Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Friends are Good for Your Health


This is my second annual trip to Hilton Head Island for a healthy girls’ weekend. Does that sound like an oxymoron?  I’ll admit that in years past, my girls’ trips may not have been all that healthy and usually included significant amounts of wine.   These days, no matter which set of girlfriends I travel with, we’re more likely to be sure to include healthy doses of walking, hiking or bicycling, though we still manage to have a bit of wine or even a cocktail or two.
Once again this year, I’m spending time with friends I made over twenty years ago when we all traveled together for work. Last year’s trip marked the first time we’d all four connected in many, many years. The impetus or excuse for these trips is a boot camp organized by my friend who morphed into a personal trainer years after leaving corporate America.
As I was making the five hour drive, I alternately listened to the radio and the handful of CDs I’d grabbed as I ran out the door.  How appropriate that I heard John Tesh cite a factoid about friendship and health to the effect that not having friends is as harmful to your health as being obese. I had to smile as I thought to myself, “Well then, I’m definitely healthy.”
As that radio station faded, I turned to my CDs, all of artists whose names started with an S.  Yes, I try to keep my CDs in alphabetical order and didn’t realize I’d hit only the S section. I started with Barbara Streisand’s Broadway album and then moved on to Simon and Garfunkel. I sang along to Sounds of Silence, Homeward Bound and finally I am a Rock. The lyrics to the last song have always struck me as sad, but seemed even more so after hearing the blurb about friendship on the radio:
I've built walls,
A fortress deep and mighty,
That none may penetrate.
I have no need of friendship; friendship causes pain.
It's laughter and it's loving I disdain.
I am a rock,
I am an island.

And since my mind wanders as I drive, I couldn’t help but wonder how many folks these days know that those lyrics derive from the John Donne poem, No Man is an Island? Or that Hemingway took the title of his novel, For Whom the Bell Tolls from the last line in that same poem?

And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.

Ah well, my English teacher past is showing. These meandering thoughts just reinforce for me how fortunate I am to have two sets of long-term friends, this crew from banking and another I met in my first career as a teacher.  I am, thankfully, not an island.