Thursday, July 13, 2017

On Friendship in Your Fifties

It's been one of my resolutions for probably the past three New Years:

Make time for friendships.

You'd think it would be easy. I love to sit down with people and listen, talk, tell stories, hear stories, affirm and be affirmed.

We don't have to DO anything. Table games are not my cup of tea. Shopping and going to concerts and quilting together are ok at times, but I love just being together and catching up with their lives. 

Even more, I love to have friends who speak into my life.

I like to be friends with wise women who think about who they are and why they do what they do, who flex with change, who try new things, and who listen to what God is teaching them.

That's what I crave.

And it is so hard to make it happen.

A few young relations have been analyzing friendship the last while, such as Emily a.k.a Otter over at The Girl In the Red Rubber Boots, and Shelley at Frame of Mind.

Why don't you go read their posts while I go make a pot of tea, then come back and we'll sip tea and talk about this vast and important subject?

I grew up in kind of a friend desert. At our little church in Minnesota, there weren't any girls my age until I was about 14. I had one best friend through high school, a Catholic girl named Carrie.

When I went to teach in Oregon, I went a bit crazy, socially. One December, between going out to eat with friends, Christmas caroling with the youth group, the school Christmas program, and I forget what else, I had something going on every single evening of that month.

[One wonders how I got any teaching done. Well, I guess when the school board hired a 19-year-old without vetting her well, they got exactly what they deserved, but that is a rant for another day.]

As a young mom in mission work in Canada, I formed deep friendships with other women, such as my cousin Kay Knepp, who lived on the other side of a duplex one year and then, a few years later, on the same lane. We walked together in the mornings and talked about things. It was wonderful.

But here in Oregon, the last number of years, it's been hard.  All the urgent things keep yelling at me, so many people need me, and it is just. so. hard. to deliberately make time for friends. 

No one lives close enough that we can chat over the back fence. I am not good at planning. I am always overwhelmed.

I still have a full nest and a lot of responsibilities. As Paul's sister Lois told me--not a direct quote but this idea--"You and I are the same age but in very different stages. I have so few demands on me that I could very easily become self-indulgent. I pack Eric's lunch in the morning and a few things like that, but mostly I CAN DO WHATEVER I WANT. I could take off and go to the coast tomorrow if I wanted."

I said, "Wow. I am not there."

She said, "No, you're not."

So I go galloping on, trying to take care of everybody and the chickens and cats and potted plants, until suddenly I just feel lonely. And I think, I haven't had a good conversation for a LONG TIME.

Or, I should say, a good conversation with a local woman-friend, the kind that takes deliberate decisions and planning ahead.

More than a single Best Friend, I've found I need a variety of friends. This one to discuss writing, that one with a similar spiritual gift, another to make me laugh, still another to help me through mothering dilemmas, yet another to feed my creative side.

Paul and whatever children are home like to talk and are good at listening, so some of those needs are met there. My sisters and I message a lot and talk now and then. My sisters-in-law and I have a coffee date once a month which is just balm and nourishment to my soul. I sporadically have coffee with a few others.

Maybe the key to real ongoing friendship is a regular date that is sacred, traditional, and cast in concrete, so to speak. 

Today, I am happy to report, I invested in friendship, and it was worth every bit of frantic preparation.  Paul's sister Lois's birthday is four days before mine. My neighbor Anita's is the same day as Lois's. Anita is 11 years older than Lois and me.

We have met for a birthday tea for....has it been ten years? Or more? You can't expect us to know this, because we had a round-and-round conversation trying to remember who hosted us last year and whose turn it was this year. None of us had any memory of when we last hosted, but we concluded it wasn't me, so I was happy to do it, plus the porch was relatively clean and I wanted to try a new chicken salad recipe.

I had a yellow themed decor. The sandwiches were delicious if I say so myself. It wasn't too hot or too cold. The cake was just chocolatey enough.

But the very very best part was the conversation with two wise and funny women who know me and my family and a good part of my history, who give me perspective, who are patient when I chatter too much, who accept others and don't try to press any of us into any sort of mold, who make me laugh, and who leave me better and wiser than before.

What did we talk about? Grown children and the multitudes of angles on that subject. Being 50 and realizing you don't care what people think, and how liberating that is. Our parents. Who to go to for the best machine quilting. Books and authors.

And so much more.

"We need to do this more than once a year," I always think. And then we don't. But I do make sure it happens once a year, because it is tradition, and we all plan for it, and it is important to us.

Finding ways to make this happen more, with various friends, is surely as important a resolution as walking more and organizing my paper piles.

