This is the third installment of my ongoing series related to my experiences going through midlife. I’ve learned a lot, and I like to share. Each one teach some is what I like to say.
As a former foster kid, I had to rely on the kindness of complete strangers (of all ethnic backgrounds) to get me where I am today. They taught me, shaped me, molded me, kept me, fed me, supported me, and cared for me at different times throughout my life. The one thing I always struggled with how to make and keep good friends.
When I was younger, it seems no matter how good I was to others, I never got the same in return. I was so easy to grandfather people in who did not deserve to be included in a friend pool. As a young, unattached adult, I had to learn the difference between friends and acquaintances (or associates). I also had to learn how much of myself to give or share.
Eventually, I learned how to weed and feed (weed out the bad ones and cultivate/feed my relationships that demonstrated worthiness). I am Southern, so I don’t meet many strangers. But somehow, I always manage to meet “good” people. People that at some time in life you may need to recollect. I often tend to be the same for others. I work hard at being memorable, and at times useful.
As a former foster kid, I understand that I may never know who I may need to help me, and I never know when the day or hour shall arise. I live my life by this motto. I cannot afford to be racist. Many people have helped me along my journey, and for that I am ever so grateful.
As I’ve gotten older, change careers, began traveling more, my friend and associate pools have changed quite a bit. My best friend is still my best friend. That won’t change. We’ve been friends for over 15 years and she is one of the nicest, most loyal people I know. She is the youngest of 10, and just a gem. We met a work years ago, and she knew me from my partying days. We are opposites, which make our relationship so hilarious. She’s the good girl, and I am the bad one. I am the fearless one, and she is the fearful one. She is the reserved, safe lady, and I am the dare devil, risk taking fool. We love each other, respect our differences, and we often agree to disagree.
She is my saving grace. No matter what either of us have gone through (and we both have gone through lots of stuff), we are there for one another. Financially, physically, and emotionally. Got secrets or thoughts, you can share them and know they won’t go anywhere. We have each other’s back. I got married, she was there. I got divorced, she was there. She got divorced, I was there. Her parents passed, I was there. Financial issues, we both were there for each other at different times. People like that are so hard to find today. She’s genuine true and through.
I moved to another state when I was with my ex-husband due to his job. We were newly empty nesters (we raised three sons, the last one left for college the year we moved), and embarked on our next life (i.e retirement goals). Well, things didn’t go as we planned. My husband worked more, and was at home less, and I was all alone.
I joined different groups looking for the right mix of people or at least one person who could understand my complex life and be a physical friend or acquaintance in my new state. I joined Meetups to find groups with similar interest. It didn’t work out well, but I eventually found a foodies group on Facebook. From that group and a chance meeting, I met a lady who would come into my life and literally save me.
She was divorced and had moved to the state to restart her new life as well. Like me, she was having a hard time finding true friends. She is 60 years old, never had any children, single, and lonely. She longed for good old companionship. Like me, she complained that retirees and people her age all were in some sort of silly competition with each other. They were more worried about who had the biggest boat, how could she afford to live the way she did all alone, who had the nicest car, who ate at the best restaurants, etc. We had a chance to connect after a meeting and ended up sharing a few superficial facts about each other. Many of the women in her circles had their own issues. They hated their lives, but were trapped for one reason or another (primarily financial dependence on there husbands).
Our spirits clicked at once. Eventually, we started getting together every other week, going to the beach, having lunch or catching happy hour. During this time, we shared lots of things about ourselves and learned how different (by way of race) we were, yet in many ways we were the same (i.e. going through friendship droughts, marriage issues, family situations, etc.
Little did I know how valuable her friendship really was to me until I started going through my divorce.
My ex was so cruel. We mutually decided to end the marriage after 10 years, and it was pretty quick. It had been on crutches for a few years, and I had even left once for a 6-month separation. Now that we decided to “take the marriage off of life support” in his own words, he changed.
He was like a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. He was nice one minute, and exceptionally cruel the next. I had decided to leave the family home since I couldn’t afford it alone (he had the larger income), nor did I want the duties and responsibilities any longer of owning a home (i.e. lawn care, replacing broken things, basic maintenance, etc.). I was wife number three and he was attempting to get me out with as little loss as possible. I learned that he was a covert malignant narcissist, so I had already had my ass handed to me royally.
I was just trying to leave with what little pride and self-esteem I had left.
