Seems like, with every year, we find ourselves regarding our women friends as ever more precious. We’ve learned that our husbands or partners cannot satisfy every need we have for sharing and companionship, but that’s OK because we have friends who share the interests that our partners don’t.
We’ve also stopped comparing and competing in favor of simply appreciating, and we’ve learned that nothing is forever. Right now is the time to savor and embrace friendships.
I never felt this so poignantly as when I was going through my divorce after a 23-year-long marriage.
I was about to turn 50. When I started divorce proceedings, my husband started spreading rumors about me to anyone and everyone who would listen. I didn’t think anyone was going to throw a surprise birthday party for me, you know what I mean?
So, I decided to invite my no-matter-what friends to join me in a cabin in the woods for a weekend of friendship.
That weekend was everything I hoped it would be – relaxation, a long hike, wine at sunset, communal meals that needed no assignment of preparation or clean-up chores. We all just went along and got along.
But the weekend delivered something more than I had expected.
I had brought a basket of questions like: What do you feel most proud of in your life? Describe your most embarrassing moment. When you were five, what did you want to be when you grew up? What’s your biggest regret? If you could retire right this minute, what would you do?
What we learned that night astonished me. One woman was sure she’d gotten into the car with a serial killer at age 19.
He had left the road and was barreling down a dirt path into nowhere, over her protests, when news came over the radio that Bobby Kennedy had been killed. The guy stopped the car. He literally sat staring at the radio. Then he backed up, turned around and drove her home.
Another woman said she’d studied to be a painter, then stopped painting when she had children. She started to cry. “I didn’t realize until just now how much I’ve missed it!”
A different friend revealed that she was struggling with her chronic lateness – a habit that she was teased for which really had caused serious problems in her life.
This was a group of women who had known one another for 20 years, who had raised their children and celebrated holidays together.
They were, in some ways, more like sisters than like friends. Yet we all learned things about each other – and, maybe more importantly, about ourselves – that we hadn’t known until that night.
In the months that followed, the artist set up a studio at her home and started painting again. The friend who’d talked about her lifetime of habitual lateness started writing a book about it.
All of us felt more appreciative for what we had, and for the simple fact that we were alive. And the friendships among all of us were deeper than ever before.
But, what does all of this have to do with technology? Well, a few years after our cabin-in-the-woods, I moved away, and I was feeling lonely.
As a writer and web developer I had clients from all over the country, most of them women over 50 like me. We often got to talking when we were discussing a project or website issue.
I realized that thanks to the internet, I had many genuine friends. We just couldn’t get together for coffee or a glass of wine.
That’s when I came up with the idea of holding a weekend gathering for women like my clients – wise and compassionate women over 50 who would be happy to enjoy one another’s company.
This had nothing to do with business development or networking. I wanted us to come together to share stories, take walks, enjoy workshops and good food and wine and fresh air – and, yes, grow friendships.
But who was I – an event-planning company? A businesswoman with a staff and an advertising budget? No. I was just a woman with an idea. But I had the internet at my fingertips.
So, I emailed my friends and clients about an event I called Women at Woodstock. I put up a website and set up a Facebook page. I blogged and posted all year long about my plans and my dreams.
Women kept joining my email list. And in October, 36 women came together from all corners of the U.S. (and Canada!), and we had a fabulous time. Most of us made important and lasting new friendships.
That was seven years ago. We’ve gathered in Woodstock every year since.
Some of the women who’ve come to Women at Woodstock have decided to host events of their own and have, in the space of a year, built events and brought women together also.
So, it’s kind of like that baseball movie: “If you build it, they will come.”
The internet is your gateway to the world, to attract people just like you, to make meaningful friendships. You don’t have to be a computer genius. You can just use tools like email, a user-friendly website-builder such as Wix or maybe just evite, and social media like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Think about it – about how much “power to attract” is right at your fingertips. Thanks to technology, you don’t have to be lonely.
Have you ever organized a gathering using an online program like evite? How many events do you go to that you first heard about online? Do you have meaningful friendships that started with an online encounter? Please share your stories in the comments below.