It was actually the Roseville Bridge, in Sydney, and I was in the passenger seat while Rick drove us to work on a sunny spring morning. From my vantage point, I could see a little café near the river, where two small specks sat at a waterside table. My imagination provided the details: they were good friends, sharing a morning coffee, laughing, crying, swapping stories about husbands and kids and holidays. They had the morning sun on their faces and nothing to do in that moment but enjoy each other’s company.
I on the other hand was sitting in heavy traffic with a clipboard on my knee, planning a presentation to a large corporate client later in the week. I faced a day with back-to-back meetings that wouldn’t end until 5:30 or so, when I would commute home to make dinner, try to unwind, and spend some time with the kids.
A wave of heartache washed over me. When was the last time I sat at a waterside café and had a long cup of coffee with a close girlfriend; no agenda, just the simple relishing of another’s company?
I would have said I had hundreds of friends, including staff at work, clients and colleagues in the field of learning and development. But in that moment, as we navigated the heavy traffic on the Roseville Bridge, something else occurred to me: I had NO friends.
So I took a pledge. I was going to find some.
In my mind I called them coffee friends. It was a metaphor for people I did not pay, who did not pay me, who wouldn’t be helping me to make money. They would be people I could just…hang out with.
For the rest of the trip to the city, I pondered this question: How do you make that kind of a friend?
That afternoon, I rang a woman I liked and asked her if she’d be happy to have coffee sometime this week. She was delighted; one thing led to another and within a few weeks she was a true coffee friend. Many years later, she’s still one.
I tell this story because I believe in structures. At that crucial crossing, I decided to structure my life so that coffee friendships could occur. I have many coffee friends in my life these days, and they’re there because I set up structures that would have that happen.
Our Shedders community is an example of that. To begin with, they are friends, so I have someone with whom to have coffee (or do many other things) anywhere, anytime. Just as important, they have friends whom I get to know and sometimes love. In turn, they adopt friends of mine, and everybody’s lives get richer.
I have other structures: I make sure I am participating in clubs. I’ve developed a couple of good friendships in the Old Bar Garden Club. I have several very good friends in our community choir, in our book club, in my yoga classes and in our boat club.
Or how about this for a world-class structure? – move your favourite people nearby. We have close friends in Sydney that we took property-hunting in the area for years until they finally surrendered and bought 40 acres right here on Mitchells Island. Lucky, or what?
I do-indeed-no-doubt-about-it have friends.
* * *
The Intimates are coming this weekend.
We are a small group who did a seminar called “Intimacy” many years ago. Six of us were in a sub-group within the seminar (pods, I think they were called), and ours was particularly successful. We enjoyed the experience so much that after the seminar was over, we set up fortnightly get-togethers where we continued sharing our challenges and accepting coaching from one another. Suffice it to say, we made a big difference in each other’s lives.
When Rick and I moved four hours away, to the country, The Intimates were only one part of a community of friends that we were concerned about leaving behind. Would we ever see them again? Could we keep up friendships long distance?
We all made an effort. We often meet over breakfast in the city when Rick and I are in town, and a year ago we invited everyone to Mitchells Island for a weekend. That was such a success that we resolved to do it again.
So the Intimates are coming this afternoon, and I expect they will make a big contribution to what I’m up to in life. Here’s our agenda:
- highlights and challenges of the year
- current challenges
- bucket list
- how my life is using me these days
Not to mention:
- breakfast at the Waterbird (complete with the quiz)
- beach walks and exploration
- dinner out and dinner in
- and coffee, coffee, coffee anytime.
How could it not be an impactful weekend? Our friendships will pick up where they left off, we will have a good time, and we will yet again cherish one another’s gifts.
So, out of these stories, here are two things I observe about friendship:
1. Friends are everywhere, but you have to want them. You have to attend to them, invite them, and set up structures so they are present in your life.
2. Your friends will follow you anywhere, if only you invite them.
As with the best gardens, we must keep finding the new and looking after the old.