I’ve been thinking a lot about friendships recently as I struggle in my “new to me” small town. Honestly, it’s on my mind all the time. I think about what kind of friend am I, what do I value in a friend, and how do I make my friendships more meaningful? Apparently I’m not the only one. In listening to Jen Hatmaker’s Podcast For the Love Episode 3 she interviews Shasta Nelson on this exact issue of friendship and what Shasta calls “friendtimacy.” Shasta explains
In fact, 75 percent of women say that they want better friendships; that 75 percent of us are disappointed with the friendships we have and that we don’t feel as close to the friends we want…. So, 75 percent of us; we kind of live in this belief that we’re the only ones that need it and that everyone else has found it. That’s simply not true.
I think I secretly knew this–that I’m not alone. Shasta saw this need for women to have more meaningful friendships and created Girlfriendcircles.com to teach women how to make friends through monthly classes as well as an online place for connections and community. Most of us haven’t been taught friendship. There is no manual to it, and starting from our grade school days we jump into friendship not knowing much at all and quickly learn it’s a fend for yourself mentality.
Needless to say, I’m intrigued and looked into what else has been said or written about friendships. Dean Ornish, MD is a clinical professor of medicine at the University of California, San Diego and founder of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute. His research focuses on diet and the least talked about hidden killer–loneliness. He states, “I’m not aware of any other factor in medicine-not diet, not smoking, not exercise, not stress, not genetics, not drugs, not surgery-that has a greater impact (than love and intimacy) on our quality of life, incidence of illness, and premature death from all causes.” Friendships and connections are a strong desire for the majority of us, but they are literally a matter of life and death. Billy Baker, journalist for The Boston Globe, wrote an article on isolation in March of this year that went viral– “The biggest threat facing middle aged men isn’t smoking or obesity. It’s loneliness.” The title says it all. Baker’s article echoes the same sentiment–that loneliness is a public health concern with dangerous outcomes. Yet there is a stigma associated with loneliness. A stigma of being a loser.
Wow. If it isn’t cool to be lonely, then we aren’t going to share with someone that we need a friend, and therefore adversely affect our health now and in the future. That is a lot to take in. I am definitely convinced that my need for developing friendships and connectedness should be my new priority.
As I chatted with a friend of mine this morning on this very subject, we discussed how people are generally afraid of vulnerability and intimacy, yet it is exactly what we really desire. She is a woman who knows exactly who she is and is not fearful of showing that to others. She is willing to meet people where they are and interacts with them in a way that shows the other person that she is there to show up to the friendship. I left our engagement feeling inspired, and with a bounce in my step. I am ready to show up–watch out future friends, here I come.
Your fellow traveler,