Reflections on the Power of Friendship

We sat beside each other in Grade 9 Science class–not because we were magnetically drawn to each other–rather because our teacher had seated us alphabetically. With different family backgrounds and very different life experiences, we had little in common. Despite these differences, we became extremely close friends. At the end of Grade 12, she left for a career in the Armed Forces while I continued to Grade 13 and then to University. For the past forty years, we have never again lived in the same city – and often not the same country. Still our friendship has remained strong – never wavering, never fading– even though, at times, we have gone many years without seeing each other (and many of those years were pre-email, pre-Facebook and pre-social media of any kind)!

I just had the chance to spend time with Jo-Anne when she, and her husband, visited us on Vancouver Island this past week. Immediately upon her arrival, the years and distances vanished as if we had just been together yesterday. My heart leapt. We spent days talking, laughing, eating and shopping as if we were 14 year olds all over again. We shared our deepest secrets, snapped selfies and were comfortable in each other’s silences.

The benefits of strong, positive friendships have long been proclaimed. They nurture our deeply human need to share our life experiences. They support us and give us strength. In one study, participants stood at the bottom of a hill and were asked to estimate the steepness of the hill as they began to climb. When they stood alone, they believed the steepness of the hill to be much more extreme than when they stood with a close friend (source). Another study, from Harvard Medical School, discovered that the more friends women had, the less likely they were to develop severe physical problems as they grew older. The results of this study were so significant that the researchers concluded: “not having close friends or confidants was as detrimental to your health as smoking or carrying extra weight” (source).

Throughout my life, I have been blessed with many strong, incredible friendships. These friends have seen me through both good and tough times, have challenged me to be my best and have supported me when I began to waiver. I have known that they are right beside me even when they are not physically there. After getting to know some of my closest, long-time friends, my husband once commented how different they were than me – especially pointing out their relaxed, easy-going natures (ouch!). Opposites can attract…and in each of these cases I am glad that they stuck with me.

Recently I posted a blog on aging well. My goal is to follow the fundamental principles listed there. Maintaining strong friendships is at the top of my list. As friends are “the family that you choose” (Jess C. Scott), they grab the baton to go places with you that are reserved just for them.

I’d like to take this time to sincerely thank the friends who have so profoundly influenced me. Without them, the highs of my life would not have been as high (if they had existed at all), and the lows would have been unbearable. Without them…well, that is something that I simply do not wish to imagine.

Jo-Anne and me

Jo-Anne and me 44 years ago

33 Replies to “Reflections on the Power of Friendship”

  1. Couple of cool pics there, Donna! Hope the lobster was good. Agree with everything you say on friendship.. Hugs from Tokyo!

    1. Thanks for your comments, Helen. I am glad that you liked the photos (I had a pile to choose from, so I had a hard time narrowing it down to the final two)! Warm hugs right back to you! Hope all is well. Donna

  2. I wonder if women have an advantage here. Men seem to be more reliant on work-related relationships; women are better at making and nurturing friendships. When men retire, and are cut off from their former workplace colleagues, they adapt less well. These are all generalisations, of course, but seem to have been supported by the evidence in a couple of discussions I have had recently with people running learning schemes for people who have finished full-time employment. The various groups are dominated by females (also by white, middle-class people, but that’s a different discussion). Their view was that women are much better at social networking, and get much more our of retirement as a consequence.

    1. Thanks so much for this comment, Spencer. My husband and I both retired nine months ago. So far we each have had very different retirement experiences. Your point of view above provides a very helpful piece to this puzzle. I appreciate you reading and commenting.

        1. Living in Swansea (the wettest city in the UK), I empathise with the rain shock. I understand your husband’s issue with weekends; I’m still wondering where they went. I think many men get the feeling that they should be doing something (but not exclusively, as I try to show in my blog, gardening or golf). It seems that men have difficulty turning that feeling into action. Perhaps they are put off precisely because so many retirement activities appear to be dominated by women?

