Wednesday, January 13, 2010

That's What Friends Are For

The title of today's blog is also the title of a mid-80's song by Dionne Warwick, Elton John, Stevie Wonder and Gladys Knight. It's always been a favorite and seemed quite appropriate for today.

Last week when it was below freezing around here and too cold to do much besides curl up on the sofa with a heating pad and a thick blanket, I turned on the TV during the morning, something I rarely do. The editor of Prevention magazine was on the Today show and did a feature on "The 6 Friends a Woman Should Have." My interest was piqued and I kept listening. Thank goodness for the DVR, because it let me record and take notes so I could share with you.

Friendships in general have been shown to be beneficial. They lead to better health and a longer life. An Australian study revealed that those with the strongest social ties had the lowest risk of obesity, depression and heart disease. Friends are more important than family, though family isn't unimportant. Contact with family, especially for senior citizens, helps them avoid disabilities and improves longevity.

It's not about having a thousand friends on Facebook though or having a packed social calendar. It's all about the type of relationships you have, and here's a rundown of that Today show feature:

1. A childhood friend -- A friend from your childhood knows the real you -- the essential you. This kind of friend is very centering. As the Today show host said, "No one knows you like those who knew you then." Today's mobile society has left many women living far away from their childhood home, but social networking sites like Facebook can help you reconnect with your neighborhood pals. Or you can do it the old-fashioned way and write or telephone.

2. A new friend -- A new friend opens you to new experiences. They have no pre-conceived notions about you and will often challenge you and give you new perspectives on life. The thing about a new friend is that he or she doesn't stay new for long, so you need to be constantly making new friends to keep yourself out of a rut.

3. A work-out friend -- We all know that regular exercise is good for us, and doing it with a friend makes you accountable.

4. A spiritual friend -- A six-year study at Duke University showed that people who pray or meditate in some way were 50% less likely to die over the course of the study. They expanded that conclusion to say that prayer or meditation can improve your lifespan period. The emotional life you get most likely manifests itself physically as well. Being involved with others in a spiritual way, either through a church, a yoga group, a meditation class, et cetera, offers you resiliency and a connection unlike any other.

5. A younger friend -- Feeling needed is essential to happiness, and many women get that feeling through nurturing or mothering. But when your children are grown and you're no longer needed as a mom, having younger friends can fulfill that need to nurture and keep you current.

6. A partner's friend -- Family and social life intertwine to make a happier marriage.

So I took the list and tallied up the kinds of friends I have and I was able to check off 4 of the 6.

I've recently touched base again with a woman who lived down the street from me when I was growing up. Like me, her children are grown and she's a grandmother. We've just begun reconnecting, but it's been fun to see where the years have led us.

Back in the fall, I attended a divorce/grief recovery group and aside from the great help I received with regard to my emotional well-being, I came out of the experience with five new friends. We get together fairly regularly and try not to talk divorce all the time. We've been out to eat, watched the Christmas tree lighting at the mall, attended a Christmas service at the University of the South and had a slumber party afterward and helped each other move and set up new abodes. I've only known these women since September, but I now count them as dear friends.

Work-out friends. Uhm... let's skip that one. My list of goals for 2010 contained a resolve to get more exercise so let's hope a new friend comes along with it.

I joined a new church a few weeks before Christmas. I'd wandered away from church over the past years and decided to reconnect with the denomination I was raised in. It's a small congregation but a friendly and welcoming one. There isn't any one individual I've connected with (yet) but I've felt a definite connection with the congregation as a whole. I enjoy the minister's sermons and frequently find myself taking notes so I'll remember something he said. The choir is small but talented and the organist is just fabulous. She plays lots of complicated Bach fugues and I'm in awe of her skill.

I think the photo illustrating #5 pretty well explains about my younger friends. I could have given birth to all of them. While I try very, very hard not to play the "Mama card," occasionally I find myself offering advice based on years of experience. And they do their best to keep me in touch with all things current. I mean, a woman closing in on sixty can only dress so young before she crosses the line from fashionable to ridiculous. The Playfriends help me stay on the right side of that line.

And as for the last one, it's a slippery slope and one I'll have to negotiate carefully.

Friends are essential. They have a positive effect on mood and self-esteem, and they offer support in tough times and suggest ways to cope. They like you because they want to, not because they have to. And a REALLY good friend will be right there in the jail cell beside you saying, "Oh my gosh, wasn't that fun!?!?!"

Do you have all 6 kinds of friends?

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Today's question addresses the Playfriends' appreciation of handsome men. Name one of the men residing in the Locker Room at the Writing Playground site.

Have fun!


CC MacKenzie said...

Morning girls

I tick four of those boxes.

I don't have a work-out friend, I prefer to do that myself for 'thinking' time.
And I've lost touch with my childhood friends due to relocating sixteen times (yes, sixteen) with my husband's job.

The upside is I have many, many close friends dotted around the world.

Great Blog.


Jane said...

I have 4 out of the 6, too. It's always exciting to meet new people and I cherish my old friends, ones that I met in school and at work.

Maven Linda said...

I have an old friend from grade school. Still get together with her when we can. She'll be my friend until one of us dies.