I'll be like Shelley and Emily, and ask you to speak into my life on this subject. How do you pursue friendship when you're a busy pastor's wife and mom, especially when so many people need you, but not as many can replenish what you pour out?

How do you choose friendship, which is fun and rewarding but feels self-indulgent, over taking care of the sick and lonely and afflicted?

How do friendships change over time? How do you make friends with people in different stages and walks of life? How many friends are enough?

I'll sip tea and listen.


Anita and Lois
All ready.


One of our traditions is that Lois brings a sack of hand-picked second-hand books.
She has introduced both Anita and me to new authors that we have come to love.
Lois, me, and Anita when the party was nearly over, the tea was cold despite the cozies,
the books were chosen, advice was given regarding the quilt on the left,
and we still weren't talked out, but we needed to make supper.
Quote of the Day:
"Anything else you want to tell me about your party? I thought about sitting close and eavesdropping."
--Paul, this evening. He was inside doing warehouse paperwork while we had tea. I don't know why it makes me so happy to know that he was curious about our conversation. Maybe because men so often have more interesting conversations than women, which is a rant for yet another day.

16 comments:

  1. You sound like the sort of person who would be very nice to have tea with.

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  2. Two things:
    I love Miss Read books! Did you pick them?
    Secondly, I struggle with friendships as well. I live such a different life than most of my peers. I am busy!! I fly around like you, as I juggle schedules and housework and a job, as well as family and all that entails.
    I do think that taking time for that friendship that feels somewhat self indulgent makes you more able to care about the sick and afflicted. We are of little use to God when we are so tired and burned out that there is nothing left to give.

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  3. Oh to have some tea and a long conversation with you would be wonderful!!! (Even a chat at the shared freezer in the basement would be special!!!) Such special memories and I am glad you have been able to continue such a great tradition!! I've started having Tea Tuesdays at my house with some of the local widows.... It's a highlight of my week!!

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  4. I understand completely, thank you for writing about it. I too am one of those people who needs the life-sustaining connection of friendship. Even though my children are grown and gone I find this to be one of the most intensely busy times of my life--working at work, working at home, working at church, and now traveling out of state to care for my mother at least once a month. Earlier this week I stopped in my tracks, feeling so parched and worn out, and realizing how much I miss my friends. There was only one thing to be done for it and that was to choose to stop for one evening and ask them to come. Amazingly enough eleven of twelve said yes for next Friday night. I will set the table on the deck, grill some chicken and buy ice cream--they seem very happy to bring the rest. Just to know they're coming is already encouraging. I know I won't get in depth conversations with each of them, but I will with some, and we will all be reconnected again. The reality of my life is that I need to be very intentional about maintaining long time relationships and about building new ones--otherwise it would never happen.

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  5. Being a busy pastor's wife with 6 young littles,and no one in my area going through the same season of life as I,and friendship feels like hard work a lot of the time. I often wonder if I need to work harder at it, or if that's just the season of life I am in right now.-LaDonna

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  6. I think about friendship a lot and have come up with a slightly different slant. I am, by nature, a good listener and a nurturing person. For decades I was the go to person for a number of people. I like to listen to their stories and help them decide which way to move next if that is necessary. However, I had a great deal of difficulty ever getting a turn at center stage when something momentous rocked my world. Most of those "friends" would politely wait for me to finish speaking and then start in again on themselves. I am in my sixties now and much prefer quality over quantity. In the last five years I have shed myself of two very old friends, one went back to my girlhood. However, they were both exhausting and one sided.

    One of the things I'm trying to say is that while you are looking for friends to re-invigorate YOU, be sure you are doing the same for them.

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  7. My wonderful friend and I have undertaken various projects together - an annual comforter knotting for MCC, annual high school class ladies lunch, and cooking classes for Bridge of Hope women. We get to talk and plan and spend time together as well as having a goal in mind that brings others together. It has been a wonderful way to build our relationship and we really work well together which is a tremendous blessing.

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  8. I am one of those people who never seem to have friends , my hubby says I have an abrasive personality but I have mellowed as I have got older . I just do not seem to get close to people , I am an only child of older parents and I wonder if that has had something to do with it , so nowadays there is just hubby mad me as both my children live in another country . I do envy your tea and I am so ad you enjoyed it .

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  9. Jennifer Jantzi7/14/2017 11:00 AM

    I can so identify with your dilemma even though I'm in a different stage--mid-thirties with four small children. I don't have answers...still trying to figure it out myself!

