By Susan Paget
Lisa Fitzpatrick and I met during a break at an out of town conference, As we jostled for mugs and tea bags, we could’ve easily bumped elbows, exchanged a quick “Pardon me” and called it a day. But we didn’t. Instead, we introduced ourselves and somehow, over a quick cuppa, shared stories about hormones, juggling family and our goals. It was Sacred Women’s Business. We connected.
That first meeting with Lisa reminds me of the importance of keeping our hearts and minds open to friendship opportunities, even in unlikely places. Sure, at any stage of life, we need friends, but when you’re over 40, these encounters can literally be lifesavers.
I work with women at midlife and one of the realities of this stage is that we’re asked to embrace change. This is change that in the past, we might’ve tried to ignore. But the metaphysical transition of perimenopause, with all its hormonal flux, has other plans. I believe this process brings whatever we’ve tried to avoid up to the surface, demanding to be dealt with now. For some of us, that means examining our relationships, dealing with career transition, coping with empty nests and fertility choices and the biggie, finding our purpose.
The challenge is that this inbox of midlife messages can leave our usual sisterly support systems on shaky ground. Our past friendships are vulnerable to a tipping point, falling away either because of circumstances or just because they no longer feel right.
So why does this matter?
As we live longer, new research is revealing key findings for us to be aware of at midlife. One stand out is that if we want to thrive for the second half of our lives, it’s essential that we don’t become isolated. A lack of solid friendships puts us at risk for premature death (and that’s regardless of whether we take care of ourselves). Studies also show that the warm and fuzziness we feel when we’re with a good friend actually increases our progesterone levels, a welcome byproduct since this is one of the key hormones that ebbs during perimenopause.
Finding friends at midlife can be a whole new game. It might mean going out of comfort zones and putting ourselves out there. It might mean making the first move rather than waiting for an invite. And, it might mean inspecting our own past history with friendships and working out how we can do our future ones better.
But there’s an upside to the effort. Because of the wisdom of age, our connections have the potential to be deeper and longer lasting than the ones we had in our younger years. There’s every chance that our midlife friends will become our sounding boards and spiritual advisors, helping us face whatever change life throws at us, with courage, humor and love.
So the next time you find yourself in a busy situation, with only a few minutes to spare, be willing to smile at a stranger who you think might be on the same wavelength. It could give a hectic break a dose of pleasant sanity. Or, it might evolve during a time you need it most, into something sacred.
Susan Paget is the founder of The Change Guru, a company that helps women navigate midlife change. You can connect with Susan on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/thechangeguru.net