I have a new friend, a casual acquaintance who has gradually become more.

I have a work-out friend: Molly, my Golden Retriever. She gets me out for a walk about every two hours.

I have a spiritual friend. I don't meditate as much as I'd like, but I pray every day even if it's just a simple "Thank you." I need to get more involved, though.

I have younger friends :-).

Not so sure about number 6. My husband's friends tend to be fishermen, and they're a group unto themselves. So maybe half a check-mark on this one.

So I guess I'm at five and a half. And this doesn't count the very dear friends who aren't in these categories but who make up a huge part of my life.

Lynn Raye Harris said...

I guess I have about 4 of these. But the problem for me has always been the lifestyle - moving around means you lose touch, and it also means you are reluctant to form new ties because you know you'll be leaving them too. I struggle with that, even though I'm planted now. If I seem stand-offish sometimes, it's habit more than anything. Habit due to years of moving and starting over. Makes it hard to let down your guard enough to connect.

But I definitely value all my HOD friends! They enrich my life. :)

Andrea Laurence AKA Smarty Pants said...

I have most of these. I'm still close with a friend I've had since 5th grade. We don't have to talk often to stay that way, either. We just are.

HOD helps with the new friends. There's always new people.

I have a workout friend. We have, however, taken a winter hiatus since we walk outside.

Because of the way my high school was, a lot of my friends were in the class under me, so several of them are younger. That's probably it though, cause I'm usually the baby.

DB's friends... well, we try, but he does much better (now, at least) socializing with my friends and their husbands.

I guess I'm lacking on spiritual friends. I'm just not in that place. I have been, I'm just not now.

Angel said...

I definitely struggle with the new friend thing. As an introvert, I have a difficult time letting new people into my circle. They practically have to fall into my lap and really click. I'm not going to go searching for them. So that's a tough one.

I had lunch yesterday with a woman who has been my friend since I was 12. She was my youth pastor at that age and we've been through babies (hers and then mine), marriage (she was one of my bridesmaids), job and church changes, her kids leaving the nest, and many life shake-ups. We don't get to see each other often, but when we do it is as if we were never apart. I love her very much and am so grateful to have that person who knows me so well and still loves me. :)


Maven Beverly Barton said...

I have four -- maybe five -- of the six. Five if you count persuading your husband to walk with you ever day now that he is retired as a work-out buddy. I count you Children and other young members of HOD as my young friends. And although they are family, I think of my daughter and daughter-in-law as my young friends, too. My closest and dearest friend is my cousin. She and I have been best friends since we were in diapers. I have a new friend and several old friends with whom I have reconnected in the past year. Friends are a huge part of my life and some who are near and dear to me don't necessarily fit into any specific category. They're sort of friends for all sesaons.

Problem Child said...

Does this mean I need to go find these friends if I can't check the box? I barely have time for the friends I have *now* -- how will I make time for new ones?

Unless "acquaintances" can count. More than strangers, but not what I'd call real friends -- those I have and I could pick up a few more, if I needed to...

Playground Monitor said...

I think we're all looking pretty good in the friends department.

I agree about moving making it difficult to form new friendships and making you reluctant to do so. Been there, done that for a while.

Kira Sinclair - AKA Instigator said...

I think new friends is really the hardest category for me. I may be an extrovert but I find comfort and security in the group of friends that I've got which means I rarely go out with the idea of finding more. I need to work on that. And the workout friend.


Linda Winstead Jones said...

Hmm. I don't keep up with childhood friends very well. Years away from home, moving around a lot, took care of that, I'm afraid. Unless I can count my brother and sister (who are friends, relatives or not. :-)) there's no one who fits into that category. But I'm pretty good on the other five. Not *close* friends with any of the DH's buds, but there are a couple I'd call friends.

Interesting. I never thought to divide my friends into categories and see what was missing. But I can definitely see how each type brings something different to the table.


Unknown said...

I have about four of these! I still keep in touch with a friend that I meet when I was four years old. We were like sister's back then but we still keep in touch today!

Michele L. said...

I have 4 of these friends also. Gosh, I love all of my friends they are so nice and would help me out if I needed them. I loved your blog today!

Jackie said...

This is my favorite post so far and I have 3 out of 6. My childhood friend is still on my speed dial and when she is available we talk, she has 2 jobs so time is limited. I have a new friend who is also qualified as a younger friend as 10 years age difference, she is my cousin and we chat when time permits for her as single mom and when she is not working has things planned with her daughter. My other younger friend lives near Dallas Texas so at this point we are email and Facebook friends but do still keep in touch.
I used to have a spiritual friend but over the years due to moving away and losing touch no longer do, since not a church goer anymore due to life and job duties have to make do with appreciating the beauty provided by God in nature and it soothes my soul more than any service have ever attended!

gigi said...

I hate to say it but I don't have many friends anymore. When I married years ago we all kind of went our separate ways.
When I became a mother I threw myself into that role. Now that the girls are grown it has turned into me taking care of my aging mother.
My husband is my best friend. My best girlfriend I had while the kids were growing up finds herself in the same boat as I am with taking care of the parents.
I have a handful of good friends on the internet that I have met over the past 8 years.
WE always seem to rally for each other in crisis and good times.