I get by with a little help...
Yes...I'm quoting the Beatles. Or for non-Beatles fans...Joe Cocker.
My friends have been on my mind a lot over the past couple of weeks.
I think it is because of some big, scary stuff that has been going on, but also because I see the power of friendship, and the incredible friends I have!
I look at my sons, and they are so different from each other and how the interact with friends.
J will gladly isolate himself if left to his own devices. He "thrived" during the Covid lockdown. He did his virtual school and was happy to be left alone. The problem is, socialization is the one thing he needs! The autism has caused him to have difficulty "reading the room" and responding appropriately to comments and classmates. He needs to be around people to learn how to... be around people! Now in high school, he is making progress, and having him involved in Unified Sports has been huge! We are now onto basketball season, and he is loving it! The fact that there are "helper" kids (students that are "normal") on the team to encourage the special needs kids is a blessing! At home he withdraws. Home is his safe space. He needs that time to decompress. But at school he is thriving--at least socially. I don't think he has a "go-to"/best friend, but he does tell me about the kids in his classes that he talks to. He calls them his friends. And when we are out and about, kids say hi to him first--they engage with him! It makes me happy to see his classmates talk to him, and not shun him.
B, on the other hand is my social butterfly. He needs his friends like he needs air to survive. The lockdown made him sad and depressed. Virtually talking to his friends wasn't enough. He needed to be in close contact. He needed touch! He needed to hug his friends. It took several virtual talks with the school psychologist to help him through those months. When school reopened in the fall, he was the happiest kid in the Northeast! He has a "playdate" almost every weekend, and it is a different friend every time. I absolutely love that he wanted to go to the middle school "Neon Night" this past week. He had a blast. It's our first school dance that anyone in our house has wanted to attend. He has numerous friends, but I think he has a couple "best friends" that has been part of his life for a long time. He says they are his best friends, and I'd agree..
There have been suggestions lately about the effects the shutdown has had on kids. I don't need a report to tell you that it hurt--a lot! I don't think we will truly know the effect of being secluded until these kids are grown up.
But, each generation has their "BIG THING" that defines them. For the "Greatest Generation" it was World War II. For the Boomers, there were several: JFK, and MLK Jr.'s assassinations. Vietnam. The Hippie Movement. For my generation (Gen X), many point to the Challenger explosion, and the first Gulf War. For the Millennials it is 9/11, and the War on Terror. My boys...which are at the end of Gen Z generation...it will be Covid.
Anyway...all this talk of effects on our mental health has made me think about my own, and how my friends are a major part of my "self help". Physical activity helps too.
As I said...some have confided about some major $#!& going on. They've been on my mind a lot, which has made me think about all my friends--near and far, and how they are such an important part of my life.
I have a couple friend groups, each playing a different role, but all are invaluable. In fact, I don't know what I'd do without them.
These are friends that are as close to family as you can get...in some ways, they have become family. But each group is very different, and serves similar and different purposes.
My closest, dearest and best friends in the whole wide world I met in college. We've been friends for almost 35 years! Holy cow! These 2 ladies have seen me at my worst and my best, and vice versa. They were at my wedding, and even though we now live 700 miles apart, I know they are always there for me. We don't talk as often as we used to, but when we do, it is like we spoke yesterday, and have never been apart. Just knowing they are out there in the world makes me happy, and I really should reach out to them more. We will always be there for each other, and we have joked that we will probably end up living together when we are old. We joke, but the probability of it happening is high. Like the Golden Girls, but we are so much cooler.
Then there is my book club, aka The Juggabees. Yes, there is a story behind the name, and you aren't going to get it here. These dozen women have been a lifeline...especially during the Covid lockdown...but even before, and definitely after. We have been faithfully getting together once a month since 2004! And that includes several Zoom bookclub meetings!
Yes, we read the books--sometimes we even discuss them.
We also get dressed up for Halloween, and there are other shenanigans, but these women are solid. And strong. And resilient. They have gone through horrors and come out the other side stronger for it. They willingly share their stories or triumph and pain in the group. The text chain that started during Covid continues, even though we have been back meeting in person for a while. If we ever need a pick me up, they are there. If they need a prayer, we pray. A celebration...yup, we're there with noise makers. They need to vent about something--bring it, we got you! You name it, they are always there with words of support, hope, light, encouragement. And when we get together, those words are manifested in hugs, tears, laughter and love. They are the ones that were there when I had my boys. My besties are 700 miles away, as is my mom. They stopped over to check on me, gave me advice, and made sure I didn't go nuts. We love having fun! Owe always say, "We mock...we don't judge". We even have a "Buzzkill" necklace. But the joking is done purely in love, and never mean. And we do a fabulous karaoke!
Lastly, are my running friends. These ladies are new to my friend circles, but keep me going physically. Seriously...they are younger and faster and more with it, but they push me to do my best, and keep active. They wait for me on our runs, and allow me to catch up. Their kids are younger, so they get the hand-me-downs from my boys. These are my "Epic S#!&" ladies. These are the ones that keep me MOVING. We climb mountains. We ride bikes. We run half marathons, and trail races. We snowshoe. We go hiking. And if we're lucky, we will ride the Erie Canal Trail from Buffalo to Albany this fall on our bicycles.
Each of these groups play an important role in my life. There are certain things I'll tell one group, but probably not the others. And they definitely know things they can use to blackmail me. In fact, they certainly know things that I have not told my mom, my husband...anyone.
For those who watch the TV show Grey's Anatomy, you know about Meredith and Christina. They are each other's "Person". And for these groups of friends--these are "my people". There is actually a definition for this.
"You're my person" became something stronger than a best friend -- it's a soulmate, a sister or a brother, someone that will be there for you unconditionally and vice-versa.
They are my own personal therapy groups. Each one slightly different, but oh so important to me. I fortunately don't need to hire a therapist, because I have these ladies. They are "my person".
Now granted, a therapist is a highly trained professional, and are worthwhile and important. In fact, we had one for a while, when we were trying to get J figured out and diagnosed. She even worked with our family and helped us process all that J's autism and ADHD would effect. She even helped me though some issues I had with triathlon, quitting and my dad.
A therapist can be vital to your mental health, and I don't want to diminish their value. They play a vital role in the lives of many people--including some of my friends!
For me, these ladies know me better than anyone. And I have relationships with them that would take years to develop with a therapist. If I had something serious going on, then I'd seek professional help, but fortunately I don't. I have the normal mom, wife, woman issues that a conversation with good friends helps get me through.
There is always laughter, tears, hugs, and light with these women. And I'm so grateful to have them in my life.
I don't really know where I'd be without them. Every single one has provided wisdom, a shoulder to cry on, an encouraging word, a prayer, sound advice, an escape, and love.
I am writing this as I watch the snow fall and plan on a snow day tomorrow. The snow makes me think about how blessed I am. Family will always come first. Don't make me go all "mama bear" on you.
But my close knit circle of my friends will be an extremely close second.
I love you my friends! And my hope is that you all have a "person" (or more) in your lives.
I am lucky to have not just one...I have a whole tribe! In fact 3 tribes!
John and Paul were right when they wrote, "I get by with a little help from these friends!"
I sure do.