If You Want To Live Long, Have Friends

The winding river of friendship

The winding river of friendship

On Thursday this week I met my friend, Paulette at her house. We were going to Asheville for the day. While we made a tour of her gardens so her papillon, Puck, could take a bathroom break before our departure, we chatted about the plants. Garden lovers both, we easily slip into harmony over the subject no matter where we are.

After settling Puck for the day, Paulette winded us through the twisting curves of the Blue Ridge foothills up Route 9 past Lake Lure, through Chimney Rock and Black Mountain to Asheville. We talked about the scenery, the towns, the unusual story of Lake Lure, family, our writing and art, classes we’re taking and anything else that came to mind. It was a beautiful day in one of the most beautiful areas of the country and we enjoyed the lazy drive, seeing few other cars, as well as each other’s company.

Last week I wrote a paragraph or two about the Rochester University Medical Center findings on the health benefits of friendship. Intrigued by the idea that friends can add not only enjoyment to your life but also longevity, I decided to write this week’s post on friendship. While the importance of having friends and strong social ties is recognized as a health benefit, it is the why and how of the causation which apparently needs more research. But, we do know that having friends leads to a longer life.

Over the last two weeks, I’ve met with several friends, some only my friends, some other couples Martin and I both enjoy spending time with. Some are long time friends I’ve known for years. Others are recently or still developing friendships. Unlike family, which comes as part of the package of birth or marriage, friends are chosen by you and by them. But, friendships don’t just happen. They take time and effort. Yes, effort.

Recently, a longtime friend of Martin’s, moved to South Carolina. Still a few hours away, he flew his small plane into a local airfield where we picked him up for a visit at our house. Although we hadn’t seen him in nearly thirty-four years, we talked easily, the years melting away. We lived our lives hundreds of miles and many states apart. But, we’d kept in touch over the years, continuing to nurture the original friendship, making the effort. Happenstance has brought us together again with the effort paying dividends.

As I’ve aged, I’ve found I have fewer friends. It’s less about quantity and more about quality. When I was younger and in school, there were school friends. Then, when I was working, there were work friendships. When my daughters were in school, there were friendships with parents of my kids’ friends. I had a lot of friends. And, I still have friends from those days, the quality friendships that lasted. These friendships were built on other commonalities as well _ a shared sense of humor, similar political, moral, ethical and spiritual views, hobbies or activities and lifestyles.

Aside from someone to spend time with, friends validate us, our lifestyle, beliefs, activities. Most of my friends also write or garden or do some type of art, drawing or painting. Some do all three, which makes for a deeper friendship _ all the more to talk about. And, talking is important. It’s how we get to know each other on a deeper level. It’s how we form an intense connection resulting in friendship.

Friends are not just acquaintances. I know a woman who uses the term loosely, referring to everyone she meets as a friend. Chatting at the grocery store with the clerk checking you out does not a friendship make. I was once in a situation where someone with whom I was doing business over the phone called me her friend during many discussions. I had never met this woman. Even when we finally did meet, we finished our business arrangement, and I never saw her again. I was her client, not her friend.

Friends are people you spend time with, a lot of time. Friends are people with whom you have much in common. Friends are people who validate you, support you and make your life enjoyable. Friends are your confidante as well as giving you a feeling of confidence. Friends are not ships passing in the night. They are the ones who pull into the harbor with you and moor there for a long while. There is a bond, perhaps for life, a longer life.

12 comments on “If You Want To Live Long, Have Friends

  1. You are absolutely right. Less about quantity and more about quality! I have found the same thing. I thought I was just being an old coot when I found I disliked going out to lunch with a dozen women at a time, because it felt more like just being part of a “collection” rather than true friendship. I’ve found that I value my “in the harbor together” friends much more these days!


  2. I guess friendships are not always as well defined. I think everyone has a different view of what a real friend is. It depends on the depth of emotion people feel and how much they value loyalty, trust and affection. I don’t think it is quite that black and white.


  3. Hi Kathy
    Wonderful post. Can you do one on the how of long term and /or long distance friendships? Would really appreciate your thoughts. Please keep writing


  4. Sounds like you are blessed with good friends and that you yourself are a good friend! I enjoyed your heartfelt descriptions of you friends. Interesting to me- you mention family. One thing my husband and I have developed- is that we now put more effort into becoming friends with our nephews and nieces. It’s been great taking them out to dinner and talking to them as “real people” not just the kids who wander by the buffet at the holidays. But you right right, friends, family, gardens all need to be cultivated.


  5. Great post. Someone once recounted a conversation she had with her elderly neighbor. The elderly neighbor said “once you get to my age you can count on one hand how many friends you have and still have fingers left over.” So very true.


  6. Another great post…and a universal one. Friends are important in ways that sometimes elude description…over the years I’ve had conversations about “friends” and “acquaintances”….I contended then that I could count on one hand [maybe 2 hands] my tell-it-all-go-to-the-mat-friends….those who love & laugh with me…stand by me…in spite of me…I still think so…friends are few…acquaintances may be many.


  7. I have a lot of acquaintances but fewer real friends… and I cherish them. I much prefer smaller groups and time spent one-on-one. Your trip to Asheville sounds lovely! I had the opportunity to visit that beautiful town two years ago when I drove across the country with a dear friend.


  8. Loved this post. I happened to receive it just as I was finishing a long email with an ex-colleague and dear friend and smiled as I began to read it. I had been thinking similar thoughts about this particular friendship and other special friendships that had developed over the years.


  9. Really like the “in the harbor with you” analogy. Another blogger (can’t recall) called them the 2-in-the-morning friends….the ones you can call anytime and they come over. I’ve always struggled to be a good, for-the-long-haul friend. Maybe that is why I do appreciate the ships-passing lighter friendships as well. The foodie club group who gets together monthly just to explore new restaurants in town. The Zumba gals who smile when you come back after being out of town and say…we missed you. Not deep friendships, just slightly more than acquaintances really, but so wonderful to have in my life.


  10. I make a distinction between Friends (the kind of friendships that are intense and intimate, with people you would turn to in a crisis) and friends (more than acquaintances, but you might share one or two aspects of your life with them rather than everything). As I’ve gotten older, I have fewer Friends but more friends. For me the retirement years have been a time for a resurgence of friendships after a bit of a dry spell in middle age. At any age, though, I think the Beatles were right — we get by with a little help from our friends.


  11. Loved your article on Friends. I have several and I consider you one of those that I cherish !!! Friends are very special to me and I never want to let one of them down. Friends that you can count on are hard to find……….true friends stick around no matter what and I cherish them !!! I thank God for my friends ! They have a special place in my heart and they help make life worth living !!!!!


  12. I completely agree. As we get older we value our time more which makes us think about how we spend it. You want to spend it with people you like and respect. And not be forced to spend it with people for contrived reasons. The one thing I would add is that it is wonderful to have friends of all ages. This helps you keep things in perspective and fresh. Check out my Friendship post if you like.


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