aarp, sisters, friendship
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After You Read This, Call Your Girlfriends, Okay?

When I lost touch with mine, I realized how important they are.

“Girl, it’s been too long. Call me!”
“Let’s get together soon and catch up.”
“I’ll email you so we can set up a day to connect.”

How many times have you heard or read these requests from friends and family? How many times have you been the one to say them? Most of us have access to mobile devices that allow us to more easily connect to people, yet many of us are less connected than ever before.

It may seem like we don’t even have time to make time for life-affirming connections with our friends and family, but I don’t think we can afford not to. When we finally get together, we don’t want that time to end. We shut the restaurant down; we stay up way past our bedtime. The laughter comes from the heart and you can feel it down in your soul. It just feels good. The moments we spend with them can be life-giving. They can provide the support and affirmation we don’t realize we need until we get it.

I grew up in central Louisiana, where life was idyllic. (I know a lot of people say that but it’s true.) I especially looked forward to my parent’s predictable weekend plans. On Saturday mornings, my brother and I were up early to finish our chores so we could watch “Soul Train” at noon. Sundays after church were designated for fellowship with family and friends. My parents called it “riding out.” I remember how much I enjoyed that time. Those experiences taught me so much about life — I learned how to share, how to cultivate relationships and how to stay out of grown folks’ business, but still get the tea. It was also a lesson in social graces, etiquette and cultural and community norms. That time together taught me how to be loyal to my loved ones regardless of the circumstance and that family is not always defined by blood relation.

When I became a mother, I wanted to provide those interactions for my two sons but our nuclear communities had changed, making it more challenging to “ride out.” Gone are the days when family and friends live within walking distance or a short drive. Kids in the neighborhood don’t go to the same schools and churches, and the needs that pull on us from every direction can deplete our relationship energy. After work, many parents taxi their children to activities, provide meals, maintain the house, do the laundry and finish other tasks. Add to that mix caregiving to an ailing parent and our daily lives are running at a breakneck speed.

The 1980’s song “Fly Like an Eagle” by the Steve Miller Band warned us that time keeps on slipping, slipping into the future. But I had no idea what that really meant until I entered a chapter of adulthood that put me on a proverbial spinning wheel. When I moved to North Carolina from Louisiana, the only person I knew was my “wusband” (my former husband). Connecting with coworkers, sorority sisters and church members allowed me to build relationships that continue to be a vital part of my life.

Motherhood is hard enough without having supportive family around, so my new circle helped me find the best doctors, childcare providers and anything else that I needed. They also made sure I knew that I was not alone. It wasn’t uncommon for my friends to offer to babysit or bring over meals at just the right time when I was feeling overwhelmed. I learned that it’s okay to ask for help, and I came to rely on my friends for support. It felt so good to know that I could call them any time and they would be there. This holds true even today.

Every month, my circle of friends used to celebrate a Girls’ Night Out. It was sacred time for all of us. But life interfered and we started missing the date and rescheduling it, then missing the date and not rescheduling it, then eventually we just stopped doing it altogether. I yearned for that time and those connections. Now, I’m the one planning our Girls’ Night Out slumber party. I’m certain it will be epic — well, as epic as it can be for women my age who usually go to bed no later than 10 p.m.

I’ve also resumed the lost art of written correspondence, and the response to my letters and cards has been amazing and affirming. All of us are busy, but we can always find time for a text or phone call. My heartfelt desire is to reach out to friends and family for fellowship. And who knows? I just may “ride out.”

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