From what we get, we can make a living; from what we give, however, we make a life.
Undeterred by a pandemic, my friend Doris recently bought a car equipped with Bluetooth. Although she made the first call to me, she later admitted the Bluetooth made her realize she doesn’t have many friends – I was the only person she could think of to call!
Last Fall, Marcus (identities changed), an IT executive from France, began a year-long sabbatical here in Los Angeles. His wife and seven-year-old son joined him for the year.
He told me that on the first day of class, after the teacher introduced his son, the boy smiled and said to the class, “raise your hand if you’d like to be my friend!”
You’re smiling, yes?
When I was growing-up my parents didn’t encourage me to make friends as they didn’t trust people.
As the years passed, though, what I learned is that the great gift of friendship is that friends bear witness to our lives – they help us make sense of the journey.
Today, July 30th, is National Friendship Day.
I suspect it’ll come as no surprise to learn that Hallmark Cards established the holiday – back in 1919. Enthusiasm for the day waned and by the start of WWII it had faded away. Then, in 1998, the United Nations named Winnie The Pooh the world’s “Ambassador of Friendship” and so Friendship Day was revived. Who knew the U.N. could do “cute?”
I wrestled with writing a post on “friendship” – what could I say that Winnie The Pooh hasn’t already said?!
Then I came across an article by CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta, in which he writes:
According to estimates by University of Chicago psychology professor John T. Cacioppo, PhD, coauthor of Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection, at any given time at least one in five people, or roughly 60 million Americans, suffers from loneliness. By this I mean both the acute bouts of melancholy we all feel from time to time, as well as a chronic lack of intimacy – a yearning for someone to truly know you, get you, see you.
His article was written pre-pandemic and so I wonder how many more are struggling now with loneliness.
In her movie, “Letter From An Unknown Woman,” Joan Fontaine’s character remarked, “My life can be measured by the moments I’ve had with you.”
While it’s a desperately romantic notion, I think it also applies to enduring friendships.
With real friends, there are established rituals for celebrating the relationship.
In the years after college, my friend Buddy and I would always go to the World Trade Center’s “Windows on The World” to celebrate a momentous occasion in either of our lives.
When my friend Norman makes his yearly visit from the South Pacific, the first place we go is Jerry’s Deli for a drink and a corned beef sandwich.
On the wall of my dining room I have a collection of framed menus that I stole from restaurants (what can I tell ya?) – each tells the story of a memorable visit with a memorable friend. (see photo)
BUT – there’s more –
Back in the lost time of January, my friend Valerie had surgery. I hadn’t seen her in a while and wanted to visit before the operation. I said I’d pop in on Tuesday.
Well, things got busy and I couldn’t make it, so I assured her that I’d stop by the next day (surgery was slated for Thursday). Wednesday was just as hectic BUT I knew I had to visit Valerie.
On the way to the hospital I realized I was feeling – annoyed? Anxious?
I felt out of sorts that I had to squeeze in a hospital visit on top of everything else I had to do.
I was embarrassed. How could I feel this way since Valerie was a friend?
It was a great visit and within minutes I’d forgotten all the “stuff” I was worried about.
Back in January, all that “stuff” that delayed my visit with Valerie seemed so pressing. And now? Well, I’m shamefaced to admit how much of January “stuff” was and is actually inconsequential.
The simple truth is that many of us are lonely because many of us have carelessly forgotten what it is to prioritize “friendship.”
Any day we stop the nonsense of saying “I’m too busy” and simply make time to mindfully luxuriate in the company of a friend can be National Friendship Day.
Of course, today, that luxuriating has to take place in creatively Zooming ways.
And, YES, there’s even more –
Here’s the thing – many of my clients will say, “I don’t know how to talk to people.” Which is another way of saying, “I don’t know how to make friends.”
People show up to my classes and workshops wanting to learn how to talk to anyone with confidence and ease. Yet, people typically walk into a room, sit down, take out their smart phone, and ignore the person next to them.
Marcus’ son was able to ask who in the class wanted to be his friend because he believed he was good, funny and interesting enough that other kids would want to be his friend.
AND he believed that in this new class new friends were waiting for him.
He also was able to ask the entire class because he was happy to have a range of new kids in his life.
Now THAT is confidence!
In the messy exhaustion of these days I invite and urge you TODAY to –
Reach out to a friend you’ve not spoken with in a while.
Reach out to a co-worker, a client, an old boss and say “thinking of you.”
Sure, we’re bleary-eyed from Zooming, but, arrange for a virtual whatever. You know you even can do a virtual wine tasting?
Covid-19 has made life harrowing to so many and in so many ways. Let today be a respite.
At the risk of being unabashedly schmaltzy, I’ll end with the words of the U.N.’s Ambassador of Friendship –
You can’t stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you.
You have to go to them sometimes.
Do you want to break through the negative thinking that is preventing you from being influential and heard?
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