It always amazes me that when I start thinking on a blog topic, I begin seeing it talked about/written about everywhere. This synchronicity has happened recently on the topic of friendship.
Relationships is a big component of retirement transition in general and one I focused heavily on at the beginning of my retirement as I lost almost 80% of my day-to-day connections when I stopped working. Now, more recently, in our Big Move, I needed to establish new IRL friendship circles. While I do want to maintain my connections with friends who are now physically distant, I know I need IRL friends. Touch is one of my top Love Languages (see link to love languages here). Words of affirmation and quality time are my top two but touch is number 3; I need hugs! The pandemic has certainly been hard on this one for me. I also feel a need for some deep female connections as I explore my emerging feminine consciousness. So some deeper thinking about building and maintaining friendships seemed a good place to start.
The idea of doing a “friend audit” came up, as did building more language (a lexicon) related to different types of friends. Exploring “what are friends” was interesting. One definition I liked: “Friends are people you select based on shared values, ideals, experiences, interests and beliefs. Your friends are your chosen family.” I am coming to understand that not all friendships are created equal and that is okay. It is good to have different groups of friends.
With the synchronicity that happens, Kathy at SmartLiving365 (link here) talked about: 1) friends that have your back no matter what; 2) fun friends; 3) deep conversation friends, 4) now and then friends; and 5) just above acquaintances. I also read about “toxic friends” who “suck the energy out of you” every time you see them, versus giving you energy when you’re together. (I think this could also be a toxic family member, but that’s another blog!)
I started to think about my own various types of friends – Blogging buddies, play pals, compatible couples, foodie friends. Thinking about building more friend language, a few friend types that really became clear to me are my:
Chosen Sisters – We have so little in common anymore, I wonder how we can stay friends and yet, they reach out to me and I reach out to them. I do want to know how their life is going, but I do refrain from going on too deep about the learning spaces I’m diving into. It’s similar to my birth sister – we have very little in common, just a heart felt wish that the other is happy and healthy and knows I love them. These long-term friends could also be called my legacy friendships, another term I read that I really like. We’ve been in each other’s lives for a long time, it’s comfortable and familiar and I want to maintain them always.
Deeply Intimate Friends – These are the few who I can share my hopes and dreams, fears and concerns, my ugly self. She is the one who I delve deep into the (crazy) learning spaces I get into, the things I’m ashamed of, and the feelings I’m almost afraid to admit to feeling. She doesn’t let me get away with lying to myself and I appreciate her open and honest perspective. To me, she is inspirational as well as aspirational and has enriched my life by exposing me to new thinking and ideas. We have deep soul level conversations and she really knows the whole me and I hope I know the whole her, too.
Inner Circle of close everyday friends. This is where chemistry and common interests come into play. This is the circle I’m working to create in Florida; the circle I’ve also never felt I had. It’s more than the Fun Tribe below, but not quite the Deep Intimacy above. It’s an extension of family – the ones who enjoy small get-togethers, will run errands with you, and ask you to join them to just hang out. They’d be the ones to call at 2 AM to come bail you out of jail (OK, that would never happen!). I hope one of this Inner Circle will be my “hell-yeah girl” – the one who is up for trying anything.
I’ve come to an acceptance of having two larger circles – my Fun Tribe and Acquaintance Zone.
The Fun Tribe people are my activities pals. Fun with Friends is a key element of my retirement transition. With these people, there is a sense of camaraderie, whether we are going to an art festival, a play, a concert, or a shuffleboard evening. I’ve come to accept that with this group, I am the designated planner, but luckily an appreciated one! These friends are not for steady emotional sustenance, but are really good company. We enjoy the things we do together! I also am beginning to accept the Fun Tribe participants will come and go with the seasons in Florida.
The Acquaintance Zone is a new idea for me. I read that it typically takes more than 200 hours, ideally over six weeks, for a stranger to grow into a close friend. This in-between zone for me (not a stranger but not my Fun Tribe, nor Inner Circle) is what Blue Zones calls “the acquaintance zone”. A Blue Zones article (reference here) said (paraphrased): “If you ask someone to hang out three times and it’s a no-go, move on and don’t take it personally. If you realize you don’t have a lot in common or you don’t really have chemistry, let it go. There’s nothing wrong with letting people go back into the acquaintance zone.” My Acquaintance Zone has been expanded with book club(s), garden club(s), neighborhood folks, and FB ladies meet-ups. And yes, it’s a different kind of relationship for me, as someone who worries about inclusion, to have so many folks in a more distant acquaintance zone.
A quote I read and paraphrased:
“Life is too short to waste your time on people who don’t respect, appreciate, and value you. I want to spend my life with people who make me smile, laugh, and feel loved. I will surround myself with the real friends who accept me for who I am.”
So I’m continuing to be intentional with creating new FL friendship circles – building close IRL friendships, enjoying our fun friends, and accepting new acquaintances. Many folks might not need different “labels” like this, but it helps me to appreciate even more all of the different kinds of people in my life.
Picture Credit: fun with friends… day drinking cocktails!