MAY – Connect with Friends

MAY – Connect with Friends

Connect with friends

My friends are such a huge part of my life. They have stuck by me through some tough times. I have always had a large group of close pals. I think back to our clubbing days. We often muse over what a “big deal” we were! We would skip the the front of any night club line up. The sound of our stiletto heels clip clopping as we “woo-ed” our ways through the streets at 1am. We always managed to conjure up some kind of havoc on these nights out. I recall fights over beach balls, fierce arguments with men as we defended each other’s worth, tears over said men and deep conversations over a midnight slice of pizza or a juicy burrito. In addition to my main cluster of friends, I had built a strong network of girls (and boys) from many different areas of my life. I had a beautiful group of friends from work, lovely mates I had met through Matt and those I had met on travels or at the gym.

Over the last couple of years, many of my closest friends have relocated to Sydney. Their lives continued to run as usual. They all still have each other and plan regular catch ups. Unfortunately for me, with them so far away – The arrangement did not support my bad habit of bottling up emotions. Without the regular contact, I shared less and less. Now don’t get me wrong, I still have a number of close friends remaining in Canberra (where I live) but I had failed to connect with them often enough to warrant offloading my “baggage.” I think the problem I created for myself was that for so long I had been known as that friend who had their shit together. I had been through some of the worst things imaginable at the age of 21 and come out the other end. My tough and at times wise exterior was a mask for the inner torment that I continue to face.

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Once I caught wind of my internalised stress, I became acutely aware that I needed to start talking and STAT. I made it a resolution to connect with at least one friend each day. This could be face-to-face, via email, text or phone call. Although my friends were spread far and wide, they are always willing to help me. As I started to let them know that I wasn’t coping, they were shocked (and sometimes irritated) that I hadn’t kept them in the loop. Asking for help was what saved me here. I made this a commandment because it is all too easy for me to maintain this facade that I’m doing okay. As soon as I asked for help my friends were there. I’d forgotten that in addition to helping others, I also needed help too.

Research (and let’s face it – common sense) tells us that strong social bonds are vital to happiness. Infact, having 5 or more close friendships makes for better bonds and overall wellbeing. Maintaining friendships cuts depression, boosts mood and lengthens life – fact!

It all became too apparent to me that I’m popular! Ha ha! Listen, I don’t mean to toot my own horn…but I do have a lot of friends. As I scrawled out my list of friends who I talk to regularly, my heart filled with happiness. I have a number of close friendships and my friends are all gorgeous, generous, honest and dedicated. The only thing getting in the way of them serving my happiness – was me. The only way my friends could contribute more to the satisfaction I had with my life, was if I let them. I was certainly happier when I surrounded myself with good friends, confided in them and helped them to solve their problems. I had lost touch with a number of them. We still chatted. But the frequency of our interactions had dropped considerably. I attributed this to being “too busy” or “too tired.” I knew I needed to deepen these connections again. It was my resolution to connect not only more, but better!

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I love being that friend who helps you to solve a problem or “think big.” During May, I had been enrolled in a mentoring subject through uni. This subject was amazing for me at work but also in life! I was reading about effective questioning, conversational techniques and listening. It was working at work but I was also able to apply it in life. I enjoyed how the quality of my conversations improved and I could tell my friends and colleagues were getting more out of our conversations. It was hilarious how Matt would crack a smile from behind my experiment (my friend) when I would pose questions like “and how do you feel about that?” or “What do you think made you do that?” This was a strategy I really wanted to live by so here came my commandments to ‘ask questions’ and ‘listen.’ By asking great questions and becoming a fabulous listener, I would bring out the best in people and THAT makes me happy.

Throughout the month, I found it quite easy to connect with friends each day. I had a 25 minutes drive to work and home of an evening. Often in the morning I would use siri to compose texts to my friends. I love it when I would call or text my friend Shannan – I had her saved in my phone as “Plops” followed by a poop emoji (The name “Plops” came from an unfortunate bout of gastro in Mexico). Siri would report back “Calling Plops, smiling pile of poo.” It made me smile every time! By texting friends of a morning, I would get replies all day. It also served well to wish them luck for meetings and appointments or to let them know I was thinking of them. I sent a friend Ellen a good luck message and her response was “Adri, I love you so much. You  have so much going on, but you always have the time to check in on me.” A few days later I received a large bunch of flowers at the school with a card thanking me for being there for her and for being so amazing.

THIS made me happy – I knew this was an excellent resolution and one I would keep up.

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Tamara is my best friend. She and I instantly connected over a Bubble-O-Bill on the streets of Sydney around 10 years ago and had been joined at the hip ever since. When she moved to Sydney, our bond always remained. What we weren’t so good at keeping in touch! My resolution meant we had long, meaningful chats at least once a week. I fell in love with her all over again and remembered why I adored her so much. She needed me just as much as I needed her. By having each other just a phone call away again, we shared things that we would only share with each other. Even though over 300km separated us, we reflected on our lives over long phone chats and began to heal together. This made me incredibly happy!

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The power of connecting with friends opened up my heart to those I cared about again. It gave me back my confidence and belief in myself that I was a great friend. On my birthday my wall was filled with well wishes, photos and collages. I received messages like:

“You are a wonderful friend that always puts others first, tells it how it is and brightens any room you walk into. Im lucky to have you in my life.” Tamara

“That friend that makes you laugh, hugs you when you cry. Is selfless, caring, inspirational and can probably bench press you. I love the shit out of you.” Jess

“Life would be pretty dull without you.” Jacqui 

“You are amazing, intelligent, gorgeous and care about everyone around you, and for that I am forever thankful.” Sabrina

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This reaffirmed that if I make the time to invest in people, the reward pays in dividends – not just for me, but for them as well.

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