I needed the space, I needed the solace of nature.
Because my friend Laurie Foley died that morning.
Laurie was an amazing person, yes. A PhD in Computer Science at age 26? Hell, yes, she was amazing.
And she was also my friend.
People ask me, “Oh, did you grow up together? Did you meet in college?”, as if that’s the last chance to meet anyone who matters.
The truth is: I met Laurie in 2008 when she was my student in coach training. Then I became her mentor, her colleague, and her friend.
We liked the same books, and the same movies. She had a dog named Mocha. I have dogs named Milo and Bootsy. She had a kid. I had kids. We both loved puns, and British humor. We both took training in archetypes – different training programs, though – and she not-so-secretly thought her program was better than mine. We both disliked fake, insincere and slick salesmanship. We both believed in the things that cannot be seen. She came to visit me a couple of times, I came to visit her a couple of times. In the last few years, we connected every day as she navigated her life with ovarian cancer.
We were grown-up friends.
Earlier, in my late 30s, a slightly older friend moved away and called to talk with me about how challenging it was to fit in to her new community. She said, with a deep sigh, “No one wants a new friend after forty.” This was not happy news because she was smart, gorgeous, fun, engaging and blonde. I mean, if she couldn’t find new grown-up friends, I was destined to become a friendless bag lady living out of a shopping cart by my next birthday.
It’s true that too many of us struggle to find friends – friends at work, friends in the neighborhood, friends at all. And yet the Mayo Clinic says having the connection that deep friendship provides is vital to your health.
So, having friends is a very good thing.
The downside, of course, to allowing yourself to become deeply and authentically connected to another person is the sad fact that some day one of you will die.
And your heart will break.
And you may think things will never be the same again.
But that pain is the price you pay for having loved deeply, for having cared completely. For allowing another person to have seen you at your best and at your worst – and you them – and loving them anyway.
When you understand just how important connection and friendship is, you can take steps to create and foster relationships. Last year, Koren Motekaitis (also a former student – see a trend developing?) and I spent an entire hour talking about the power of friendships on her How She Really Does It radio show- listen to it here and get some more insight and approaches to growing and appreciating the people in your life.
If you feel less connected than you’d like to be, then today is the day you can start changing it. Be more open. Make eye contact. Find the places where you have things in common with others, and talk about it with them. Make the effort. Be vulnerable enough to be someone’s friend.
You will never regret it.
This week, I’ll head to Atlanta for Laurie’s funeral. This is a day I had hoped would never come, but it has. And as the sun streams through the stained glass next Saturday afternoon, and people say wonderful things about her heart and her spirit, my every breath and heartbeat will be a simple thank you for the deep and abiding friendship we have shared.