When I was in the Girl Scouts, I learned a cute little song that our troop sang often together, usually as a round:
Make new friends,
but keep the old.
One is silver
And the other’s gold.
I am fortunate to still be in touch (large thanks to email and social media) with friends I’ve known since I entered kindergarten at age four and throughout my lifetime, to those I just recently met. I’m just as grateful for their love and kinship (“like family”) as I am for the love of my blood family. I remember reading a meme once that said something like – “Friendship is weird – we just meet someone and say – ‘You. You’re the one I want to hang out and do things with.’” Something about that person just feels familiar and… right. As if they’ve been a part of you all along, and you’ve just been waiting to finally run into them. This is why those to whom we’re closest are called our “soul mates.” Our Spirits have lived many lives and taken many journeys side by side. How blessed we are to have companions on this infinite path.
Most of us know right away when we’re going to have deeper connection than “acquaintance” with someone we meet. It’s been that way for me throughout my life. My friend Sandy and I clicked when she just walked up and took my hand on the school playground. I can still see the beautiful face of my friend Cathy as she smiled back at me from the front row in our Spanish class on her first day after transferring to my high school in tenth grade. My friend Karen and I met in a singles group – the men’s personalities were meh but the women were spectacular! My other friend Karen and I met at work, left our positions at around the same time, and remained friends. A shared love of Zumba brought Maureen and me together. Steve and I tried dating, but could tell soon enough that our love connection was deep friendship rather than a romantic match. This past weekend I went on an artists’ retreat and met some incredible women – one of whom I feel that same “forever” connection with. We’ll see if that’s the direction it ends up taking.
Platonic love was once seen as superior to all other relationships, including romantic, familial and sexual love. Plato taught in the Symposium that love of others in a non-sexual way brought us closer to the divine. Recent studies in Australia, Sweden, and the UK have shown that, in addition to adding to the quality of our lives in terms of happiness and contentment, friendships also literally improve our physical and mental health and help us to live longer. In fact, there are numerous studies pointing to this phenomenon. In addition, the CDC has warned of the detrimental effects of loneliness and social isolation in our elderly population, citing studies that show an increase of dementia and other serious medical conditions in those who have no close non-familial ties. Simply put – we need each other to survive, and to survive well.
The key to a healthy friendship is similar to that of a romantic relationship – it needs to be supportive, nurturing and mutual/equal. A positive, caring, strong and steady relationship with a friend enhances your well-being; but when your friendship is one-sided, controlling, volatile or judgmental, the damage to your psyche may not be worth the connection. I’ve experienced “breakups” in platonic relationships before, and, although they can be as painful as romantic breakups, in the long term the peace of mind of severing a toxic tie was worth the discomfort. As difficult as it may be to move on, some people just aren’t meant to be friends. I have found that the karmic connections of unhealthy relationships are encountered in this lifetime to help us to heal a relationship from a previous life – to see whether a lesson can be learned. In these cases, ending the relationship successfully completes the challenge.
When I give readings, there are a few bones that may surface if a relationship needs to go. The scissors may signify that it’s time to cut ties to someone who is no longer a healthy connection. The fox baculum (penis bone) may be urging you to set boundaries with someone who is a time, energy, or financial drain on your life. It’s giving you permission to say “no” without guilt. You’re doing the fox a favor by cutting him off to help him to grow and become independent. The ankle cuff signifies something – perhaps a relationship – that holds you back. Pay attention to that little nagging psychic voice that tells you something is off. It’s always right. And the dog’s tooth warns to be wary of a friendship that has a sharp edge and may need to be reevaluated before it bites you in the butt. Periodically pluck out the weeds in your garden before you’re overrun. Conversely, when your friendships are positive, the dog’s paw, elephant, bear or paper clip may show up to remind you that positive connections and strong friendships are the backbones of a happy life.
The best way to know whether a relationship is toxic and that you need to excise this person from your inner circle is to notice and be aware of how you feel when you’re around her. Does she make you feel bad about yourself? Are you stressed out by her actions, her words, her voice? Do you find yourself looking for excuses not to get together? Does she have unpleasant habits, such as gossiping or complaining about, judging or ridiculing others (or you!) that drag you down? It’s time to let this one go. If you find yourself self-conscious, worried, anxious or exhausted after a visit or phone conversation, it’s best to extricate yourself and seek out healthier connections to replace it.
And how in the world do adults find new friends, and rekindle healthy relationships post-COVID? To make new, healthy relationships, put clothes on (they can be comfy) and put yourself out there. I know it’s hard, and uncomfortable and scary for some folks (me included). But these connections could literally save your life, especially if you’re lonely now. It’s really easy to join a group or club that helps you meet others who share your interests – check out meetup groups, social media connections, adult education classes, newspaper articles or public service messages about issues and activities that excite you and bring you joy. Finding others who are equally passionate will lift you up and give you a sense of shared community. And if you feel that “click,” ask to meet for food or walk or event outside of the group (yep, just like a date).
How about those close friends who drifted away during the pandemic, or because of work or family pressures or commitments, or just time flying? Don’t be embarrassed or hesitant because it’s been so long. Make a call. Send a text, or even an email. Send a private message on social media. It doesn’t have to be an invitation, or even a long conversation to begin with – a simple: “Hey, it’s been forever! I’ve been thinking about you – how’s it going?” may be just the push your friendship needs. Chances are that they will have been thinking of doing the same thing. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to pick up right where you left off. That’s how healthy relationships roll! And after getting together and remembering how well you get along, when you say “Let’s do this again soon,” try hard to make it happen.
What if you are holding out for a romantic relationship at this point in your life, and you don’t feel that you have the time or emotional energy to put in to a platonic friendship? Please consider the advantages of having someone to help you through that journey – someone who has your back. In my sixteen years single after my divorce, I was lonely and miserably going from one first date to another, until I threw myself back into the friendship pool and found companions who brought me peace. I can honestly say that my BFFs likely saved my life.
There’s no need to go through life alone, and every reason not to. Making connections with the Gold friends with whom you’ve spent ages, and the Silver whom you’ve yet to meet is what makes life worth living. And, for those of you reading this who have been in my life, or will be in the future – thank you for being a friend.