word count: 497 This I Believe
(On Friendship and Aging)
A recent and rather confused email from an acquaintance of ten years prompts this essay. Her thoughts, however muddled, addressed the subject of FRIENDSHIP, an important concept that we approach from far different perspectives––she at age 66, I at 75.
On reflection, I felt that she totally missed the point on a subject about which I am nothing if not passionate. While we have known one another these many years, I honestly question that we really know one another as friends. Gaining personal insight is difficult when one is always kept at arm’s length––not my choice.
That email inspired me to examine my beliefs about friendships, especially as regards aging. What follows is a cornerstone of who I am, my approach to life, to others, to all my relationships in my 70th decade. In a nutshell: This I believe––that our purpose in life is to help one another along life’s journey.
I embrace the adage, “Friendship doubles our joy and divides our grief.”, which clearly implies a deep sharing of lives. No avoidance of unpleasant subjects, no superficial encounters. Not everyone who would be a friend agrees, but if we can’t share our deepest joys and sorrows with our friends when necessary, then what, pray tell, is the point?
Therefore, I cultivate friends for life––not until one of us outgrows the other. I seldom easily give up on friends. Change and growth are constants; in healthy relationships, good friends simply adjust, and help one another to grow.
Too often, as some people age, they become, sadly, increasingly inflexible, closed, and self-involved––the path to a bitter and lonely old age.
Happily, my like-minded friends each possess these qualities:
*A consistently open mind and heart.
*A fulsome generosity of Spirit.
COMPASSION is key, for it encompasses those qualities just listed, the abilities to handle most problems that come along, to develop an understanding heart, to live life fully.
To LIVE LIFE FULLY––means, I believe:
*Being willing to accept and respect others in their entirety, faults and all.
*Having the personal flexibility to adjust to changing circumstances. *Remaining open to all possibilities, and not closing ourselves to life’s options.
*Always trying to see the good in others, and letting the rest go.
We can all be annoying. None of us is perfect, none of us is getting any younger. Mature and healthy adults don’t expect perfection, don’t judge, and don’t condemn. To be inflexible is the kiss of death.
In my circle, we avoid imposing barriers. Friendship is a golden gift we delight in sharing by making room for one another, by actively participating in one another’s lives––laughing together often, and weeping together when necessary. Crises only deepen and strengthen our relationships.
This I believe: as we near the end, these are the compassionate friends who will be there for us. We love them. We are grateful. We count our blessings.
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