I never had a sister. As the older sibling to two boys, my childhood was spent dodging mud pies, swinging from trees and washing dirty clothes. Ok, I’m not really complaining. I love my brothers dearly. The point that I’m making here is that I never understood the power and value of sisterhood until much later in my life.
So much of our life is spent trying to please other people. While some women are able to find the strength to truly be themselves at every stage in their lives, the majority of us feel compelled to care what other people think along the way.
But, regardless of how we got here, the good news is that, now that we are in our 60s, we all have the opportunity to be who we really are.
Have you ever thought about the fact that, for most of our lives, the majority of our friends are “accidental?” When we are children, we choose our friends from among the other kids in our classes. When we join the workforce, our colleagues form the backbone of our social life. When we become parents, our life becomes an intricate dance of sports events, sleep overs camping trips and family dinners.
Have you ever noticed how difficult it is to change other people? This is true even in loving relationships, where both people have an incentive to listen and respond to their partner’s needs. It is especially true for our friends and acquaintances who, while they may care for us, are mostly interested in getting the most from their own lives.
As we reach our 60s, many of us find that our social circumstances are changing. Our kids, once the center of our lives, are grown up and are pursuing their own dreams. Our careers are either winding down or changing dramatically. Many of us are dealing with a divorce or separation. As a result, many baby boomers find themselves having to make new friends again for the first time in years.
It’s every parent’s worst nightmare. You’re sitting in your living room, waiting for your child to come home. They’re 5 minutes late. Then 15. Then the panic sets in.
As parents, we wanted to do everything we could to protect our kids from our own imagined fears. If we could have surrounded them in bubble-wrap and assigned them bodyguards, we would have. But, since our kids would never let us get away with that, we did the next best thing. We nagged, bribed, threatened and cajoled them. We told them, in a hundred different ways, “Don’t talk to strangers.” Then, we hoped for the best.
What is friendship? It’s a harder question than you think. When you think about the phrase “making friends,” what images come into your mind?
Making friends as an adult is always difficult, but, it’s not until we reach our 50s and 60s that things really start to get interesting.
For most of our lives, our friendships follow our social context. As kids, our lives are filled with schoolmates, neighbors and teammates. As parents, we follow our kids to BBQs, sports events and school activities. When we are building our careers, our co-workers are a constant source of social contact – even if we wish that they weren’t.
One of the challenges when it comes to overcoming loneliness is that everyone’s idea of friendship is slightly different. In addition, each of us has a different level of comfort when it comes to social interaction.
Have you noticed how some friends love to be around you when times are good but run for the hills at the first sign of trouble? Were they ever true friends? A few weeks ago, a friend of mine told me about her experience with cancer. Her husband, who was relatively young, was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer and given about a year to live. Over the next 12 months, she did everything that she could to keep him comfortable, before he sadly passed away.