          1. Thanks, Spencer. You continue to give Richard and me more food for thought for our discussions over morning coffee. Great post on “Gardening or Golf’ by the way (‘ Richard would definitely choose golf!

  3. Loving catching up with what you are up to via your blog. Today I went for a run and had randomly picked a playlist from the early 80s – I was lost in the great memories of my school friends allowing me to run longer and perhaps a little harder. It reminded me that good friends don’t always need to communicate in order to maintain the friendship – you just pick it up where it left off – whenever that may be!

    1. Hi, Madeleine – I totally agree that great friends can pick up where they left off, and that just the memories from a song (etc.) can instantly take you right back to that friendship. I love your “mothering from a distance” posts. Keep them coming!

  4. I feel very lucky to have many long-time friends (one dating back to when we were just toddlers, several from before I entered kindergarten). I value newer friends too, of course, but there is something so comforting about having a shared history with someone. I’m happy for you that you were able to spend quality time with Jo-Anne.

  5. 70 years of friendship (x 4) is quite an accomplishment! Thanks for sharing, Lynn. I greatly appreciate it.

  6. Wonderful sentiments Donna. I feel fortunate that just yesterday, I enjoyed the celebration of a group of new friendships that you hosted in your new home. I too, value some old friendships that pre-date starting school, and treasure that shared history. But the new friends with whom we share our day to day routines in our new retired lives, and in all our cases, our new locations, are very important. They are the ones that prevent the feelings of loneliness described in your link to the U.K. article on reasons some women don’t adjust well to retirement. I feel so fortunate that this particular retirement location is so conducive to making new friends, when in many places that would not be as easy an occurrence.
    As well, I can empathize with Richard, as that feeling of “lack of purpose” and insignificance, was a real obstacle for me when I first retired.
    But that’s another topic for another day. Right now, I’m grateful and happy that I’m able to enjoy many old friends as well as new! Dawne

    1. Thanks, Dawne. I appreciate your insightful feedback…and that you read so many details from my blog (reading the side links and other comments is very impressive indeed)!
      I am also incredibly grateful for my new friends on Vancouver Island. You should all be careful though, as you may just end up in a blog post one day soon!

  7. I have some great friendships that go back many decades – one friend I’ve known since we were babies (our mums were pals) and another since Grade 1 in primary school (she was my bridesmaid too) Both of these women live a couple of hours away but when we see each other time just skips by and it’s like we saw each other a week ago. Friendship and family are the two core values that have stood the test of time for me.
    Leanne | cresting the hill
    Leanne | crestingthehill recently posted…Wind-back Wednesday ~ What Does Abundance Mean To You?My Profile

    1. Hi, Leanne – I agree that family and friendships are key. I am always amazed at how I can finally catch up with a great friend whom I haven’t seen for ages, and our conversation is as smooth and comfortable as if I had seen her yesterday!

    1. Thanks, Joy. I agree that true friendship is an incredible blessing. I am extremely grateful for the friendships that I have. Thank you so much for stopping by and commenting.

  8. What a wonderful time for you both Donna! A year ago I went to a 40 year high school reunion and before I went, one of the girls had set up a FB group. It was so wonderful reconnecting with some of the girls I had went to school with but had lost touch with over the years. Friendships are so important, I don’t know where I would be without my Saturday Sisters running girls that is for sure. I also have a couple of friends that I don’t see often but when we do it is like no time has passed. Have a great day!
    Sue from Sizzling Towards 60 & Beyond recently posted…Fit & Fabulous: Fitness Inspiration from an 86 year old NunMy Profile

    1. Hi, Sue – Thanks so much for sharing this. Last summer, my husband and I attended his 50th high school reunion. It was amazing watching my husband and his friends instantly transform into eighteen-year-olds again. Friendship can definitely help keep us young!

        1. Hi, Sue – I am delighted that we have connected. I would also be pleased to write a guest post for your blog. Message me (or email) the details and I am in!

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