Girlfriends Matter

 

Welcome to Kathleen Pooler, who has joined us today to discuss the nature of friendship.  It is a subject of considerable interest to me, as the protagonist of my novel has never had the kind of girl friends that Kathy describes here and in her novel.

 

Some women pray for their daughters to marry good husbands. I pray that my girls will find girlfriends half as loyal and true as the Ya-Yas.”                               Rebecca Wells, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood

I have plenty of awesome male friends whom I respect and admire but there is something unique and special about girlfriend relationships.

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Carol Bodensteiner, Kathy Pooler, and Mary Gottschalk in Osceola, Iowa

I have always valued my girlfriends from every phase of my life. Together, we have experienced the joys and sorrows, the frustrations and challenges, the ruts and growth spurts of our lives. As I age, I find that I value them even more—both the old and new friends.

In the words of a popular Beatles’ tune: “I’ll get by with a little help from my friends.”

Martha tried to convince me not to marry when she listened to my doubts. Sharon coaxed me up the stairs and out the door the day I left my first husband because of his drinking. Judy supported me before, during and after both my divorces. Eileen opened my eyes to God’s presence in my life. Mary Sue and her family became my family away from my family. Meredith and Denise rallied around me when I escaped from my second husband for fear of physical abuse…

These are a few of many who stood by me—steady and true—through my life challenges. I had to find my own way in my own time but their presence in my life made a positive difference in helping me move forward.

Therefore, it came to no surprise to me when I read this UCLA Study On Friendship Among Women posted by Gale Berkowitz in 2002:

“This landmark study suggests friendships between women are special. They shape who we are and who we are yet to be. They soothe our tumultuous inner world, fill the emotional gaps in our marriage and help us remember who we really are”

And the friendship phenomenon is research-based.

As stated in the article, this study came about when two women scientists, Dr. Laura Klein and fellow researcher Shelley Taylor discovered in a casual conversation over coffee in a lab at UCLA one day that “when men get stressed, they hole up; when women get stressed, they make coffee, clean the office and bond, ‘tend and befriend’.” This spearheaded a movement to include women in stress research and the results confirm what we already know:

 “Women live longer than men and friends help us live longer.”

In the same article, The Nurses’ Health Study from Harvard Medical School found that

The more friends women had, the less likely they were to develop physical impairments as they aged, and the more likely they were to be leading a joyful life.”

I am fascinated by this study even though it confirms what I have already experienced throughout my entire life—girlfriends matter. And the older I get, the more they matter. As we age and face more hardships—physical decline, loss of family and friends—we need each other more than ever.

In my memoir, Ever Faithful to His Lead: My Journey Away From Emotional Abuse, I show how my girlfriends give me strength and help me to move forward in my life. When I sat down to write this story, I had no conscious intent to include them. They showed up in my writing as they had shown up in my life to counsel and guide me.

And the many friends—YOU– (girls and guys) I have had the pleasure of bonding with on my writing journey are on the top of my list of people who matter and have made a positive difference in my life.

I will admit to being partial to girlfriend time—to bond in ways only girlfriends can bond. Who else can I go shopping with, spend hours on the phone or over coffee, get honest opinions about fashion trends, giggle over silly memories or whine over minutia with without getting a glazed-over look?  Just saying….

How about you? How have you experience girlfriend relationships?

KathyPoolerBrighterAbout the Author: Kathleen Pooler is an author and a retired Family Nurse Practitioner whose memoir, Ever Faithful to His Lead: My Journey Away From Emotional Abuse, published on July 28.2014 and work-in-progress sequel, Hope Matters: A Memoir are about how the power of hope through her faith in God helped her to transform, heal and transcend life’s obstacles and disappointments:  domestic abuse, divorce, single parenting, loving and letting go of an alcoholic son, cancer and heart failure to live a life of joy and contentment. She believes that hope matters and that we are all strengthened and enlightened when we share our stories.

She lives with her husband Wayne in eastern New York.

She blogs weekly at her Memoir Writer’s Journey blog: http://krpooler.com

You can reach Kathy at:

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Kathleen Pooler/Memoir Writer’s Journey (Facebook)

Keeping Secrets

 

I am delighted to welcome, as my guest today,  Debra Engle and her musing on the barriers that secrets impose on connecting with those who matter in our life.  She has graciously offered to give a copy of her new book “The Only Little Prayer You Need” to one of the people (drawn at random) who leave a comment on this blog. 

 

 

Keeping SecretsIn my imagination, I have appeared on Oprah dozens of times. I am always scintillating, well-groomed, and wearing three-inch heels that would immediately topple me in real life.

