Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world arrives. ~Anais Nin
When you think about it, you come into contact with hundreds of people throughout the course of your life. First, family members then, school classmates, work colleagues, members of clubs and organizations you join, neighbors, and on and on. Yet, out of all those people, with how many have you formed lasting connections? Some people form and retain many more relationships than others but, according to ask.com, the average person has 3 close friends. I don’t know if that refers to lifelong friendships or just how many friends a person usually has at any given time during their life. I would add that most of us also have social acquaintances or people we call friends whose company we enjoy but, with whom we don’t have close relationships. Regardless, an average of only 3 close friends is interesting considering the hundreds of people with whom you come into contact in your lifetime. I have known a lot of friends and acquaintances over the years, many of whom I have lost contact with, but today I’d like to pay homage to those who currently add to the happiness and meaning of my journey.
In my illustrated book “Try Lots of Hats” (for which this blog was named!), one of the stories is “The Friendship Hat”. It describes the many different types of friends we have throughout our lives and how each relationship has its own importance – and its own time span. I can remember times when I tried to hang on to a friendship that had outlived its purpose (and sometimes people tried to hang on to me!) but that was before I understood and accepted that people come in and out of your life. Not everyone with whom we become friends will have the same depth of connection with us or stay in our life forever and that’s okay. Our friendships (and love relationships) have a purpose – for both parties – we share experiences and learn things about ourselves and the world and, sometimes, the friendships end. Sometimes they burn intensely and then end with a big bang, sometimes they fizzle out and, sometimes they just fade away. You spend a lot of time with some friends and others you see infrequently. Once in a while, if you’re lucky, you find someone with whom you have such a deep connection that the flame stays constant for many years, maybe even your whole life. There is a great variety of texture in human relationships.
I have been blessed to have two close friends in my life for many years, despite distance, personality differences and all the changes we have each been through. More than 18 years ago I hired a young woman as my assistant and we quickly grew to be closer than many sisters even though we were different in so many ways. She was 17 years younger than me and married with two young children. I was long divorced with a son in his 20’s who lived in another state. She had three sisters with whom she was very close and a large extended family. I was an only child with no family connections beyond my parents and my son. Her focus was family and mine was my career. Our lifestyles couldn’t have been more different and yet we had an instant feeling of deep connection, which is so rare for both of us. Diane is the most kindhearted, generous and compassionate person I have ever known. She would literally give you the shirt off her back or her last dollar. Sadly, she moved back to New Jersey four years ago but we email and talk on the phone regularly and have managed to visit a couple of times a year. No matter how much time passes in between visits, we feel like we’re just jumping right back into an ongoing conversation. She is the only person with whom I can be completely myself – she knows all the sides of me and loves me anyway. We have complete trust in each other and know we can share anything without fear of judgment or that the confidence will be broken. We know, without doubt, that we can call on each other for help in times of trouble and that we always share in each others’ happiness. She also “gets” my sense of humor and thinks I’m funny! I’m hopeful that her goal to become self-employed and spend more time in Florida will become a reality someday in the near future.
I met my good friend, Lin, in 1990 when we both worked for a shelter for victims of domestic violence in New Jersey. I liked her immediately. She is a compassionate, caring, giving person who has given comfort to countless women and children over her 30 years in social work. I never worked with a better group than the staff at that shelter, before or since but, Lin is the one I stayed connected with after my move to Florida and her move to North Carolina a few years later. She helped me when I was going through the heartbreak of two disappointing relationships and we commiserated many times about our struggles with our kids. She went through a painful divorce and, although she doesn’t often share her deepest feelings, I think I was able to be there for her a few times when she needed a friend. She is outgoing, friendly, and much more “social” than I am (although that bar isn’t set too high!) and seems to make friends wherever she goes. We email every week, sharing books and movies we like and just keeping up to date on our activities and families. Every few months we talk on the phone and we visit when we can work it out. We share many interests and have often commented that if we lived close to each other we would enjoy going to museums, plays, movies and concerts together. Lin has a great sense of humor and a warm personality so whenever we talk or get together we do a lot of laughing.
A shout out to some other people I’m blessed to have in my life. Sharon – my dinner & a movie pal. Doug – my long distance email friend (who I hope to visit after you retire next year!). Judy – dinner with interesting conversations 2x a year for the past 20 years! Rena – my funny, eccentric lunch pal. Ann – one of my “quarterly dinner group” friends (I don’t see you often but you’re one of my favorite people). Carol – my old beach buddy who taught me a lot about living a balanced life. Yvonne – my fellow Ambassador Dog Team friend. Jo – love jazz and museums (at the same time, if possible!). Mike – my hybrid coaching client/friend, you help me reinforce everything I know to be true. Nadine – I love our conversations! Each of you reflects a different side of me and I thank you for what you add to my life.
Last but, never least, I have to mention all the four-legged friends that have added so much love to my life. My childhood dogs – Lassie, Peggy, Skippy and Brandy. Jessie, my canine companion during the early years of my marriage. Snowball and Jessie, our cats during my son’s childhood. Nettie and Ceilie, my beloved Florida cats. My current canine buddy, sweet Stella, who is teaching me about aging, patience, unconditional love and lots of other things.
This was fun – like counting my blessings! Don’t forget to let your friends know how much you appreciate them.
One is taught by experience to put a premium on those few people who can appreciate you for what you are ~Gail Godwin
Stella’s pack of friends
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