I recently found myself in the middle of a make-shift reunion with some of my husband’s friends. As they met in our home, I played the quintessential ‘fifth wheel.’ At the same time, I had been considering a blog-nod to several of the friendship acknowledgement days coming up. Organizations around the world celebrate the noble and honorable human-classification of being a friend.
Beyond THE 60s, it’s still true – we “get by” with a little help from our friends. There is much to write (and admire) regarding friendship, including trust, connection, companionship, value. But concentrating on that “getting by” element might be boiled down to one word – support.
The Fellowship of the Rope
Knowing you are connected,
and watching one another’s safety
can transform a frightful challenge
into a Grand Adventure.
— Michael Sawicky
My husband’s ‘reunion’ was four guys who had a past-history of considerable rock climbing and mountaineering adventures together. They were having a grand time preparing food and gear for a mountain ascent, in an area none of them had attempted before (the glorious north slopes of Mt. Shasta in California at 14,162 ft). *
As a spoiler alert, the summit wasn’t reached. Despite an alpine start before midnight, the climb had difficulties. One guy was courageous enough to realize his recent medical issues were cropping up at 11,000 feet; another was starting to feel altitude sickness at 13,000 feet; and the ‘crappie weather” was closing in fast. As they promised before the trip began that their prime goal was “All-in, All-out”, they turned back. Summit or not, it’s undoubtedly an illustration of support.
In print, I have seen women often quoted similarly to comments I have personally heard. To paraphrase, it is something like ‘men don’t have friends like woman do.’ Perhaps not. Perhaps some women don’t have the relationships they want either. But in either case, verbalized or not, support is vital for both genders.
What form of support are we talking about? Freedom to reach out no matter how much time has gone by? Get advice? Bounce feelings off a sounding board? Treasure a safe place to talk without someone feeling they have to ‘fix you?’ Support for a friend isn’t like the support of a car-jack, needing to provide for the total weight of an auto. Friends don’t have to shoulder the whole load – or make everything right. As we often hear (since it is so true), mostly they just need to be there and listen.
From a woman’s perspective, reactions of men generally seem guarded. But men have often learned emotions, or rather the way to display them, from sports castors, older generation role-models and occasional painful lessons about growing up macho. Sharing sport exploits, job laments, financial plans, house projects or activities is acceptable, but even that ‘bro-hug’ may already be stepping over the line for some. As opposed to stereotypes of women, personal sharing of deep emotions seems rarer for men, coming with greater caution. After all, what would come next? Actual commitment? Still, for those of you who are a man – know a man – love a man, realize this isn’t just a question of behavior; it is a health issue. Could it be one reason why according to the last 2012 Census, for every 100 women who live to be 100, only 20 men have done so? [See One Ultimate Key to Longevity – Above All Else. ]
Support may be the dividing line between acquaintance and friend. Ask anyone who has moved to a new location as an older adult; they sorely know that difference. [See my article Finding Friends as an Older Adult Requires a Different Approach.] And women (or men) living solo who don’t have children are often more aware of the urgent need to solidify friendships as they grow older. Support is one major reason why.
Finding or securing support can be a difficult step. We may all know activities or organizations available to us in our communities, but you aren’t necessarily rewarded immediately with a grand welcome or the support you secretly seek. Worse, is that sometimes we may even need to come out and ask for help (gasp).
A Small Plan
There are 2 days approaching which I hope will remind me to either reach out to give — or more difficult, to get — a bit of useful support in some form or another. You might consider the same. The official dates sometimes change but the idea of cherishing friends and expressing gratitude for their presence is the same.
- National Friendship Day is the 1st Sunday in August
- Women’s Friendship Day is the 3rd Sunday in August
- The U.N. International Friendship Day, immediately passed, is the last day of July.
My plan is simply first to be cognizant of the issue of friendship support. Then do some little thing inside (or outside) that stagnating comfort zone on one of those days – or maybe even both. Further, August 8 is “Happiness Happens Day” – I bet we could make that “happen” for someone we know.
Best we not forget that we ‘get by’ with a little support from our friends. It’s good to acknowledge that the “Fellowship of the Rope” links us all together in this “Grand Adventure.”
* Click here for pictures and more details of The Shasta Adventure or their secret location Rock Climbing.