The beauty of deep female friendships is that we never run out of things to talk about. I fondly remember a seven-hour drive to a health resort with a girlfriend, five days of shared meals, classes, and hikes, and another seven-hour drive home. When I pulled into her driveway I had to turn the car off as we were not finished our conversation.
It seems to me that when we are blessed with open and nurturing relationships, conversation begets conversation: an experience I have almost forgotten with the limited access to social time and shared experiences imposed by the pandemic. I have been blissfully reminded of it recently. I have been reminded of friendships that top me up, mentally, physically, and emotionally. We need reminding as our world challenges our faith and hope.
We had our first dinner together at a small-town restaurant, after several months of separation. We slid off our masks as we sat down at our table, aware of the distance between us, and the space allowance to keep us two metres from the adjacent diners. I had a fleeting momentary thought. This is the beginning of about 24 hours together. What will we talk about? Three hours later, the last to leave, we abandoned our curbside patio table and went into our silent cars. Smiling in anticipation of seeing each other the next morning.
At dinner we talked about how we were coping with the ongoing, evolving pandemic. I had reported in a previous blog that I was edgy, irritable, and discontent. As we shared about feelings, sad, lonely, and “having a rough time” were added. Saying them out loud, to friends who relate rather than judge, is healing. We come from a lifestyle of privilege. When I think about what it’s like for others, I have no right to whine. That’s what we say, too often. Being humble enough to admit that our outsides and insides are mismatched is one that is difficult. Upon meeting, we hear how good we look, what a lovely sweater, Covid life is treating you well! No. It’s makeup and a sweater I bought online. I lucked out with my choices. Covid life is teaching me, not treating me.
Friendships that encourage us to strip away the facades are investments in our well-being. Studies on longevity and happiness tell us that connection and community are more important determinants of our life span than how much we exercise and what we eat. I am particularly attuned to the notion of healthspan. I witnessed and cared for my parents in their elder years. For both of them, their life span extended well beyond their healthspan. Being old, ill and otherwise compromised feels like a doomsday threat to me.
Mid-afternoon the following day, after golfing and a patio lunch, we were masked and cruising women’s clothing stores on the main street. Mask on, sanitize hands, investigation of racks and folded sweaters, occasional try-ons, exit and mask off. In and out of the shops we wandered. We counted on honest appraisal and feedback from each other. It was necessary when a saleswoman half our age was convincing us that the goose-turd green robe that looked like a housecoat or early Elton John overcoat was perfect with jeans for everyday wear. Or when holding up the perfectly adorable top with enough fabric to sleep under. One shop owner giggled behind her mask and said it was quite obvious what good friends we were.
Covid is teaching me to be discerning in my friendships. Our bubbles need relationships that nurture our sensitive and vulnerable selves. That give us energy. That challenge us to engage and live as fully as we can. Covid is teaching me to be open and available to others, to learning, to living differently. Most of all, Covid is teaching me that it isn’t the number of connections that matter to me. Rather, it’s the depth, honesty, and energy of those connections. Perhaps a silver lining?
At least, that has been my experience.