Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Awesome Article!

Although I am not 40 yet, I am quickly approaching. This article caught my eye and I THOROUGHLY enjoyed reading it.

I guess I make friends easily but sometimes I find it so hard to keep in touch with everyone...I am always reminded, however, in one way or another that making and keeping friends is work.

I guess this article reminded me of that and I thought it would be helpful to share. I know some people in my life that will benefit from this and thoroughly enjoy it as well!

Making Friends at 40
A writer reflects that she knew plenty by the age of forty — except how to make friends. Here's how to make a friend when you aren't a kid any more.

By Julia Litton


Several years ago I won two passes to a very girly movie. I asked my husband to go with me.

"Free!" I noted.

"Not free enough," he replied. "They would have to pay me, and even then — no."

I thought about whom else I could invite, and there was no one. My first reaction was shock — I was almost 40 and didn't have one female friend within a thousand-mile radius. My second reaction was sadness. I missed having women in my life.

I had not always been like this. As a child, I worked at finding ways to connect. In my kindergarten class there was a girl named Carrie who had blonde pigtails and a smile that made you want to be near her. So I cautiously courted her. I offered to share whatever I thought she might enjoy. I asked if she had brothers or sisters or pets. I told her I liked her boots. And eventually my efforts were reciprocated. I understood from this that to be friends, you need to be generous with your time, belongings, and affection, and I knew that every exertion was worth it.

Over the years, I lost that understanding. I placed romantic pursuit and career goals before friendship, and my female friends fell away. At first I hardly noticed the loss. My 20s passed as I changed jobs and cities, bought a house, and nurtured my marriage . When I went out for drinks, I went with my husband. When I went shoe shopping, I asked the woman sitting next to me what she thought: the red ones or the black?
I worked, traveled, and felt as if my life was full. Gradually, though, I realized that something was off — my day-to-day existence felt lopsided. My husband made friends in our new city, and whenever he went on some testosterone-fueled adventure, I'd stay home. I'd think, Huh, I need to get out more. I should join a club, take a class, meet some people. But I never did.

Then — almost in a blink — I found myself 15 years older with two movie tickets and no one to call. The big 4-0 was looming, and what for years had been a vague sense that I was lacking something emerged as a full-blown crisis. I could no longer deny that there was a painful void in my life.
Forty is like that: Even from a distance it stops you, shakes you out, and asks, "Where have you been? Where are you going?" The truth is I was lonely. I loved my husband and family but longed for the sensible camaraderie and silly companionship you experience only with girlfriends.

Those longings intensified when we moved to the countryside after my son was born and I became a stay-at-home mom. The isolation made me desperate to have women in my daily life again. But I had no idea how to begin. I'd take my son to the playground and try to chat with the other moms, but it was awkward. I think I seemed too eager — leaping from small talk to wanting to exchange email addresses or plan play dates right away.
I also tried to befriend our neighbors, including a woman with grown children and one who hadn't yet started a family. I extended dinner invitations and sought gardening advice but didn't pursue things when my overtures weren't returned. I think I felt that a new friend's life should look like mine; I wanted someone who knew the tedium of helping a 2-year-old use the monkey bars. I forgot that making friends wasn't all about my needs.

At one neighborhood gathering, two women discussed the local book club to which they both belonged. I said, "Hey, I like books! I like to drink wine!" When they didn't invite me to join, I pushed the matter. What a mistake. They were a tight-knit group, and I was the intruder. I dropped out, embarrassed and hurt.

Then I signed up for a moms' club sponsored by the school district. My first class consisted of 10 best friends from childhood ... and me. It was like the book club all over again. The second class brought together the most vocal proponents of every possible parenting style. I dropped out mid-semester, a casualty of the Great Potty Training Wars. The women in the third class I tried were a better fit for me, casual and easygoing. I didn't make intimate friends there, but I did try to focus less on my desire to connect and more on getting to know people.
When my son started preschool , my social circle widened. Although we'd all started as strangers in September, by Thanksgiving most of the moms had divided into cozy little groups. My instinct was to say, "Please be my friend too!" But I'd learned from my mistakes. I took my time. I found one woman I really liked, and I asked her to lunch. I offered to take her kids for her so she could go to an appointment. And when I told her I liked her boots, we went to the shoe store to see if they had anything equally fabulous for me.

Turns out I made a friend. I love that I now have someone in my life who can lend me an egg, explain the European Union, listen when I need to vent, and find it hysterical that I accidentally set the oven on fire.

After that initial connection, I forged others. Now I think of making friends as an ongoing process. Some attempts have worked, others haven't; but every interaction has felt like a victory. For me the approach to friendship at 40 has been a struggle to relearn what seemed obvious when I was 5: Be patient, pay attention, stay open, and give.

How far I've come crystallized for me when I was pregnant with twins and went into preterm labor. As I listened to discharge instructions that included strict bed rest (while caring for my then-5-year-old), I started to cry. But my new friends had things under control. They organized carpools, brainstormed after-school care, and developed a schedule for meal delivery. For 13 weeks, they took care of us. It is a debt I can probably never repay, but I look forward to being able to try.

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