I've been thinking a lot about friendship the past few weeks and months and wanted to share a bit of the struggle I have found with finding, nurturing and keeping friendships with women.
Growing up I watched my mother maintain lovely relationships with her women friends. These women were an integral part of our lives, and one became my dear godmother. I longed to emulate her stylish nature and interesting life. She adored cats and devoted a lot of her life to caring for animals and when she died, left a large sum of money to establish an animal shelter which still thrives today. I have similar relationships today, but distance, the shortness of spare time and various other life situations, have me in a spot where I do not have a friend close-by whom I can just call and say "let's do a movie and dinner". I want that and yet, I know I have bailed out on opportunities to have just this sort of friendship. I make excuses....too busy, too tired, etc. Why, I do not know....I ask if it is just the pace of life today, as often I really am very tired. I do consider my children, siblings and my father, to be my dearest and closest friends, so I am not completely alone, and for certain, I have the dearest of all friendships in the love I share with LM, but there is still something missing.
Last year, just before my relationship with LM blossomed, I signed up to take a course at the adult education program where I worked for 24 years. It was done as an effort to strengthen my circle of women friends, as I had felt quite isolated since moving so far out on the Cape. It was a support group for divorced and single women led by a therapist, also divorced. It was a very interesting group of about 15 women. Just weeks before the series of 8 classes began, I had my first date with LM and was well on my way to being madly in love by the time of the first class. I stayed with it, and every class was so enriching. There was comfort to be had among these women who also felt isolated, were struggling with the dating scene, managing life as a single woman, and really needing a network. The hardest part for me was the follow-through, making contact outside the classes and keeping the friendships which blossomed in the class. I am a master of talking myself out of doing things, getting to the point of dread when I have made a commitment, and yet, without fail, when I make the effort and force myself to go out with one friend or a group, I always have fun and reap great rewards. I just don't get why it is so hard to overcome the walls I put up at times.
Anyway, the therapist who led the group seemed, at first, to be standoffish and I wasn't sure whether we had made a contact, but at the last class, she made a point of telling me she would like to get together with me sometime. We made a dinner date and have been having dinner at least once a month since then and it is so nice. I found out that she has some serious health issues she is dealing with - very bravely, and we have formed a nice little friendship. I have come to admire her courage and also her dedication to continue running her classes for women in need....right now she is doing a class on "Women in a life Transition". This lovely friendship has given me a lot and I know it is dear to her as well. She has shared my happiness, and the near tragedy with LM and been an enthusiastic cheerleader for us. Each time I find myself thinking I should just cancel dinner, etc, I remind myself of the gifts of her friendship, right when I needed it, and I know it has done the same for my friend. I just needed to push myself.
Another really nice thing came of pushing myself to enroll and follow through on that class. As I mentioned above, some of us from the class still get together about once a month, and the other women are mostly single and searching. One of them is a lovely 37 year old teacher, and I just happened to know a wonderful 47 year old architect at my job who was also searching...now they are a very happy couple, all because I stepped out of my comfort zone.
This past week, I have been helping a long term friend who had a hip replacement. She lives quite a distance from me, but chose to have her rehab at a great facility here in Chatham. It has been so wonderful to see her each day and sit and chat about all we have experienced together through the years. It will be sad to see her go back home and for us to know we will only see each other a few times a year, but it has reinforced the fact that I need to keep myself open to friendship, to hold out my hand and hope.