Friends are the family you choose

Whenever I hear of someone who is considering therapy, for any reason, I recommend it with my whole heart. Almost all of the healthy and happy people I know have done some sort of therapy. There is within almost all of us many subtexts, things which underlie our actions in ways we aren’t aware.

Having said this, I never had to delve very deep to analyze my own life. I didn’t have a lot of family, so my friends have always been important to me. My neighbor Laura, my high school friends Patti, Anna, and Diane, my long-time buddy Brent — all have been like siblings to me in many ways.

When my daughters were in college and the last years of high school, I began to have a not-too-subtle mid-life crisis. The pursuit of career goals no longer served the same needs. Because I had been so focused on my daughters, I had drifted away from the kind of friendships that were important in my younger years.

It was around this time that my wife strongly suggested I see a therapist. Though it didn’t click immediately, eventually my therapist (appropriately named Hope) helped me see the how much agency I had in determining the tenor of my life. I will forever be grateful to Hope.

Not many years later, we joined up with a local running group. Even to say “a local running group” seems entirely inadequate. It would be like saying the Atlantic Ocean is a body of water or that “Star Wars” is a science-fiction movie — true statements but missing much of the significance.

Over the course of the past five years, the friends who make up our running group have become like family. Since many of them are younger — Jamie, Risa, Hope — I think of them like children as well as friends. And those who are not too different in age — Susan, Aaron, Sarah, Rich — are much like (younger) siblings.

It seems one of our challenges as humans is the live in the present. Emily Dickinson wrote, “Forever is composed of nows.” but we so often seem to be living in the past or for the future. With these friends, however, now seems to be the most beautiful time. I’m never distracted by my phone because the people who might contact me are, for the most part, with me.

I can remember a run last summer in which most of the important people in my life were present. I whispered to Jamie, “These are the people I would expect to see when I arrive in heaven.”

It’s not like we get to choose between a good family or good friends. If we’re blessed we have both. For me, I will always be grateful for the family I found in my fifth decade.

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