I get by with a little help from my friends...
I’ve been thinking about the old rhyme, “Make new friends and keep the old. One is silver and the other is gold.” For many years when I was working full time, I found it difficult to make new friends and challenging to carve out time to spend with my few valued buddies. I held tight to two or three dear friends for many years, visiting when possible and staying connected via rare long phone calls.
Through the ups and downs in my life, these were the people who knew me best and who could always be counted on to understand me. And just as important, they seemed to need me as much as I needed them. My long term friends include a former room mate, my sister and an ex-boyfriend. When I get together with these friends, even if it’s been a year since we saw each other, we can pick up where we left off almost as if no time had elapsed. They feel deeply connected to me.
Since I stopped working full time and got more flexibility in my life, I’ve found that I have more time to develop new friends and also more time to spend with the friends I’ve connected with over the years. And I’ve started thinking about why friendships are important and what purpose they serve.
A number of studies have shown that people with strong social networks tend to have fewer health problems, lower stress levels and longer lives, sort of friends as vitamins... But there’s something else that I’ve noticed.
Meeting one of my newer friends for a cup of tea and conversation seems to kick start ideas that have been rattling around in my brain. I come back from this short visit excited about writing an article that was only vaguely formed prior to our chat. Another new friend stimulated a creative impulse and now she and I are collaborating on some papier mache creations that had been on my back burner for a while. These friends seem to add energy and a creative spark to my life.
When life is crazy and hectic, as all of our lives tend to be at times, it’s easy to put your friendships on hold. In the face of some family or business crisis, it seems very self-indulgent to take an hour or two to visit with a friend. On the other hand, this may be just the time that we need our friends the most. By taking a break during a stressful time, maybe we give our brain a break and are able to find some new creative angle on the situation.
This is not to say that we should use our friends as a cheap substitute for therapy. Sure, a four dollar latte may be more affordable than an hour on the couch, but is that really how you want to use these precious friends? Sometimes, I know, you just need to vent. But if this becomes the main pattern and central reason for a friendship, it’s probably time to re-evaluate. I have come to prefer the kinds of friendships that energize and excite me. Friends that help me to crystalize ideas and act as catalysts for new adventures.
The next time you think of getting together with a new friend or an old one, why not think of some fresh new activity that you can do together. If you usually sit for a cup of coffee, try taking a walk or working in the garden together. Why not take time and make time for friendships? I think you’ll find that you and your friends will come away with some unexpected benefits.