Guest post by Stephanie Betzold
Lately, I‘ve been thinking a lot about my childhood friends, best friends, fading friends and new friends, the seasons of friendship and how I personally define friend and friendship.
Retired for two years now, I have taken advantage of the gift of time to think about my life. I’m more aware of the many things for which I am grateful, and each morning I express my gratitude for my health, my home, the beauty of nature, my family and friends.
My confusion and recent sadness about friends presented when my best friend of 56 years, DK of Baltimore, sent an e-mail saying: “I’m so glad you’re making new friends and getting out. It takes a lot of pressure off me and is a relief. I know that sounds bitchy, but it’s true.”
I stared at the words, burst into tears, and reached up to fire off a snarky, “Sorry I’ve been such a burden to you!” Fortunately, I hesitated, thought about it and (kind of) understood. My news of taking classes, and meeting new people, was a relief to her. She no longer worried about me as much as she had over the past twelve years following my husband’s sudden death.
This followed an incident that occurred last summer following the annual visit of my Virginia friend of 45 years. Over the past several years, the visits became strained (for me.) In an effort to be the new, work-in-progress, brave and authentic me I told her that her verbal jabs were hurtful and puzzling. She was shocked and replied, “life is too short.” We have not spoken since.
So, I turned to writing for understanding and hopefully clarity on how to negotiate friendship. Being a literal woman, I began with the dictionary, which simply states – “a person whom one knows, likes and trusts.” I then turned to the thesaurus–companion, ally, playmate, soul mate; and antonyms: stranger, foe, enemy.
Next, quotations for inspiration:
“One friend in a lifetime is much, two are many; three are hardly possible.”– Henry Brooks Adams
“True friendship is like sound health; the value of it is seldom known until it be lost.” –Charles Caleb Colton
“It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Next I considered the cycle of and opportunities to “make friends” throughout our lives:
There are the friends we make as children: classmates, playmates especially from our neighborhood who played tag, rode bikes, played in the woods, made forts, caught tadpoles, played jacks, hopscotch, tetherball; friends we make in our post-secondary years: party-mates; dorm-mates; friends we make in our workplace/career: commiserate-mates, water-cooler-mates; friends we make when newly married and starting families; friends we make through our children and school: play-date parents; sport team parents; friends who share hobbies or enjoy the same sports or activities.
As we age and life circumstances change, we can make new friends who share the same interests and whom you can invite to go for a walk, a movie, a cup of coffee or maybe a day trip. It’s just more difficult, not like joining a neighborhood game of tag. And sadly, time is running out to make new, old friends.
I guess it is to be expected that throughout our lives friendships will ebb and flow and sadly, end. I remain perplexed by how to maneuver changing relationships. Without a doubt friends are the most rare and special of gifts in our lives, and I want to get better at this!
Or, maybe I should get a dog!
Stephanie, newly retired, enjoys the gift of time. She loves to write, paint in watercolor, read, walk, and work on how to enjoy her life in retirement.