I was walking my dogs early this morning when my phone battery died. I took this as a sign to think about this week’s blog post, since I couldn’t listen to my usual audible book app.
My mind drifted to the people in my life, acquaintances, and friends. I’ve always been a little hung up on the fact that I don’t have a ‘bestie’, especially since everyone else appears to have one – well they do on FB anyway! But then I felt huge gratitude for the friends I have made, especially in recent years.
I am very blessed to have an array of friends that I have met through my husband, work, and, more recently, my efforts with book clubs, mental health groups and so forth. I’ve even made friends through twitter and other social media. Some of the afore mentioned, are close friends, others, people I chat to on a regular basis, perhaps in our café.
Friends for a reason, or a season…
The sad fact about having friends, is that we often lose them. Some, whom I once thought were close friends, magically drifted away. It hurts! But, that’s what happens isn’t it? Many people drift into our lives and drift away again, but those that matter stay. Please take heart, focus on what you learnt from them and the happy memories. It’s natural that people grow apart sometimes. Another great reason to keep making new friends.
Sadly, another thing we have no control over, is the loss of friends through death, leaving us with happy memories and a broken heart. As the cliche goes… it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.
So, let me get to the crux of my post. I was brought up by a family who were ‘socially phobic’. They would rather cross the road than speak to someone they recognise, or pull the curtains to avoid the neighbour who knocks on the door for a coffee. In fact, my mother and stepfather refused to give a lift to my husband’s sister in their car because they didn’t know her very well. It’s easy to see why I was also quite socially phobic for half of my life. (Assuming I live to eighty!)
These days, I believe it’s our job to get to know people, no matter who they are. Don’t judge them for not being like yourself or make assumptions that you won’t like them. I remember shopping with my mother once and bumping into a girl from my local church (yes, I was attending for a while when my children were young). When I explained how I knew her, my mother said “Oh, I thought she looked the churchy type.”
Well, I believe whether someone is the churchy, hippy, rich, poor, amiable, bossy, pompous, timid or gregarious type, there is something we can learn from them. Even ‘boring’ people can teach us patience or challenge our listening skills.
Now, don’t get me wrong here. I don’t make a habit of sitting in dark dingy bedsits where unsavoury characters are cutting a line of coke whilst planning their next big bank job, but all things considered, I like to mix with an eclectic range of people since there is so much more to learn. Every day, I learn something from a conversation with someone in our café, pick up a recommendation from someone in my book club, or a few words of comfort from a friend on Twitter.
People can surprise you too; so as the old cliche goes “don’t judge a book by its cover”. Take time to get to know someone without judging them by initial appearances.
Why you need more friends…
One of the things that has motivated me with friendships in recent times, is seeing my neighbour become a widow. I cannot imagine the grief and pain that she went through/still goes through, but I greatly admire how she is always going out for her next girly lunch meeting, off to another party, or is entertaining guests in her garden with a bottle of wine. In fact, it is hard to catch her in, and I usually book an appointment to see her for lunch or coffee these days. What’s most amazing is that she is eighty-four!
Whilst the socialising does not deter from her grief, it must make her life so much more bearable. I could not think of anything worse than being totally alone with no friends popping in, or places to go for a social catch up. People are what keep us going in life – it is why I set up ‘stamp on stigma’ – a social group to support those with mental health problems.
Lessons from social phobia
Something I have learnt since I healed from ‘social phobia’ and learnt to embrace meeting new people, is this: treat everyone as your best friend; give them time and kindness and it will lead to surprising and sometimes great places. Before you know it, you receive messages of support, a surprise birthday gift, and even cakes being left on your doorstep! Look out for others – and they will look out for you.
The true beauty though, is the possibility of a deeper friendship which may form; a place of give and take on both sides and perhaps a new wine or coffee buddy! New friendships can strike up in the strangest of places, believe me I know!
And for those of you who struggle with confidence, it’s quite simple. Be brave and step out… try a new hobby or get involved in something new. Stop judging others, and you will automatically find that others don’t judge you!
A hermit’s life
But what if you are like my family and prefer to keep yourself to yourself? What if you only like to keep those you ‘know’ within your fold and don’t make the time to reach out and meet new people? Well, in my opinion, you will lead a stifled life. If you want to grow, you need a mix of interesting people from all walks of life. “Variety is the spice of life!”
Jim Rohn once famously stated,
If this is the case, I could do with befriending a few top-selling authors to spend time with!
Sadly, you never know how long people will be around for; I often ponder whether it will be me or my husband who goes first. A morbid thought, but as we get older it’s something we think about. Whether your partner, friend, or family, you just don’t know how soon you could end up being alone. Nobody wants to end up a hermit… do they?
Another thing to consider if you are reclusively inclined, is your ability to make new friends and mix with people should you find yourself in an old people’s home one day. Shut yourself in your room and avoid everyone? No, I would far rather be found in the cabbage-effused lounge doing the hokey cokey! But sadly, if we don’t learn to be social earlier in our lives, there is little hope that we will suddenly learn this skill in old age.
So, whether you believe your current friendship circle to be sufficient, or your cosy family all that you need in life right now, think about yourself when you reach eighty-four – perhaps as a widow like my dear neighbour. Some of your friends and family may well have passed away. Do you have a good circle of friends that will be looking out for you? If not, would you be prepared to step out and meet more people?
Don’t put off to tomorrow what you should do today! Yes another old cliche. But they say save for your future with pensions etc.. well, I think you should invest in companionship for old age too! Keep making friends of all types, on all levels. Be sociable today!
And remember… you were not born to live life in a rock or a shell; you are not destined to be a hermit. Treat everyone you meet as your new best friend, because one day, you may just find that you need them.