My friend Cindy saved my life. I called and told her how I was pretty much living under duress in a hostile environment. I was a little afraid because his behavior had changed so much since I cut off his supply (attention, wifely duties, cooking and cleaning, and informing of my whereabouts). He was trying to get me to not get an attorney. Trying to get me to leave everything. I moved to the other side of our home because I no longer trusted him. It was the worst time in my life, and I was all alone.
Or so I thought.
After going out to lunch with my friend Cindy and basically breaking down from the weight of all the stress I was under, she invited me into her home to live until I got my life together.
This woman I barely knew gave up her bed for me.
She cooked for me daily.
She never asked me for a penny.
She helped me put my life together during a private, humiliating and trying time.
She was more like a big sister to me instead of a friend that I’d known less than a year. More important to me, she was Italian. I was Black. She didn’t care about my skin color, and no preconceived notions. She cared about me, and my physical safety.
Me at the age of 45 had made a new life-long friend. A complete and total stranger in less than one year had become one of my closest friends. I learned so much from her, and she learned so much from me.
True friends these days are so hard to find. True friends are also very difficult to keep.
Relationships require work, just like a marriage. You don’t have to talk every day, or to see each other every week, but you definitely need a strong connection
What I’ve learned from my move, divorce, and friendship:
It doesn’t matter how old you are, just know that you need good people in your life. Maybe not every day, and maybe not all of the time, but you will need someone. The only difference is when we get older, we need fewer people. Find a few good men and women. Keep them close, no matter how far away.
Make time to meet new people, and take time to connect with kindred spirits. Sometimes there are people you instantly connect with for some reason. The reason(s) for the divine connection may not appear right away, but eventually it will manifest.
Treat friends and associates accordingly. Some people don’t deserve your time and effort. Learn the difference between and friend and an acquaintance and make sure that not to elevate acquaintances without the appropriate vetting first. There is no timetable. You just know.
Value people that value you. Forget how much money a person makes, or where they went to college, what kind of job they have, or what kind of home they live in. Will this person pick you up on the side of the road if you broke down? If you were stranded out of town, would the help you? If you have a problem and you need to vent, do this listen and offer honest sound advice (no matter how much you hate it)?
Be kind to yourself. You deserve to have people in your life. If you’re in bad marriages, isolated from other people, or simply single and childless by choice, you need good, faithful, loyal friends. The older you become, the more important friends and social connections will be for you.
Community and family are the keys to successful aging. People work hard, save money for retirement, move/relocate to their dream homes, and give little thought to making new friends, keeping in touch with old friends, getting immersed into their new communities, and growing old. If you want to grow old and be happy, make friends and meaningful community connections. Your longevity depends on it.
Developing friendships and sisterhoods (or brotherhoods) are vital to good mental hygiene. I was married to a guy whose whole world revolved around me. Retired from the military, transient, never made an effort to make friends. Work and his career were his life. When he hit the age of 55, he had no friends to go fish with, hang out with, etc. He just went crazy. I was everything, except I wanted to do other things that he didn’t like. It was a constant conflict. With age, people change and grow. Respect that! People should be able to change and grow, and your friend or acquaintance pool should reflect such. Failing to find good friends and failing to maintain those relationship is harmful long-term.
Limit friends with drama. I know sometimes people have issues. We all do at some point in our lives. But we are too old at this stage in life for BS! The same applies to you. Keep YOUR BS to a minimum. No one wants someone who always has problems, is always gossiping, is always poor-mouthing, always sick or ill (unless your really are), and always seeking attention. Friends with lots of drama are not a pleasure to be around. They are also bad for your physical and mental health. Be sure to keep friends with drama to a limited number. One is PLENTY!
Also of note, some people have undiagnosed mental health issues which they are in denial about. Listen and watch for signs of this, and guard your gates carefully. While these people do need support and friends, often times their unwillingness to accept treatment makes it nearly impossible to have relationships with them. If everyone is always doing something to them and they are always the victim…………back away slowly.
You will wish you did cut and run quickly if you don’t. I guarantee it!
Lastly but most importantly,
Be the kind of friend you want to have in your own life. Being a crappy friend will get you the same at best. Alone at worst. Be good to the right people, and they will be good to you. Also, be kind to strangers. A kind stranger today could be your best friend tomorrow. Be true to yourself. Authenticity is important. Allow people to get to know the real you. Hopefully you have figured out who you are by now.
Aging is amazing, and interesting. We find ourselves. Hopefully during the process, we found some friends. If you haven’t, it’s not too late. Get out and make friends today.
Please feel free to ask questions and comment below. Your feedback is welcomed and appreciated. Thanks for reading!