Keeping Things in Perspective

I have sat down to write about my friend VERNON a couple of times. Nothing I have written seems right.

xTgsHMATQ4StB4ArbffqAQI am lucky enough to live on the seacoast of New Hampshire. We are still a town small enough where you get to know most everyone and everyone still stops to help. Vern is a character in this town. Everyone knows him. His bright smile. His happy, “hello!” and his generally cheerful disposition.

I first met Vern at the now closed BREAKING NEW GROUNDS. The cafe on Market Square frequented by locals and tourists alike. Vern and I would share a table with a few other regulars as I had my afternoon coffee.  Sometimes we would talk, sometimes we would both be reading or writing. If you were lucky enough- you would make Vern’s CARD LIST.  He would sit at  the cafe and write cards to friends. Things to cheer them up, wish them a good day or just say “HI”. (I made the list by the way!) Vern has some medical issues that make walking and balance a challenge.  Even though getting around for him is difficult, he is in town on most days. At our new coffee hang out, Cup of Joes, at The Gaslight for lunch or just walking through town and sitting outside on warmer days. Many locals know Vern from his days working at the bank or the art gallery.

As the year went on, Vern’s mobility challenges increased. He went from a cane to a walker. He regularly goes to PT and I have even brought him to my Portsmouth gym, Atlantic Gymnastics, to work on some strength.

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My personal goal is to see him back on a cane this spring.

Vern and I were trying to meet up for a coffee today. I was running late because today was one of those days where I was just not having any luck. I plow my gyms and properties and today I needed to spread salt on our icy parking lots. In short, the salt spreader broke. I had to spread the salt by hand. Take the salt spreader apart. Try to fit it. In the process of trying to fix it break off two bolts skinning all the knuckles on one hand.  I then ended up bleeding all over my jacket as I drive the truck to the mechanic who will now fix what I couldn’t.

I could have been in a really pissed off mood. I was late for meetings, behind with work that I needed to do. And I was going to miss my coffee with Vern. But you know what? I live in a great area. With a great family and great friends. I can get around with out any help. I do not need a cane or a walker and if I did I know that people in town would help me carry my coffee.

Vern- Thanks for helping me keep things in perspective and thanks for the cookie today!

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Season of Hope. New Friends

WHAT A PERFECT TIME OF YEAR TO MAKE NEW FRIENDS!

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One of the most important and yet least understood areas of psychology concerns the role of friends in our lives. It is often awkward when you are at your spouse, partner or GF/BF holiday party. They know everyone, they are in on all the jokes. Find another awkward looking person at the party at strike up a conversation. You already have something in common, you would rather be somewhere else.

As I was finishing up school in NY I was invited to a Christmas party at a friends house. He gave me his address and I headed over there. I pulled onto the street saw cars were lined up down the street. I parked my car and followed a couple up the street into to the house. I walked in was welcomed, my jacket taken, a drink put in my hand and directed to the food. I made small talk and joined in some humorous talk. Looking around the party I realized I didn’t know anyone. I searched for friends and a wave of dread came over me when I realized, I AM AT THE WRONG HOUSE!

The host came in and asked if I needed anything,

Me, “No thank you, what a great party!”

Host, “You are at the wrong place aren’t you?”

Me, “ummm, yeah- but this party seems pretty great!”

Host, “I’ll get your jacket and you can sneak out the back door. I think the party you are looking for is 2 houses down.”

Me, “Thank you so much!”

I snuck out the back door (drink in hand) and went to the party that I was invited to. It was an equally fun party.

The next week I was getting a coffee and the guy in front of me looked familiar. Yep- The host of the party I crashed. We laughed, had a coffee together and had dinner and drinks a few times before I left for New Hampshire.

I have been pretty lucky to have made some great friends recently. I look forward to dinner and drinks with them. We always laugh and each night, no matter how casual, is memorable.

I am thankful for these friendships and look forward to sharing this holiday season with them.

When it comes to happiness, your friends are the key.

I’ve tried to distill Friendfluence into what I believe are its most important lessons.

Here are 15 reasons to appreciate your friends:

Friendfluence is the powerful and often unappreciated role that friends—past and present—play in determining our sense of self and the direction of our lives. Whether you realize it or not, your friends have shaped who you are today. You are even the product of the friends who are no longer your friends.

Friends can give you vital life skills.  There are many perks of friendship include sharpening your mind, making you generally happier, knowing yourself better, becoming inspired to reach your goals, advancing your career, helping you meet romantic partners, and living a longer and healthier life.

Childhood friendships start your learning process. Early friendships play a vital role because they occur while key developmental changes are taking place. They help teach us some of those important life skills but also shape our life “narrative.”

Teen friendships shape your later romantic bonds. Though parents spend much of their time worrying about who their teenage kids are with, these relationships are a training ground for the later long-term bonds that will evolve through adulthood.

Friends can help you define your priorities. People tend to pick friends who are similar to them. This fact falls under the general proximity rule of close relationships, in that like tends to attract like. Because we fall prey so easily into this similarity trap, it is important to try to stretch yourself to learn from some of those opposites.

Having friends can help you get more friends. People tend to like others who have a reputation for being nice and helpful, and they like people who like them. If you want to be the type of person who attracts new friends, these qualities will help get you on your way toward building your social group. Once you have more friends, you’ll be able to enjoy some of those perks of friendship.

