Like other women my age, I’ve skimmed the surface of a
lot of relationships. I’ve spent hours in small talk and nodded politely during
countless introductions to people I’ve long since forgotten.
It took me most of my 67 years to realize that I don’t like this kind of interaction. Oh, it has its place. But time now feels too precious to spend it in meaningless interactions.
Gratefully, there are other options. None is more
enriching than the time we spend with our oldest friends.
My six oldest friends range in age from 67 to 82, and all of them are older than I am (albeit one by only 6 months). Our history dates back over 40 years, even 50 years for some of us.
We’ve gone through just about every life change and
challenge in the book, and we’ve done it together even when the miles have
We reunite almost every year. In our recent reunion,
the power of our circle struck me anew. Just when I thought I’d learned
everything these women could teach me, I came away with four new lessons.
We’ve needed support during all our life stages.
Getting through college, raising children, navigating our careers… every
crossroads was made easier with the help of others.
Our current life stage is no exception. And there’s
something about knowing that you have more time behind you then ahead of you
that changes the stakes.
Losing a spouse, renegotiating a relationship,
changing health. These junctures are game changers that are hard to cope with
alone. Knowing that other women empathize or have been where you are is a
Women need other women. And
hearing others’ stories and experiences instills a bit of courage.
When we’re young adolescents, we sometimes think we’re
the “only one,” that no one knows what we’re going though. It’s an isolating,
even shameful, feeling.
Our later years can feel that way, too. It’s easy to
believe that everyone else is reveling in the golden years without a care in
the world. So, we stay silent about our fears and misgivings, feeling again
like we’re the “only one.”
But inside we long to let these worries out; sort them
out. We want to shine a light on even the slightest shadows in our life. And
our oldest friends teach us what it means to have a safe harbor where we can be
validated as we tell it like it is.
As much as we like to speak up, we know the role of the listener is equally valuable.
My circle of friends consciously tries to have one
conversation at a time. We recognize the importance of holding sacred space for
each other. We resist the temptation to dole out unsolicited advice.
Allowing a friend to give voice to her thoughts and
feelings is a profound gift, and we’re grateful to be able to give it.
If there’s one thing this stage of life has taught my
friends and me, it’s we’re survivors.
This year we realized we’re truly thriving as we
toasted again and again to being together and to the countless giggles we
continue to share despite all that life throws our way.
As our conversations wound down, I know I wasn’t alone
with this familiar lesson: things could be worse.
And when that happens, as we know it will, we’ll rally
the Squad one more time to embrace the next lessons we have to learn. And to
teach each other.
What lessons have old friends and older
women taught you? What lessons would you like to share with the younger
generations? Let’s have a conversation!