I’m still recovering from a four-day adventure known as ‘Loonapalooza’. This annual trip to Loon Mountain brings together a core group of childhood friends. We gather to ski, tell stories and share belly laughs.
All of us recently turned 60. We’ve lived long enough to know that friendship is a precious gift. We recount exploits of our wayward youth, while being grateful that we continue to add new adventures to our memory bank.
Together we’ve raised children, built careers, dealt with health concerns and lost loved ones. When we get together we don’t take it for granted. We can still revert to Junior High bathroom humor. Yet, we also easily move into the deep water to talk about what’s really going on in life. The older we get the deeper and more honest our friendship becomes.
I was thinking about this when I came across an article in the Globe Magazine entitled: ‘Where Have All The Guys Gone?’ by Billy Baker. The article points to studies that many middle-aged men face a loneliness crisis. https://www.bostonglobe.com/magazine/2017/03/09/the-biggest-threat-facing-middle-age-men-isn-smoking-obesity-loneliness/k6saC9FnnHQCUbf5mJ8okL/story.html
The article points out what we men know. We become busy building a career, raising a family and oftentimes find that our connection to friends and the emotional comfort provided, falls by the wayside. As a result we feel isolated.
A recent study by Britain’s University of Oxford presented results that most guys understand intuitively: Men need an activity to make and keep a bond. At the risk of over generalizing, women are generally better at making a social connection by talking and sharing, while men need a task around which to gather.
Richard Schwartz co-author of ‘The Lonely American: Drifting Apart in the Twenty-First Century’, offered this interesting comment: ‘Researchers have noticed a trend in photographs taken of people interacting. When female friends are talking to each other, they do it face to face. But guys stand side by side, looking out at the world together.’ http://www.oprah.com/omagazine/The-Lonely-American-Book-Review
When I look at photos of our ski trips going back over thirty years, we are indeed ‘looking out’ at the world together.
The task of planning for a trip and skiing a mountain is the setting within which we renew our ties. This past Saturday we skied with a temperature of 5 degrees below zero with wind gusts of 3o miles per hour. Later that afternoon we savored our survival over beers. More stories to tell.
The magazine article points to statistics that those who nurture friendships live longer, happier lives. The answer to finding and keeping friends is making time to get together a priority.
My friend Clyde’s dad meets each week with friends well past 70 and 80 years old. They meet early in the morning over coffee and donuts to argue politics, tell jokes, share the challenge of growing old and show pictures of grandkids. Each time they strengthen the ties that bind.
Living well is not for the faint of heart. Heart break and sorrow come to us all. Laughter, joy and wonder are waiting to be claimed too.
In the beautiful film, ‘Waking Ned Divine’, a friend eulogizes a dear old friend: ‘When we laughed we grew younger’. So it was this past weekend with ‘the boys’. Together we grew younger and our shared memories will carry us till we meet again.