Close friends support you through thick and thin. To take the most advantage of friendfluence, put effort into your closest friendships. Although being friendly can get you more friends, you don’t need hundreds to help you through life. You may have to prune your friendship tree as you get older to be sure that you give enough attention to the ones who will really matter for your well-being.

You’re less lonely when you have friends.  Loneliness is painful, especially when you are living with loneliness for a prolonged period of time. This is yet another reason to put time, energy, and attention into finding and cultivating a close circle of friends.

Your online friends can steer your thoughts and behaviors. Although online friends are qualitatively different than your in-person friends, they shape you nevertheless. They can also be your source of life support.  Of course, your online friends can also make you miserable too, especially if you get caught in the “friendship paradox” (the fact that most people on Facebook have fewer friends than the average number). If you can avoid having Facebook envy dominate your life, you’ll have more rewarding connections with your extended friendship community.

Friends matter to you, regardless of gender. Although much is made of the difference between male friends, female friends, and male-female friend pairs, all share the qualities of having the potential to influence your life. If you restrict yourself to one certain type of friendship, you may be missing out on bonds that transcend gender boundaries.

Couple friendships can help your own relationship. People experiencing similar life events can often provide the most valuable support to each other. Unfortunately, some couples withdraw from their friendships when their relationship turns serious. You can benefit both from maintaining your separate friendships, but also from sharing with the couples who are experiencing transitions such as becoming parents, raising teenagers, and helping older family members.

Friends can also help you alleviate your work-related stress. Even though you may be stretched to the limit time-wise, the investment you make in these friendships will be worth the psychological benefits.

Friends can give you a reality check. Who but your closest friends will tell you that your new purchase is ridiculous? What person you meet on the street will let you know that your latest romantic interest is going to bring you heartbreak? Because friends know us so well, they are able to see things that we can’t, and aren’t afraid to share their dose of reality with you.

Banding together with friends can help you effect social change. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to fight for a cause, raise money for charity, or even just make a few small improvements in your community on your own. Friends are the first step to building successful social movements. Facebook provides one way to enlist the support of thousands of people. At a less grandiose level, people are more likely to engage in helping and altruistic behavior at the urging of their close friends.

Being a friend helps your friends. Friendfluence works in two directions. Not only do you benefit from its many perks, but by being a good friend you are helping those closest to you.  If you are aware of how you’re affecting your friends, you’ll work harder to stay close to them which, in turn, will benefit you as well. Being a good friend also includes asking them for help when you need it.

Giving someone the gift of being influential can be one of the greatest joys you pass on to your friends.

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Season of Hope. Reconnecting

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Whether it’s a yearly holiday letter, greeting card, or email, the holidays remind us of our long-time relationships. Some people are very fortunate to remain geographically and emotionally close to their “oldest” (or longest) friends. Like many my ADULT life (I am still in denial about being an adult) has me pretty far away from the people I grew up with. In our very mobile society the odds are that you no longer live in easy traveling distance from the people you were closest to in childhood, adolescence, or even college.

An old friend never can be found, and nature has provided that he cannot easily be lost.

Samuel Johnson

There is something great about reconnecting with old friends. It helps to remind you of where you were. Even though you can’t go back in time and relive those days, it is nice to ground yourself once in a while. Good for the soul.

Wishing you can go back will be pretty hollow, but looking at that notch in time is a good way to evaluate your place in time- in the “now”. There will always be certain memories you wish to forget. Awkward times, painful experiences and there are also things you wish you could put in a highlight reel, those things you were proud of – the accomplishments of goals and desires you have had over the years.

Then there are those very special memories with those genuine friends and family that if you could “bottle” the feelings of comfort and joy, you would open that bottle frequently and drink that in.

I look forward to seeing  cards and letters from old friends or even their Facebook posts this time of year.  It helps me drink in those memories of the time we have spent together.

Many people who knew YOU also want to know how you are doing. Send them an e-mail! A lot of people feel it’s awkward and a little nerve racking to try to get back in touch with a friend they haven’t spoken to in a while. What often happens is someone will want to drop an old buddy a line, but then they’ll think, “It will be so weird sending them an email out of nowhere. How will they react to it? Will they wonder why I’m writing them now?”

This time of year there is nothing abnormal or weird about reaching out to an old friend. You just have to put your self out there and go!

My personal story, I grew up in upstate New York. Spent most of my life in Rome, NY then High School in Cortland. Although I was only in Cortland 4 years. They were important years. Difficult as it was trying to “fit in” with others who had been together since preschool. I did manage to make some connections and feel very lucky that I am still in touch with some of them. 

My first 2 years of college had me at a 2 year school in Utica. There I made a few connections and I wish I had stayed in touch with some of these people. As odd as it is the person I am closest to from that time is also the person who lives furthest away (But in a place where I often travel to). 

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Finishing up my college career at UNH I find myself still living in the area and therefore occasionally running into people I went to school and grad school with. 

Through put all of this there was my “Gymnastics Family”. Guys I did gymnastics with. Girls I coached, and those I coached with. 

I miss you all. If I have lost touch, please send me an e-mail!