt sorry for herself and her upbeat attitude always lifts my spirits. She reads books on tape, tells wicked jokes, and generally has a sunny disposition even when I know she feels like hell. She loves plays and we go to several plays a year. I explain as much of the plot as as I can if she can’t quite get the drift of what’s going on, but mostly we pick musicals because she can follow the story line through song.
    She’s had two kidney transplants – the last I offered to give one of my kidneys, but I was not a match. I would have donated my kidney to her without a minute’s thought.

    I would say she is someone that I admire more than words can express, and my life would be much less rich without this remarkable person in it.

  3. I’ve moved so much, both geographically and vocationally, that my friendships have ebbed and flowed as well. I don’t have any friends at all from the time before graduate school. If I’d been closer to Iowa, I might have – but when my high school class held its 10th reunion I was in Africa, and at 25 years I was sailing the Caribbean. So there you are.

    Interests have dictated friends, too – sailing people have things in common with other sailors, etc. There are perhaps a dozen friendships that have endured over a few decades, which really is rather remarkable. And as an only child myself, I cherish them.

    My mom feels that same sadness – of having outlived everyone. At 92, she has a sister left, and me. That’s it. And now that she has such a hard time getting out and about, making new friends is just difficult. My own best friend is 73 and has had one stroke already – the experience of losing her is something I hardly can get my mind around.

  4. It’s great to have friends you can share activities and interests with. Makes a even stronger bond, I think.

    It is definitely one of the downsides of growing older…my 75 year old friend always introduces me as her “young friend.” She says I’m keeping her younger – sometimes I think it’s the other way around. She’ s so busy and active, I have a hard time keeping up with her!

  5. Friends are so important. I have one friend of 41 years. She introduced me to my husband. She is a sister to me and I can’t imagine losing her. You are so adept at making us reflect on these things, Becca. Thank you.

  6. I’ve lost touch with all of my childhood friends, and I’m sad about that. We are still close with my husband’s best friend from elementary school (and his wife and daughter). That friendship is a real blessing, and I love seeing the two of them together, imagining them as 7 years old sharing peanut butter sandwiches and tomato soup for lunch.

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