During one of these imaginary appearances, Oprah asked me about the subject of lying.

“I used to lie all the time,” I said. “I lied when I was nine years old and told my mom I was wearing a slip when I wasn’t. I lied about wanting to marry my ex-husband.

“I lied to protect people. I kept secrets to protect myself. I didn’t even think it was wrong, because I always had what I thought were good intentions.

“Besides,” I said, “when it came to being honest with myself, I didn’t know what that meant.”

In my imagination, Oprah gave me one of her big girlfriend smiles, leaned forward, and asked, “So what did you learn?”

I thought for a minute, then answered. “I look back sometimes,” I said, “and think how much faster I could have moved through my life. Being dishonest with myself has been like constantly keeping my foot on the brake.”

This subject of honesty—of lying and keeping secrets—has been on my mind lately, both in real life and in my imagination. I’m at the fish-or-cut-bait stage of life, when I’m finally willing to disappoint other people rather than sacrifice myself.

Now when I write and speak and mentor, my question is not, “What do others want to hear?” It’s “What am I uniquely called to say?” That question comes with an initial dose of fear-based thinking, knowing I’m risking disapproval and criticism. What if someone challenges my beliefs? What if people leave the room shaking their head in disagreement? What if…gasp! … someone doesn’t LIKE me?

It took me a lifetime to be willing to take that risk, reminding me of a news magazine program I watched years ago. The program featured a World War II veteran who had kept a secret ever since his years in the service. Throughout the hour-long interview, the veteran talked with sadness about how much his hidden story had haunted him and shaped his life. Clearly ashamed of what he had done, this fine, caring man had been constantly companioned by his secret.

It built a wall between him and his family, convinced him that he was a disappointment and a coward, and sapped every bit of joy out of his life.

Finally, at the end of the program, the veteran agreed to tell his secret. With great effort and enormous shame, he revealed the story he had kept to himself for at least 50 years:

During a major battle, he had hidden beneath a fellow soldier’s body to keep himself from being killed.

That was it. He’d practiced the same act of self-defense that any of us would have in the same situation. But he’d condemned himself for it for half a century.

My heart hurt for this man, who clearly had lost his life not to bullets during the war, but to his own fear that he had committed the ultimate act of cowardice. The secret didn’t take his life, but the self-judgment behind the secret did.

That’s the secret about secrets. When they’re finally brought to light, we can see them as the imposters they are—illusions that we imbue with powers they don’t deserve. They slow us down, hold us ransom with fear and, like the veteran who couldn’t forgive himself, keep us from being the magnificent mortals everyone knows we are anyway.

So, this is my new story on another self-imagined Oprah: No more secrets. I’m off to write, to think, to dream. And to chuck the imaginary three-inch heels so I can put my foot squarely on the accelerator of life.

 

Deb Engle secrets 1Debra Landwehr Engle is the author of The Only Little Prayer You Need: The Shortest Route to a Life of Joy, Abundance and Peace of Mind, a brand new release from Hampton Roads that features a foreword by the Dalai Lama.

She is the co-founder and facilitator of Tending Your Inner Garden®, a program of creativity and personal growth for women. In addition, Deb teaches classes in A Course in Miracles and offers mentoring in writing, publishing and life skills. You can learn more at debraengle.com.

Standing the Test of Time

 

friendshipSherrey Meyer’s guest blog last week explored the ways in which social media has altered how we think about friendship. This past Sunday, NY Times columnist David Brooks, weighed in on what he saw as the essential and universal aspects of friendship.  Both essays are well worth reading.

But both left me pondering the “why and wherefore” of my own friendships over the years.  Neither essay quite captured my own experience.

As I look back, I have been blessed with many wonderful friends, but only a few who have “stood the test of time,” only a few with whom I can pick up where I left off, no matter how long it has been since I last saw them.

I think it’s because friendships, so often, are situational. You work in the same office or for the same company. You volunteer for the same charity.  You are in same bridge club or book club or investment group. Your kids are on the same team.  But when your world changes—you get a new job or leave town or get a divorce—the friendship begins to fray around the edges. As your immediate interests diverge, you talk less often.  Eventually the relationship devolves to birthday or holiday cards and the occasional lunch when your paths happen to cross.  The emotional memory remains strong, but the “friendship” itself is gone.

Don’t get me wrong.  Friendships are to be treasured, however long they last.  Shared interests and values make such relationships comforting, while educational, political and religious differences make the conversations stimulating.  Such friendships offer critical support to each other during life crises, and as Brooks suggests, provide a powerful motivation for us to live up to what our friends believe to be.

