When we made our other-side-of-the-world move almost a year ago, I knew I'd need to find a new doctor, dentist, hair stylist, and mechanic but what really put a pit in my stomach was the notion of starting all over again building close friendships at this stage. It's daunting! While of course I'm planning on maintaining (albeit from a distance) the terrific friendships I've made over the years, there's something to be said for an in-person friend who can meet you for lunch or a movie, advise you on which dress to buy for that wedding, or be the person you'd call to help you move a body*.
Sociologist Rebecca Adams says there are three conditions crucial to making close friendships: proximity, repeated & unplanned interactions, and a setting that encourages trust and confiding. It makes sense, then, that most close friendships are forged in the earlier decades when there's simply more time to put into it. The years of early parenthood are notoriously fertile ground for forming lasting friendships. The neighborhood play groups. The park meet-ups. The preschool co-ops. The mutual, shared bewilderment as you navigate the new world of sleep schedules, tantrums, and preschool enrollment. You find your people, settle in, and watch the kids grow.
But these mid-stage years when the kids are in elementary school and up? It's a tougher time to start new friendships, with all three elements of friendshipping on the decline and, on top of that, a scarcity of time. Plus most people have already found their people (see above). What's a gal to do?
My friends Christie and Ellen are both impressive friend-makers so I've tried to channel them in my new setting (ladies, feel free to chime in with your sage advice): Saying hi and introducing myself at church and school gatherings. Inviting people to meet for lunch or to come over for dinner. Hosting parties. Volunteering to help with projects that come up. I've been lucky to get to know lots of wonderful people so far and--who knows?--maybe some of them will turn out to be move-a-body friends*.
What about you? Have you moved and started from scratch at this stage? When was the last time you made a new, close friend? Do you tend to socialize with longstanding friends or do you mix it up with new people?
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Speaking of friends...
- Brene Brown's description of a move-a-body friend has always stuck with me. It's spot on. You can also watch her describe it on the video here.
- Yumi Sakugawa's endearing series of cartoons (like the one featured above) on friendshipping made me smile.
- Over the weekend I finished the novel Attachments pretty much in one sitting--I couldn't stop myself. It's a fun rom-com-style read (like a literary version of You've Got Mail) that features a workplace friendship told, in part, through the witty banter of their emails. Perfect for a long plane ride or a day at the beach.
- When the kids and I had to go to Sydney to renew their passports last week, we listened to the YA novel Code Name Verity. It's so good--I especially recommend listening to it--and it had each one of us enthralled for all six hours of the roundtrip. It portrays the close friendship between two brave young women in WW2 Britain, with a great deal of intrigue and humor and suspense in the mix. (A few instances of rough language and war violence throughout.)