When the daughter of an old friend popped by for a visit, I couldn’t have been more pleased. Now in her early twenties, her energy, enthusiasm, and spirited good nature were contagious.
When someone I know from the online world went out of her way to meet me when I asked, and then lent a hand with a few tasks I’m not up to (still nursing a bothersome back), I was delighted. Virtual friendships are a gift, and as they move into our real lives, even more so.
There was coffee and laughter and, yes, girl talk ensued.
Girl talk. Such a quaint expression. And such a vital and pleasurable activity!
Get Off the Island!
The value of old friends?
There are many reasons to value shared history, well-established bonds, and the mutual trust that comes with the years. But we shouldn’t forget that injecting a dose of the ‘new’ — new interests, places, ideas and people — is thoroughly energizing.
Although the logistics of making new friends at certain stages in life can be complicated, this doesn’t mean we wouldn’t benefit from that ‘yes’ to an invitation from a new acquaintance, ‘yes’ to that Facebook Group that meets in person monthly, ‘yes’ to volunteering to work with children or teens or our elders. And of course, making an offer to someone else who may hesitate to ask for an assist or an outing, but with relief, will surely respond ‘yes.’
Isn’t each instance of getting off the proverbial island an opportunity for meaningful connections — for others and ourselves? Besides, isn’t it also fun?
Because I’ve had to ask for help these past weeks — help doing laundry, taking out trash, picking up groceries — lessons of independence and interdependence have hit home in new ways. Or rather, ways I tend to forget, like so many of us, in the usual hustle bustle of ‘good times’ however hectic, as we go about our business full speed ahead.
Gal Pals and Fine Friends
One of the reasons I love the HBO series Sex and the City is the friendships among the four main characters. I enjoy them vicariously; at times I watch with envy. When I have good women in my life, even the most difficult days feel better. And the good days? Fantastic!
I am reminded that great women have generally been a constant and positive influence in my life, and I hope, I have been the same in theirs. And these are not just any women — my circles, while not large, have been comprised of smart women of different ages — women who are book smart, street smart, people smart. And, may I add, these are smart women with big hearts.
I recognize blurry years (post-divorce) when the basics of everyday survival consumed literally all my time. In some cases, I was the one who took distance or fell out of touch. In other cases, a sort of polite and gradual banishment from the ‘still marrieds’ occurred. Divorce, for some of us, creates an irreparable rift not only in families, but even among the closest female friends.
Those topics of conversation? Relationships, sex, kids, jobs, the desire to change jobs, travel, politics, extended family, fashion, music, art. And invariably, directly or indirectly, our dreams.
Shoes? (That, too!)
Is girl talk different from guy talk?
Stereotypically, I’d say yes, though perhaps less than we may expect when we share a range of interests. Still, I believe girl talk is more inward facing, more broadly relational, and rarely are the features of a vehicle the subject of an afternoon…
Giving Is the Best Cure for Not Having
For some of us, without giving of ourselves, we feel as if a piece of what defines us has gone AWOL. Whatever state or status we find ourselves in, we still need to give: love, support, listening, a hand held, an idea considered, a meal offered, advice suggested, our companionable quiet — extended and accepted.
For some of us in Empty Nest, much as we are relieved to have managed through the tedium and fatigue inherent in 20 or more years of daily parenting, we miss the purpose and pleasure in giving to our children.
All the more reason to be there, however we can, for friends, for neighbors, and yes, for strangers.
It is often assumed that women judge other women harshly, ruled by comparisons and competition. Backstabbing is thought to be the norm. Happily, most of my life, I haven’t experienced this phenomenon, though as I’ve grown older, I’ve observed it in the online world.
What I know: We are all well served to step outside our own issues and practice a few basics, as they were practiced by our grandmothers. A simple application of ‘do unto others’ is often an excellent start.
New Friends at Any Age
Listening to my friend’s sassy, smart, creative and compassionate daughter talk about her dreams — the dreams of a 23-year-old — it was my turn to listen, nod, ask questions, play Devil’s Advocate. We spoke as women do, though separated by a generation. I loved hearing her stories; I think she loved feeling so at ease.
We are never too old to reach out, to offer our hands in friendship, and to enjoy the reciprocal satisfaction of giving to those who need us, listening to those who may open our minds, and understanding that we always bring insight from the perspective of our differing experience. To be generous in these simple ways costs us nothing, and gives everyone involved a great deal.
On the subject of asking for help, it’s easier for some than for others. When you have asked those closest to you — family — and been refused, asking anyone else is that much more difficult, but it isn’t impossible. Nor should we forget that friends become our chosen family, and the capacity to choose and appreciate them is up to us.
These days, I must remind myself that if I ask for help occasionally, this allows others the satisfaction of giving, just as it has always been important to me to give. I am also immeasurably grateful for the good fortune in my life, recognizing it in abundance.
It can be a challenge when deciding to move from virtual to ‘real world,’ but thus far, I haven’t been disappointed. And mixing up the generations? It is illuminating, motivating, rejuvenating. And if you’re lucky, as I have been of late, the bubbly, boisterous, and uplifting exchange known as girl talk will ensue.
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