    And PLEASE oh PLEASE rant about men having more interesting conversations than women. I have some theories and I want to know how they compare to someone else's. ;)

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  10. I could hardly live a life that is MORE different than yours, Dorcas (single, 28, office job, not being pulled at from 10 different directions like you are), yet this post echoed my own feelings!
    A person whom I respect highly said that for them, Jesus is the One who is their constant Friend, and they don't feel the need for much more. . .which made me second-guess my craving for a heart-to-heart with good friends. I find myself somewhat in the position of another of the commentors (Anne); and agree that it can be wearing to listen. . .and listen. . .and listen. . .and never be listened to! That being said, I have some wonderful friends who do so well at chatting, when they have time- I couldn't wish for better.
    I was also so delighted to read that Someone Else Thinks Men (Often) Have More Interesting Conversations Than Women. Please do let that post steep until ready to pour. . .

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  11. I'm a 30 something mom with littles. In the last two years I have struggled very hard with friendships and lots of loneliness. Lots of outside circumstances and perhaps personality issues (introvert that can't think of what to say to strangers). I've read several blogs in the last month that sound exactly like me. So why does it have to feel so hard to make and maintain friends if that's what we all want? Personality and mutual interests come into play as part of it, I think. I'm blessed with a few relationships where we can have real, intelligent (!!) conversations, but not nearly enough times of those. I also struggle with feeling like I am always initiating any doing together, all of the time. As an introvert, that's really hard. After awhile I crawl to a corner and wait to be noticed, I need to see if I'm needed in your life as a friend. I am also the willing friend that will gladly help you with work, but not the one you choose to have fun with. I've learned to be very careful to set boundaries down for being the helpful friend, because that drains the life out of me, and I'd love to be included in the adventures.

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  12. Hello again Dorcas, lovely post. I have only a few friends as an adult as I too am so busy. I have one lovely friend who every now and then will just text me to say we Should meet up, and we do! If she didn't do that I would just continue working at everything as usual. I have a friend with wildly different political views who I like, but I have to be very careful not to get upset by her very forceful opinions and I find hardly seeing her keeps those polite boundaries in place.
    I go to a book club and see some lovely ladies there too.
    I think the key is to be completely honest and if someone doesn't like you then so be it. And also to respect others' opinions, that seems quite lacking sometimes!
    I love the miss Read books! I first read the white robin in the school library when i was 10 and was scolded for not reading something such as the diary of Anne Frank. I loved that book, and found Anne's diary quite dull. Then a few years ago I rediscovered the miss Read books- how I still enjoy them!! We have to be true to ourselves don't we?
    I must write again as I have read several of your books, but can't get all of them here (nz) and would like to read more!
    Helena

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  13. I am at the empty nest and do whatever I want all day since I do not work outside my home stage. Once my chore list is completed I am free to do what I want. When I had toddlers, two friends and I with their toddlers met at the mall every Tuesday for lunch.
    The food court is a great place for a bunch of kids. I have quite a few friends that I lunch with now and it is great. Our hurdle has been couple friends. We finally prayed for that off and on for a year and God answered. Last fall a couple visited our church before moving to our area and we clicked right off. Everyone loves my husband so I kind of ride on his coat tails sometimes. (My Mother tells me that I intimidate people.) I think the key to friendship is being intentional about getting together. We often plan get togethers a month or more in advance just because it takes that long for calendars to free up but it is worth it and something to look forward to. We find that Saturday morning breakfast is a really good time for us to meet other couples out. It does take a bit out of the work around the house day but again, it is worth it. I hope you find what works for you because it is worth it!

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  14. As a fellow 50 year old with adult children at home, I can feel for you on many levels. ( everyone home to eat and sleep, no one home to help with the work!) I keep waiting for the stage when I can sew something just for fun and have my days to myself. I was encouraged at a conference to hear how many women my age say that they now find themselves busier then ever. So I came to the conclusion, maybe this is normal and I need to be ok with whatever my lot is. 3 of my 5 did marry in the last years. 2 daus-in-law from out of state, so that gave me a new role. And I now have grands to cuddle and help with. What I crave is alone time. It's how my batteries get charged, and I think I barely get enough of it!

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  15. I remember when I was young we lived on a tiny island and always enjoyed Miss Read. The library had limited offerings but being the country is a British commonwealth I suppose those books were staples.

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  16. I have finally come to the conclusion that if I'm going to have friends, I must be the one who does all the reaching out and planning. It's not fair, and I'm bugged by it. But I cannot do anything about it. So, I go in fits and starts. Sometimes I'm really good at it and sometimes I just don't have the energy. But I have managed to connect with friends each week for the past three. Go me!

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