Last week we spent a few days on Minnesota's North Shore with new friends who had generously invited us to join them at their timeshare on Lake Superior. We eagerly accepted, but at the same time wondered how it would be to spend more than an evening with them. Would we find enough to talk about? Would we discover major differences among us? Was our friendship too new for this kind of intense interaction? Would we like each other more or less when we said goodbye and returned to our homes?
Well, no problem. Our days together were rich. In fact, we were still chatting and laughing as we loaded our cars for the drive home. What a relief!
Now instead of describing our friendship as "new," I will introduce these friends as our good friends, our dear friends. I think of them now as friends with whom I can truly share who I am.
Yes, I know how lucky I am, but feel free to remind me.
Creating New Friendships
So here's something I've been thinking about recently. Since moving back to St Paul after being away for twenty years, we have made so many new friends. Many of these friendships seem to be developing into deep friendships, strong, supportive friendships, which is a true blessing. At the same time a later in life friendship requires some extra work.
We didn't know each other growing up or going off to college. We weren't at each other's weddings or the baptisms of our children. We didn't share the ups and downs of our career lives or see each other in positions of responsibility. We have not been in each other's earlier homes or met one another's parents.
We have no history with each other.
Developing a new friendship at this time of life, the Third Chapter, means filling in some blank spaces. What is it I most want my new friend to know about me? What are the key stories to share? What do we have in common and in what ways have our lives been different?
What is it we need right now and even, how do I make room in my life for a new friendship?
A Story From the Past
When we moved to Ohio many years ago, I volunteered at the hospice program where my husband was the medical director. The volunteer coordinator and I were about the same age and didn't live far from each other. I enjoyed chatting with her--normal kinds of conversations about our kids and house projects and books. The kind of everyday conversation someone new to a community hungers to have.
One day I asked if she would ever like to meet for a casual supper, and she seemed pleased to be asked. We set a date. My only expectation was for a pleasant evening, but perhaps I appeared over eager, too needy.
We met at a deli-kind of place where we ordered at the counter and then settled at a table. I asked her about her day, but instead of answering me, she announced without warning, "I just want you to know I don't have room in my life for more friends."
Yes, she really said that.
Why didn't I pack up my chicken salad sandwich and chocolate chip cookie at that very moment and leave? How did I get through the meal with her?
Over the years I have wondered about my dinner companion who had enough friends. What was her back story? Was there something happening in her life right then that forced her to pull in the welcome mat?
I wish I had exhibited a more open and compassionate heart. I wish I had been more present to her. I wonder, all these years later, if she could use a new friend in her life now.
New friendships require curiosity and a willingness to hear one another's story. New friendships require a desire to grow and expand one's circle. New friendships require an open heart.
Sometimes new friendships require taking a chance.
I am so glad the four of us, our new good and dear friends, were willing to do that, for now in place of some of those blank spaces, we have memories and the beginning of a friendship history.
Where in your life are there possible new friends? What are you willing to do about that? I would love to know.
Just For Fun: Check out some of my posts from the past.
One Year Ago: Pesto Marathon
Two Years Ago: Want to Talk?