Make Sure Good Friends Are Near
Back in my folk dance days, I loved dancing with friends to this song:
We live out our lives, they say all alone,
From the day we arrive till it’s time to go home.
And it’s only just lately I’ve come to accept
The grace I’ve been given in the company I’ve kept.
As my body grows wider, my hair starts to thin.
The seasons pass quicker; my head starts to spin.
Well, I’ve learned to take refuge in the sight of a friend.
The moment we meet up, my heart says amen.
So listen up friends, I’ll tell you what’s true.
Of all things in life, the best one to do
Is to always be happy and never to fear.
But if you can’t do that…make sure good friends are near.
– Kevin Carr, Hillbillies from Mars
Good friends – good colleagues, good neighbors – provide both refuges and resources when fear overcomes our own clear thinking and we begin to sink into helplessness, not knowing what to do in the face of looming catastrophe or difficulty.
When my friend Tracy’s husband Dale had a stroke, she called me the next day; within a week Dale had returned to his bowling league where a friend showed him how to cope with some loss of peripheral vision; Dale felt competent in his game again and supported in the friendship. [See Supporting Another Person’s Resilience – Brilliantly.]
When my client George’s mother died, part of his moving through his grief was being able to sing her favorite Mozart’s Requiem with his local choir.
When I’ve stumbled into some despair over a ruptured relationship, I found great comfort in the gathering of my Gourmet Poets Society; quarterly gatherings over good food and good poetry that have providing valuable “holding” when any of us have gone through hard times, as well as treasured celebrations of the good times.
Cultivating deep friendships, even supportive communities, takes an investment of time and care. Book clubs, church choirs, bowling leagues, hiking groups, parenting groups, mindful self-compassion groups, all involve an investment of time and care and a predictability of presence. Often organized around a common cause – reading/discussing books or films or visits to art galleries, coaching a sports team, volunteering for a non-profit – acquaintances can become lifelong friends, even life-savers when life events pull the rug out from under.
Exercise: Cultivating Supportive Groups and Communities
1. You may already be involved with an organization that sponsors community building activities – university seminars, church service groups, health care provide wellness classes, corporate fitness-fundraising walks. [One of my longest-term friendships was cultivate in a weekly yoga class.]
Do a little bit of homework to find something that interests you. Recruit a friend to join with you to get across the initial threshold of hesitancy.
2. Research what organized groups might be offering programs that would provide opportunities to meet like-minded, like-hearted people – computer classes at the public library, writing groups at a local bookstore, foreign language classes at a community college. [My parents met dancing. I met two lifelong friends in dance classes.]
3. Talk with friends about committing to getting together for a specific activity that will be fun and nurturing to do that might also lead to he deepening of friendships. [I have hiked every Tuesday morning with the same friend for 12 years. No questions our friendship has deepened through those walk-talks.]
There are many skills of Relational Intelligence in Resilience that can help nurture these friendships. Participating in a supportive community can be a good start.