Vitality Stories Lesson #2 – November 10, 2014

Vitality Stories Lesson #2 

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Bonnie’s (bottom right) first job out of high school at a CBS radio station in Minneapolis.



Quality friendships count and the matter, rather than the method, is key.

Bonnie married three times, had nine children, owned several dogs, and often worked swing shift waitressing in casinos, and while she never had a minute to herself, she was heart-numbingly lonely. She wondered, how can I be lonely when I’m never alone? I trip over kids and interact with people all day.

“Nobody realized how lonely I was. I didn’t quite know how to handle my loneliness…I was lonely most of my life, I know that now, and it’s too bad I couldn’t get a handle on it earlier.”

Bonnie was married and pregnant within a year of graduating from high school, and motherhood and marriage had its pros and cons. The 1950s in Minnesota were a time of modesty and discretion. Few people shared the details of their personal struggles, especially with abuse, addiction, or depression. It felt shameful to air one’s dirty laundry and this shame was isolating. Bonnie’s school friends were now spread across America and navigating their own family, trials and tribulations. Trying to catch each other on the phone to vent, feel connected, wasn’t possible from a practical or financial standpoint.

“I was so unhappy. I knew no one. I had no friends. Knowing what I know now, I think maybe I should have grinned and beared it and done a better job of finding friends for myself. I don’t quite know how I would have done that, but I’m sure if I tried and prayed on it, I would have figured it out.”

Surely We Make Friends

In truth, Bonnie would end up making a wonderful friend in the late sixties, Shirley W., and in her own words, “She was such a savior to me. She showed me different places to go, and I started going to church again and that was fun for me because I always liked church. I was glad to get to know her because she did everything for me that I needed. She was my savior, I will tell you.”

My dad always said, “If you can count your good friends on one hand, you’re a lucky person.” I’ll state the obvious. His point was quality and quantity go hand in hand (no pun intended) and his angle—the fewer friends you had the better off you would be. But why? Why does a lower quantity imply greater quality?

I can count good friends—those who make me laugh, enrich my life, provide reflection and encouragement—on two hands, and as I continue to grow, age, and meet new people, I hope to start using my toes. My eighth friend is as awesome as my first.

But back to Bonnie’s earlier predicament—how does one nurture existing friendships or make friends in the midst of raising children, navigating marriages or relationships, working, and more?

Is Less More?

Technology has changed drastically since Bonnie was a young, lonely woman. Now days, we are technically available 24/7 to our friends and family all over the world. Miss a call? Listen to voicemail. No answer? Leave a rambling, venting message. Miss texts? Catch up immediately in abbreviated language. Have a long story to share but not enough time for a call? Send an email. Lacking privacy? Resort to texting and LOL.

I actually didn’t intend this blog to hit upon social mediums but as I mulled over Bonnie’s difficulty in making friends and as I was typing I realized how much social networking is becoming ingrained in my life (I’m blogging for crying out loud). Many people like to split hairs about the quality of friendships maintained via social mediums, texting and emails, and there have been several articles and studies showing that some social mediums can contribute to isolation and depression. If a friendship survives via computers and smart phones alone, is it a true friendship, and how to split the same hairs for depression and isolation linked to loneliness?

I message constantly with close friends throughout the day. I often pick up my phone to see I’ve missed 70+ messages on a group text. Three friends and I refer to the group texts as “Irrational Musings” and these nuggets make my day—three rays of sunshine regardless of the topic’s weight, and speaking of topics, there are always at least three discussions in play. We share everything because we like acknowledgement and zero judgment. Acceptance and love. Would I trade in these 500 texts per week for a sit down with the three of them once a week? Nope, because it wouldn’t happen. Not only is it geographically impossible, these real time exchanges are cathartic and they squash loneliness like a bug. We are each other’s beck and call girls. And if not for Facebook, I might have lost touch with fabulous friends (the very ones who own real estate on my two hands) such as Debbie who has four children (three of which are triplets!). I’ve certainly reconnected with friends.

Two Hands Are Better Than One

My dad begged me to learn more about computers and codes because he knew computers were the future. He died in 1986 and missed the World Wide Web. I can’t ask him how he would apply his Friends On One Hand philosophy to social networks. Would he consider my Irrational Muses quality friends? Would he ‘hmph’ and shake his head because I haven’t met Debbie’s children in person?

I smile at the pictures of Debbie’s children on Facebook. The Irrational Muses make me LOL ALOT. I believe quantity laughter and quantity smiles add up to quality living. If quality is the standard of something as measured against other things of a similar kind (Merriam-Webster) then I feel very comfortable saying that a well placed/received text can be more meaningful then spending a whole day with a friend. Three friends have lost their mothers this year, one as recently as October. I couldn’t be with any of them and none were in the position to be on the phone, but I could text them daily offering love and support.

Does this mean the 24/7 real-time virtual access is better than and should replace being in-person? No, not always, but it trumps having zero interaction due to child rearing, hectic schedules, and financial limitations. Would Bonnie’s loneliness have been less or more with social mediums?

Feeling Engaged And Involved Matters

Bonnie now lives in an assisted living home. Her friends are mutually struggling for independence and dignity in an aging world. She dines with them daily, plays dominos, has uncanny luck at bingo, shares her Oprah Magazine, and she laughs. She laughs a lot.

AND as for social networks, she is a Facebook fan and loves to follow her children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, and extended family. Feeling engaged and feeling involved matters. She certainly isn’t lonely anymore. I’ve asked her.

Recently the nursing home lost Internet access and the situation was unacceptable to Bonnie because even surrounded with new friends, she feels her connection to the outside world is via Facebook and email. She DEMANDED she have access. IMMEDIATELY. “Not one more day can go by,” she told anyone who would listen. And we did. She now has her own Hot Spot.

Vitality Stories – Lesson #2: Quality friendships count and the matter, rather than the method, is key

How many good friends do you have? How do you interact with them? When is the last time you tried to make a new one? Friendships matter. Every avenue counts so find a few that work for you. Call, text, or email a friend. Have coffee with one. Hug one. Walk with one. Find one. Experiment with opening up your world.

Teri Case

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2 thoughts on “Vitality Stories Lesson #2 – November 10, 2014

  1. Rosa Easton

    Hi Teri,
    I found your name on Dan Blank’s GetRead facebook group, as I am currently taking his course. I love your stories and your approach. It resonates with me because I am working on a book about my family, which essentially is a compilation of memoirs of my grandmother, father and me. I am looking forward to receiving your newsletters. I am inspired by your website to create one of my own some day.

  2. Teri Case Post author

    Thank you, Rosa, for your feedback! Admittedly, I haven’t been consistent with my newsletter. You’ve inspired me to shake away the holidays and get busy. I will send you a personal email about my experience in Dan’s class which was very helpful.

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