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Treasure and Tighten your Friend Tribe

Updated: Apr 15

Whether we’re six or sixty, we inherently know that having a squad of ride or dies is right up there in our top priorities.

In fact, having connection is listed on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs along with shelter, food and sleep. That's telling us something.

Have you heard of the Blue Zones? There are five areas in world whose inhabitants have the longest living populations. They have nine commonalities that are responsible for their longer life spans. One of these nine is called the ‘Right Tribe.’ It means having groups of friends that they commit to for life. And the people gather together in the evenings to visit and play games.

Community creates longevity. Loneliness and isolation lead to depression.

Friendships are just as important in midlife as they were in high school. And the odds are better at having more authentic ones at this stage.

Having a gaggle of real friends who accept your quirks and actually like you because of them, tolerate your lateness, call you on your crap, and will share food with you at a restaurant is a tenet of a fulfilled life.

It's possible and wonderful to make new girl-squad friends in midlife. I can truly tell you, I have made my best friends to the end in my 50s, and my mom has found more of hers at 79.

Here’s a few nuggets to keep in mind as friendships ebb and flow:

Friendships in different seasons.

During childhood, early adulthood, and the rest, we make friends that we may only need in those seasons. Sometimes they become “your people” and it’s hard to imagine ever doing life without them.

But other times, they are just meant to be there for a short while. Friend circles change as you get older and this makes sense, since you change, too. We don’t stay the same so we can’t expect our pack to either.

You will move on.

It’s kind of like the series finale of a long running TV show. You have followed the characters and been invested in the stories, but sometimes it just comes to an end after a long run. There just isn’t anymore to the story.

This happens with friendships. Your kids graduate from school, or you take on a new position. Maybe it’s a bigger shift and you are growing into a bold new season of life. Not everyone will want to go along for the ride.

Open yourself up to new people.

If you are one of my dearest, beloved fellow introverts, I am deep in empathy with you here.

The friend-making seems hard, but it is good-hard. You will have to dig deep and put yourself out there a little. It's worth it. This doesn’t mean telling your new pickleball pal your deepest darkest secrets, but it does mean asking them all about themselves and giving a few nuggets when asked back.

It also means (hang on tight) doing things with them. Set up a plan for yoga, a walk, coffee or food. Take deep breaths. Initiate the text, make the plan, confirm the date, show up.

Keep your eyes on the prize. Repeat after me: We can do hard things.

Keep your ride or dies.

You will have one of two friends who would hop a flight or cross a bridge at night if you need them. We rally because this is what life is about. Or friends that you haven't talked to in awhile and now you feel guilty and don't reach out. Trust me, they feel the same way and any small stuff that may have made things weird goes away when the ish hits the fan.

Different kinds of friendships.

Don’t pressure yourself to manifest the Pink Ladies or the Friends’ friends with everyone you like. You’re not replacing your Ride or Dies.

Not everyone is going to be the Ethel to your Lucy. This is a good thing. Friendships require commitment and work, and you can't pour a full cup into a big pitcher all the time. It’s okay to have some light to medium friends that only need occasional watering to keep them healthy.

Play the Odds.

There is a "1 in 10 rule" of hiring in business. Prospectors often need to interview ten people to find one good candidate. The same can be true for friendships. Think outside your current sandbox.

What about someone you recently connected with?

I made a literal list of people that I could see myself laughing over a latte with and not checking my watch. I made plans and checked on them. Then I got invited to stuff. It works!

Don’t trust your first instinct.

Hear me out on this one. If I immediately put people into a column based on my first impression I wouldn’t have some of my besties.

I am not the greatest ten-second first-impression judge of character. I also struggle with a witchy inside screaming that insidiously jeers, “you’re not nearly as pretty, vivacious, accomplished, dynamic, good-haired, well-accessorized or naturally outgoing as she is. Forget it.”

If you are drawn to someone in any way, this is usually a sign that they are your people.

Be the friend you want to have.

This is the golden rule of friendship. But it’s the hardest one to follow.

We are hardwired to put our needs first. But the key to making and keeping good friends is to put ourselves in somebody else’s Jimmy Choos. Or in my case, orthotic Hokas.

Reach out, send a text. You don’t have to pour from your pitcher if it's almost empty–even a splash makes a difference. “Hey friend! Just thinking about you today and wanted to see how things are going.” Don’t put a timer on a response. Don’t even expect one. You’re not giving to get — you’re giving to care. A small “note” to someone to let them know that they are on your mind is like the feeling the sun gives when it comes out from behind the clouds and melts the chill.

And if your pitcher is spilling over: give the compliment, drop off the magazine and chocolate bar, make the date.

Accept the change.

Friends are better for us than most things-money, career success, being right.

These relationships are worthy and worth doing the work for. It can feel like dating sometimes, but ultimately there’s less pressure. So put in the work, it’s totally worth it.

Adjust to the shifts, and keep going until you find your golden girls. The ones who support you, and who will go see bad movies with you and sneak in drinks and snacks in their bigger purse.

You might feel worthless to one person, but you are priceless to another. Don’t forget your worth. Spend your time with those who value you.” -Unknown


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