“Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it.” - Mark Twain
by Sharon Hennessy
- The Capitol Hill Times -
Happy New Year 2013! Now is the time to welcome the opportunity to nurture yourselves, and to grow through reviewing all of your friendships and social connections, employment or volunteer duties, family commitments, self-care and spiritual growth. In this week’s article, I will focus on reviewing your friendships and social connections. There is so much to be thankful for and to celebrate in the LGBTQ community this year with the re-election of another gay friendly president, the passage of gay marriage laws in three states, the overturning of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in the military and more media attention on the subject of the negative impact of homophobic bullying in schools. Remember that as the light gets longer in the days, the spring buds on the trees and the bulbs in the grounds are just waiting to burst into flower and bloom, bringing hope and a sense of new possibilities into our lives. Now is a great time to start paying attention to the budding leaves and any winter blooming camellias as well as a trip to the Seattle Volunteer Conservatory, your local park or your own garden.
Healthy friendships and social connections are a vital part of daily wellbeing. They can give people a sense of empowerment, validation of experiences and bring an opportunity to socialize with others, both LGBTQ or straight (or both). I’m defining “friendships” as those kinds of relationships that people may have with their peers, neighbors, former school and college classmates, as well as others who have a shared common interest, such as a church, gym or PTA membership. I’m defining “social connections” as those links that people may form with other people that they see on a fairly regular basis, but may not have an intimate platonic connection with, such as a postman, store clerk or bus driver.
Different people have different expectations for their particular friendships. However, a healthy friendship requires open and constructive communication, shared interests (this can range from gardening to going to readings) and a shared respect and empathy for each other in the friendship. Friendships do not necessarily have to be only between people of the same age group as different generations can learn and grow from learning of each other’s experiences. If you feel that there is some kind of unresolved conflict or that perhaps a friendship may be more draining than it is nurturing, then now is a good time to consider having a constructive conversation with your friend to resolve this tension. If this is not effective, it may be time to end the friendship and put your energy into other more positive people in your life. I encourage you to talk with a counselor or spiritual advisor is this seems too overwhelming.
The start of the new year is also a good time to review your social connections and to determine if you feel that there needs to be more “personal space” with these people that you see on a regular basis. On the other hand, this may be a good time to reach out more to one of these people if you feel that you have a lot in common and have grown to know the person well. It’s important to still keep boundaries in mind though when reaching out to people in these kinds of settings.
If you are feeling a need or wish to make more new friendships, now is a great time to act. There are many wonderful resources to help you connect with people with other common interests. If you have access to the internet, this can include social networking sites, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, email lists and meetup.com, which are easy to access and free to use. If that does not appeal to you, try connecting with a spiritual faith that does. Join social groups affiliated with your current place of worship, review volunteer opportunities in your area, try a gym or perhaps take some classes from a local community college or community center.
Cherish the start of 2013 as a start of new beginnings, new hope and a chance to enjoy who you are as a person and all that the new year has to offer. Be well, be safe, be strong and be proud.