The Importance of Nurturing Our Friendships

October 9, 2012
By

Lucy and Ethel.  Mary and Rhoda.  Emily and Charlotte.  Serena and Venus. 

Real or fictional portrayals of friendships between women have always had a uniquely powerful impact on me.  Believe it or not, when I watched reruns of I Love Lucy as a child, I looked past the comedy and delighted in seeing the solid friendship between Lucy Ricardo and Ethel Mertz.  That sparked something within me to hope I’d someday find my own true friendship.  As a pre-teen, watching The Mary Tyler Moore Show’s comedic yet poignant relationship between Mary and Rhoda strengthened my hope of having a friend who will love me for who I am, unconditionally. Of course we’d have tons of fun together along the way!

Meg, Jo, Elizabeth and Amy March

I have two wonderful brothers who have been there for me during good times and bad. Yet I always yearned for a sisterly relationship with a friend like Lucy had with Ethel.  I know, I know–it’s fiction!  But writers base their stories on what they know.  What they know is that female friends are able to share a commitment with each other in a purely platonic manner throughout their lifetime.   They can share their life experiences and love each other no matter what stupid, idiotic, exciting or wonderful things they may do.

Gloria Steinem and Bella Abzug     Shiprah and Puah (Old Testament)

I have been blessed with three such friendships.  At the tender age of three I met my first best friend swinging on her swingset in her backyard–we had fun growing up together in our Mayberryish town.  Seven years later I met two more best friends–identical twins who were new in town.  As identical twins they, of course, look the same; I treasure them individually for who they are and what they separately mean to me.  Together, these three friends are my sisters–ones who have weathered the storm of peer pressure, boyfriends, proms, college, first jobs, marriage and menopause.  We are our true selves when we chat with one another–whether we are good or bad, rich or poor, sick or well. We live all over the map, but I know that on any given day I can call them and we pick up where we last left off.  We are each other’s cheering section, and a shoulder to cry on when we need one.  I would do anything for them and I know they would do the same for me.  They ground me in who I am, where I came from and who I want to be.  If I have a bad day, or a good one, they enter into my thoughts because they are always with me in spirit, as I am with them.  If people can go through life with at least one friend (aside from their spouse/partner) they can consider themselves lucky.  I’ve been lucky three times!  This is a rarity these days in our fast-paced world.  It is something I never take for granted.

Dorothy Zbornak, Sophia Petrillo, Blanche DeVereaux & Rose Nyland   

To me true friendship must have three distinct qualities: honesty, trust and loyalty.   You can have casual friends who may or may not have any of these qualities, sharing a commonality that enables you to enjoy certain activities together.  For example, one friend may be your tennis buddy; another may frequent museums or attend the theater with you, and still another may be the one you take walks with.  We all have different needs with friends and acquaintances, and those needs may or may not change as we age.  It’s all what we are comfortable with.  What is important to me in a true friendship may not be what is important to you. We are all different!

Thelma and Louise   Mystic Pizza   Steel Magnolias   Stage Door

Over the years I have had some hard lessons with friendship – some were more difficult than others.  There are some people who proclaim they are your friend, yet despite all of your best efforts you never hear from them again.  Others tell you they miss spending time with you and promise to call soon, but never do.  Still others you have wonderful times with, yet despite your best efforts to reach out to them they make little effort to contact you.  I’ve felt hurt, betrayed, disappointed and sad.  I’ve questioned myself and whether I said something wrong, or wondered whether it was a flaw within me that was unappealing.  I finally learned a very important lesson that comes from the book The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz.  It says, “Be impeccable with your word. Don’t take anything personally. Don’t make assumptions. Always do your best.”  Sage advice from a tiny book – I highly recommend taking the time to read it.

“Some people go to priests; others to poetry; I to my friends.” ~Virginia Woolf

I try to remember the advice from The Four Agreements when people come in and out of my life.  Yes, it would be wonderful to have a Lucy or a Mary live next door so we could share a cup of coffee and chat the hours away.  It would also be lovely to have people always treat us with the respect and honesty we deserve. But I have come to believe that people come into our lives for a reason, and they leave them for a reason.  (We all have had friends from different stages of our life – when we are children, teens, parents, empty nesters and seniors; situations change and our lives get busy in different directions) The truth is, life is as imperfect as we are.  What is important is that to live a life of good quality we must take the time to tend to our true friendships as we tend to our health.  This is what matters to me, because I want to live my life with the friends I choose to have in my life, and we will be the caretaker’s of each other’s soul with each passing year.  In the end, the quality of our friendships will truly affect our good health (See the article at Mayo Clinic on how friendships enrich your life and improve your health) and we will be the beneficiaries of unconditional love along with honesty, trust, loyalty and, ultimately, good health.

“A friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still, gently allows you to grow.” ~William Shakespeare

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7 Responses to The Importance of Nurturing Our Friendships

  1. Gabrielle Seekely on October 9, 2012 at 12:09 pm

    Wonderful and important message. Thank you!

  2. Lisa Romeo on October 9, 2012 at 1:38 pm

    Lovely post, Cathy. Even more fun for me to read because I know precisely who you are talking about here!
    I’ve been blessed to have a childhood best friend still living 1/2 mile away. Life as it is means there’s precious little time to sit in each other’s kitchens and chat, but it’s still a comfort.
    Lucy and Ethel forever!

    • Cathy Chester on October 22, 2012 at 11:52 am

      Lisa,

      You are so right – Lucy & Ethel forever! In this fast-paced world we live in, we are blessed to now have the Internet and email to keep us closer to our besties. Websites like BetterAfter50 also keep us connected. Look what it did for us, eh? Here’s a virtual toast to us and our great girlfriends, and to each other.

  3. Meredith Almeida on October 10, 2012 at 5:34 pm

    I loved this article. . . . for it is so full of truth. Tomorrow is my 51st birthday and I am going to print this article out and give it to my dearest friends as my gift to them. A reminder to nurture our relationships moving forward. I do believe that we have gotten better about it in recent years, our children having left home and fewer restrictions on our time; we do occasionally enjoy a Sunday brunch or weeknight dinner out together. I just want us to all remember WE owe it to our 23 years of friendship to make the effort to spend time together.

    Thanks for the article, and the reminder.

    • Cathy Chester on October 22, 2012 at 11:54 am

      Meredith,

      It sounds like you definitely have your priorities in order – keeping up with your friends! We all need them in our life, particularly as we get older and lean more on each other.

      Happiest of birthdays to you, and thanks for printing out my article to pass around to others. You have no idea how gratifying it is to know you enjoyed my article.

      Best to you always,
      Cathy

  4. Marylou on November 1, 2012 at 10:53 am

    I found myself nodding and nodding as I read this. I only wish it were as easy to find new, special women friends at our age. Most of my close girlfriends live miles and miles away! I live in a house filled with boys and often CRAVE female company.

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