The Value of Friends

An extraordinary event has occurred in my life this year, one that I am profoundly grateful for.

For years I have run on a Saturday from the same spot by the beach. In the beginning there was a group of us who met at 5 am every Saturday morning, summer, winter, rain, or shine. However for various reasons this group disbanded and I found myself running alone. A little coffee shop open right across from where we started running, with a view across the beach and the sun rising over the Pacific. Some of us started to have coffee there, but as the group disbanded, I found myself reading the paper and enjoying the beauty alone.

One day a friend I had known for many years, Donna, asked me if she could join me for the run. Of course, come along. And then another mutual friend of the both of us joined in.(Alicia) Then Donna brought along Toni who had been running on her own but never done any specific run training. Toni has an impish personality that bubbles to the surface and finds fun in the mundane.

That was back in March. After each run we would go to the coffee shop, where we would linger over coffee and laughter and the morning sun.

Jess started to join us, if not for the run, then for coffee. (Jess would often do her own run in training for a certain event, and she is faster than the rest of us.)

Then along came Fiona, mother of five. Another girl with an eternal smile and great sense of humor.

Sometimes we would find ourselves lingering at the coffee shop for up to 2 hours. Many of us had known each other for years, some of us had only recently met. However something magical was happening.

This combination of women who run created an extraordinary synergy, even an alchemy. It started with laughter. We laughed so much strangers would come up to us and say we were too happy for 6.30 or 7 in the morning, and didn’t this kind of activity normally occur at Happy Hour some 12 hours later over some form of alcohol?

Underneath the laughter bonds formed. Bonds of support, love, respect, care. We all felt it. This was not just a group of friends, we had become a group of women who were there for each other. The unique alchemy of this group of women has become something very special.

Our little coffee group has become so magnetically attractive, we now get people joining us just for the coffee. (non runners).

Donna’s partner, Byron, a friend of mine for 15 years, started running with us. He is our only male. We laugh and say that’s because he is a girl! But he fits. I doubt if he could have stayed away. You simply feel better when you start the day like this..with a group of people who revere life and aliveness and are there for each other.

The energy we have and generate is compelling.

In all my years I have had many friends, some of them even these people I am writing about now. But I have never had a group of friends who have bonded at such a deep level, and so quickly.

I have watched this happen with awe and amazement. Why this group of women, and why now? Is it the combination of these particular women? Is it that delicious alchemical reaction that occurs? Or is it because the time was right? Did we all came together when we became open to giving and receiving support? Or was it the laughter? The simple joy of being alive and well and starting a weekend in a beautiful location, being outdoors and sharing news, stories and our life challenges? Or has it to do with the larger context of the world, a return from madness of consumption and getting more, to the simple pleasures of shared friendships?

I believe it is a bit of all of these…that it is the alchemistry, plus our all being in a place in our lives where we are open to support, the giving and receiving, plus the right time and place, plus the love of running, of being outdoors, being fit and alive. And because we have been through life enough to know that what matters most of all is our relationships. That these relationships are our treasures of incalculable and irreplaceable value.

Whatever the cause, it is so perfect and beautiful. I couldn’t imagine starting the weekend any better way and I am deeply grateful and feel incredibly blessed.

We now meet for social events outside of running. And we plan some running holidays together, to distant marathons. And even now, when young Jess goes off to live in Sydney and start the next phase of her career, what we have is timeless and enduring.

The running is the common theme, but the support that lies underneath this is what is so compelling. And the laughter. Oh joy…simply one of the very best aspects of 2009 for me. My Saturday running group.

Thank you Alicia, Toni, Donna, Jess, Fiona..and Byron.

How have your friendships added value to your life?

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