Why friends matter

Today, as often happens to me during the winter, I struggled to stay awake. I’m pretty certain humans are supposed to hibernate in the dreary grayness of winter, or maybe it is just this particular human who is wired that way. Regardless, from December through March, I often feel like I should be in a cave.

Part of this is because I have depression that is perfectly manageable every season except winter, when my SAD* kicks in; the other part of it is I am half bear. (Seriously. Just ask my eldest what I did after discovering she was being bullied on the bus.) Whatever the reason, because I have bills to pay and students to teach and basic responsibilities like making sure my bathroom isn’t a petri dish of germs, I have to get myself up and at ’em each day.

It isn’t easy, as anyone who has *Seasonal Affective Disorder knows, and what I realized today is the best medicine may not be happy lights or medication or therapy, but a phone call with a friend. Case in point: I wouldn’t be writing this blog had I not called my dear friend in Houston on the way home from work. Speaking with her – and especially listening to her update me on her life – was like getting an injection of energy.

Before talking with K., I had one plan: Try to stay awake driving home, then get out of the car, out of my clothes and fall into bed. After talking with her, well, I’m writing about how friends can be the best medicine!

Friends allow us to verbally process all that we sense is wrong in the moment and, as they tell us their struggles, we gain perspective. That two-way-street is the most important part of these exchanges and truly, the defining aspect of a true friendship. When only one person symbolically exposes their belly, being vulnerable about what is real, the exchange is not healing. That’s therapy, not friendship. And it turns out the latter may be a better cure for depression than the former.

But if you call a friend and are open, and they share their heart back, a little more glue is added to the friendship bond. In the action, you both feel less alone, helping each other remember that you each survived difficulties before.

That booster shot of love and encouragement can take a dreary winter day and inject it with the promise of a flower-filled spring, which is just the amount of hope anyone needs to get up and get on with life. And for that, I’m especially grateful.

***

A couple weeks ago I wrote about the panic of turning 60 and ended the post with the list of things I want to do this year. I got the idea of this challenge after reading the hysterical and inspiring “Finding My Badass Self: A Year of Truths and Dares” by very talented – and much-more-brave-than-me – Sherry Stanfa-Stanley. I figured if she could go to a nudist beach, I could manage calling a police station and asking to go on a ride-along.

Like many people, I’ve set various goals for my life, usually followed by, “Some day, I want to…”. Also like many people, I’ve either never made it to the goal or simply forgotten about it because it wasn’t pasted to my makeup mirror.

What a public list does is offer some accountability and a little bit of dare-fun, which is why I decided to take Ms. Stanfa-Stanley’s original idea and adapt it to my own Thirty in Sixty inventory. But just having a list doesn’t do much for you, as the inventor of the Passion Planner would be quick to say. To get things done, you have to have deadlines. So, here’s where I currently stand with getting things done on this list.

  1. Appear in a video – set up by Feb 15
  2. Ride along with a cop – set up by Feb. 10
  3. Try belly dancing – set up by May 1
  4. Take a Dobro lesson – set up by May 15
  5. Be able to play first two pages Pacabel’s Canon in D – Begin practicing nightly on Feb. 7
  6. Get a professional photo in the desert – Made request last week, will follow up Feb. 2 for final date.
  7. Get an in-person meeting with my local congressperson re: action on climate change – Make the call by Feb. 15
  8. Invite the UA president to dinner – Send this email Jan. 31
  9. Have coffee with a homeless person – in September sometime
  10. Talk to guy at bus stop and get his story – Feb. 18
  11. Slide down a fire station pole – Have made the request.
  12. Work as a barista for a day – Make request Feb. 4.
  13. Get accepted by local media as a regular columnist Will be appearing monthly on Sundays in the Arizona Daily Star. First column ran Sunday here.
  14. Join UA pom line for one cheer – Send email Jan. 31.
  15. Apply to be a Court Appointed Special Advocate – Am in interview process.
  16. Spend a half day at the Sister Jose Center – Sometime in July.
  17. Be able to fold myself in half – Am practicing every night.
  18. Serve on a local town boardDecided against this due to time commitment; perhaps after I retire. (Now I know what many boards are full of retired people!)
  19. Take tap dancing lessons – ????
  20. Hike 7 falls – Aiming for late March or early April
  21. Have coffee with a gun-rights supporter – Make request by May 1
  22. Be a matchmaker for local partisans – ???
  23. Be crossing guard at school – Make request by Feb 25.
  24. See a horse born at UA farm – Make request on Feb. 4.
  25. Go roller skating – In August
  26. Ride a train to CA – ???
  27. Brush and Bottle class – Have this on the books for February and hope to have another one with other friends in June.
  28. Segway tour – Find out options on March 15.
  29. Offer free hugs somewhere in public – Make signs by Aug. 1 and set up event for early October.
  30. Harvest honey – Email bee-keeper on Feb. 10.
  31. Go to a dude ranch for a week – Have made reservations for July.
  32. Establish a new motto: When it’s too rough for everyone else, it’s just about right for me. — Completely forgot about this and really need to work on it!

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