A striking feature of many of these situational friendships, particularly those formed during my working life, is how silo-ed they have been. For many years, my bridge club friends did not know my community service friends. My book club friends did not know my work mates. Each friendship satisfied a genuine aspect of my personality and/or character, but few friends ever saw the “whole” of me.

By contrast, the friends who have stood the test of time are those made when my life was not compartmentalized, in periods when I was not consumed by busy-ness.  A few date back to my youth, when we were still trying to decide who we would be when we grew up. Others appeared during periods of transition in my life.  What these friends share is that we got to see—and all too often had to endure—all the dimensions of each other’s personality and character.  We got the bad along with the good.

Because we have come to know the “whole” of each other, the friendships do not depend on knowing the same people, or working with the same clients.  Having shared our dreams and our aspirations, these friendships have been able to “grow, ” to remain alive and vibrant and mutually supportive, even as friends and spouses and specific life challenges have changed.

How have the important friendships in your life been formed?  I would love to hear your experience.

Defining Friendship in Today’s World

My blog today is contributed by Sherrey Meyer, a good friend and fellow writer who is working on a memoir about growing up in a matriarchal culture.

 

Nouwen quote on friendship

Henri Nouwen’s quote defines the foundation of a friendship. In looking at online definitions of the word “friendship,” they are many. Not one encompasses the qualities necessary to move from “being friends” to a true and lasting friendship.

The definition found in Urban Dictionary is worth reading and understanding as it relates to today’s ever-growing cybernetic society:

“Something that is much underrated in our society. Friendship is actually a form of love (here I’m not talking exclusively about erotic love). It’s not a lesser form of love than erotic love, only a different form of love. In fact, the ancient Greeks had a word, “phileos”, more or less equating to fraternal/brotherly love (friendship). …” [read more here]

With the birth and exponential growth of social media, we use new words to define or describe friendships and how they are created. As the 2000s rolled by, social media networks burgeoned and we began to meet new people online. “Friending” someone on Facebook became commonplace, an action most often based on a prior relationship. “Friending” a stranger may occur because you know someone who knows someone who knows someone.

But, “friending” or “following” on social media is not as companionable as meeting up face-to-face.  Chatting with old friends over a meal or making a new friend as the result of attending a conference or workshop, or even at the coffee shop where casual conversation begins.

Questions loomed around “friending,” “following,” “linking up with” online. Could we build “friendships” via social networking? Could you become friends with someone you couldn’t see? What impact is there on the definition of friendship?

In an article by Phil Barrett of Burning the Bacon with Barrett, he states his answer to the question of defining “friendship” and the impact social media has had on it. Quoting Barrett here:

Social Media has changed the definition of friends.  Just as media consumption and interaction has fragmented with new technology, so [have] our relationships and how we define them.

Best friends and trusted business associates will always be there for you – but social media has allowed us to cast a wider net personally and professionally – and thereby expanding or evolving who we consider a friend.

My response to the question of defining solid friendships is simple. Along the way in my online writing journey, I have made many friends. This summer I had the opportunity to meet in person three women I met online because of our shared interest in writing. The three just happened to be travelling through Portland at various times in the summer months, and I was able to meet each one face-to-face. Those intimate interactions, one-on-one, changed nothing of how I felt, except this: Face-to-face, intimate sharing of conversation and personality instilled in me a greater fondness for each one of them. When I’m online, I know who they are and what they do, but I don’t receive the pleasure of seeing the twinkle in the eye, hearing the laughter, or grasping other emotions shared during personal conversation.

Those are individual characteristics that for me encompass the definition of friendship. Getting to know the real person.

Coupled with Barrett’s widening net theory and my real-time meeting with my online friends, I can say the expectations I have held for decades with respect to making and keeping friends have not changed so much. I can still find and enjoy sharing interests, values, and mutual support and encouragement with all of my friends, both online and the ones I can reach out and touch.

Maintaining online friends, just as in keeping nearby friends, requires the same give and take of a real-time friendship. Intentional and authentic support, encouragement, caring, and honoring the other’s privacy and space are still important factors.

What about you? Please share your thoughts on defining friendship and what you think social media’s impact has been on friends and friendships.

 

 

sherrey2013_2A retired legal secretary, Sherrey Meyer grew tired of drafting and revising pleadings and legal documents.  She had always dreamed of writing something else, anything else!  Once she retired she couldn’t stay away from the computer, and so she began to write.  Among her projects is a memoir of her “life with mama,” an intriguing Southern tale of matriarchal power and control displayed in verbal and emotional abuse.

You can reach Sherrey on her websites:  Sherrey Meyer, Writer, on Facebook and/or Twitter, or via email at salice78@comcast.net.