Our friends generally become fewer and farther away as we age. That delicious camaraderie we had in college and early working years has dissipated as our lives diverge. Some of us have big families now, some have small. Some have thrown themselves into busy careers, and some have made quiet pursuits their passion. The friendships we keep and nurture later in life become more precious, and are based less on life circumstances than shared kindness and openness.
My baby sister, age 48, is my closest friend, emotionally and geographically. We get to hang out pretty much any time we choose, and we have a long shared history (uh, 48 years). Some long friendships have come through Sandy, who had a tight circle of space-engineer friends back in the days of Cape Canaveral. And some friends came about through blogging, and may not be geographically convenient at all! I still want to meet Jill James, who lives in Tasmania. We’ll need more than a long weekend.
I spent last weekend in Vancouver with four remarkable blogging friends. Most of us stayed in one hotel suite, so we were together a lot, and I loved that. It reminded me in all the good ways of dorm life in college, only without the acne and annoying boyfriends. Now that I’m home I’m reflecting on “what makes friendships work and last?”
Here are my thoughts, and I’d love to hear yours in the comments:
1. Respect your differences. We’ve all had wildly varying life experiences: from living abroad, late-life marriages, financial feast and famine, and various careers. True friends don’t judge their mates’ lifestyle, habits, or opinions harshly. We listen and see if we might could learn something to shake up our own ideas. There’s not just one right way to eat or think or shop or dress.
2. Empathize, the dig-deep way. Show curiosity about others’ experiences, good and bad. Try hard to put yourself in their shoes and feel what it’s like to be them. Let them know how it feels to be you.
3. Lean on them. It’s always been hard for me as a perfectionist to let my weaknesses show. It’s better for my happiness when I do, with the right people. Showing vulnerability, asking for and taking advice – these actions help form a bond of equality. We’re all in this together, and nobody I’ve met yet has ALL their poop in one bag, all the time.
4. Keep your word, always. Do what you commit to do, keep shared confidences tight to your chest. Be someone who can be counted on, rock solid. There are some people in our lives who have trouble with keeping their word, and they likely won’t stay our best friends for long.
Stay fabulous and treasure your friends, xo
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