Lent 11: Where friendship grows

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Several years ago, friends with whom I went to grade 1-3 and high school decided that we should go out for dinner together. Some of us had been friends the whole way along; some of us hadn’t seen each other in 30 or more years. It wasn’t something we tried very hard to recruit people into participating in. A core group of friends decided, and some people brought one or two others who fit the “grade school friends” profile along for good measure. I think the first time we met for dinner, there were 10 or 12 of us. It was a good time. We’ve done it a few more times since, with varying attendance based on availability. I’ve enjoyed myself every time I’ve gone. It even rekindled a few friendships that had languished. Exactly what you want.

In the last week or so, I’ve also re-connected with a woman who’s son played hockey with Child years ago, and someone with whom I went to elementary and (a few years of) high school. I’m local to the hockey mom, so we had coffee together. My childhood friend and I spoke on the phone for almost 2 hours. I know! The *actual* phone! On one of my No Work on Fridays summer this year, I’m going to go on a road trip to see her. Both of these two friendship refreshes were a lovely addition to my week.

On the other hand… My high school peers are planning a reunion. I have mixed feelings about that. I spent half of my high school years in a crappy relationship with the King of the Douchebags, and I don’t care to revisit that, thanks. It took years to undo the gas-lighting. I got rid of all my yearbooks except possibly the one from my grad year. I stay in touch with the people I want to keep in touch with (or, as the last week has taught us, I’m open to it when someone wants to keep in touch with me). I don’t live in the town where I attended high school anymore, I’m not going to suddenly strike up a friendship with someone with whom I don’t already have some history.

However…

Maybe that’s shortsighted. I mean, now that I’m in midlife, I look at the people I’m friends with, and they fall into buckets of similar experience – whether that means “people I know through my time at cadets” or “parents who’s child played hockey with my child” or “people with whom I do or have work/ed”. But some of the people who are maybe less friends now – and no shade on that, it happens and that’s OK – are because we don’t see each other as often. There are people from a jobs half a career (or more) ago that I’m still close to. There are people from my last job that I enjoy reading Facebook or Insta posts from, but I haven’t seen in forever. And there are people who’ve just kind of slid away into the twilight land of “used to be”. Once the thing that formed the bond between friends is removed, sometimes that means the friendship can’t support itself. But sometimes it can. So who’s to say that someone who got married around the same time as me, or is a military parent like me, or lives closer to me than to our high school town… or *something*, and on top of that we have a slight shared history of our 5 years at the same high school… who’s to say that I couldn’t strike up a splendid friendship that we missed the first go round of our paths crossing?

In the next few weeks, I have the monthly dinner of the 21Exes (the group of parents who came together because we all volunteered at the cadet corps our kids joined), and the first show of a theatre subscription that I got with one of my closest friends from the 21Exes. We don’t do the thing that brought us together, but I really do love this group of people that I got because of the thing my kid decided to try when he was 12. We care about each other’s kids and we consider ourselves our own little village. None of our kids are in cadets anymore. None of us volunteer anymore, but our friend group persists and grows. Maybe getting even some of the band back together from high school could thrive, too? 

I get that I don’t have the carefree hours that I did I childhood to just hang out with my pals. We have to schedule it. We have to try harder to tend those friendships. Every week, work and family and obligations and needful things can push friendships to the periphery, if you let them. I mean, now that I’m an empty-nester, it’s not as hard as it was a few years ago, but life is still busy. And certainly, there are about eleventy thousand studies that show that people with a rich social life in middle and old age are far healthier than those who are lonely.

If I don’t say it enough, I am truly grateful for the really top-shelf people in my life – work friends, hockey friends, volunteer friends, childhood friends; recently re-connected friends, new friends and friends who are more like family they’ve been around for so long.

“Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people  close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.” — Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

During Lent (and beyond), may I be a good cord in the braids of my friendships.

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