In the Presence of a Friend

In my 40s, I am attracting friends just like me. Powerful, strong, outspoken women, who are creative, funny, fun and outrageous.

If I had known this was how much fun friendships could be, I would have looked for these sisters long ago.

Indeed, when I was a kid, I was friends with people in every clique, but not in any one clique myself. I waved to the cheerleaders and the druggies, the jocks and the nerds, and I liked individual people in every realm. Probably because I saw a bit of each in myself.

And also because I realized the importance of seeing the individual and connecting with the good therein, rather than lumping a label onto a group of people to homogenize them. I don’t want to be around faceless followers. I want to see the originality shine through.

Last night, I had dinner with my lovely friend Paula. It had been years, I think, since the last time we sat across a table from one another, and more than once we remarked on how great it was, and how glad we were that we persisted enough to make it happen. Then, before we left, we put another date on the calendar. Because it felt so good to connect with a soul sister.

That soul connection, when you feel you KNOW the other person, you can sit in their skin and relate to their roller coaster of life, that’s special. Rare. And I’ve been finding it where I least expected.

My friend Jill, who started as a work contact and quickly became THAT person I go to for fun and connection. My friend Jaime, whom I met at a TV booking and whose lunch-meetups I cherish. My friend Rochelle, whose son played soccer with my son; when we went out as couples, the guys were floored to see mirror-images. We even have the same purse. My friend Alisa, who started as a client and turned into a friend and with whom I can laugh, lament, rant, and celebrate, who is willing to stand by my side in the toughest situations.

Even in my writing programs, I am finding midlife women who are finally asserting their voices, finding their true calling. What is the legacy we each want to leave this world? What are our special gifts?

Perhaps we are loud and opinionated, lumpy and garishly dressed. It’s OK. At least we’re real.

These are women who won’t be silenced, won’t sit behind the barrier, won’t take NO for an answer. Purposely mismatched because in the end, mismatching creates a whole new flow that is actually kind of cool.

Research shows that people who have strong social ties live longer. The friendships I used to have with people I very much liked but who were doormats, who never called me to make plans (it was always my job), who tried to please everyone, those friendships have fallen away.

The people who know you well and still love you, those are the ones to hold onto. Only when you can be real, when you can be yourself, when you can be loud and garish and outspoken and people love you for it, those are the people to hold onto. Because you have to come to a place where you can love yourself as you are, not with minor modifications.

And those friends who see the beauty behind the extra 10 pounds and the outspokenness, those are the ones to celebrate.

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