Dr. Bill Thomas’ signature non-fiction theater performance Life’s Most Dangerous Game debuts a concept that Bill calls ‘M.E.S.H.’ This four-pillared guide on how to live a healthy and happy life stands for Move, Eat, Sleep, and Heal.
Within each of these mantras Bill gives a revelation on how we can replicate a M.E.S.H. lifestyle. For example, he recommends for the letter ‘E’ we all should partake in ‘convivium,’ which he defines as “eating good food in good company.” Eating, it turns out, is about more than calories and nutrition. You have to nourish your relationships as well as your body. So I wondered, how do you define “good” company?
Sure, we all want to hang with people who make us feel great but, there is something intrinsically different between people that are good fun and those that are good for you. On the surface, friends look the same and we might not recognize which good a person has brought to the relationship. I find myself evaluating this distinction more as I grow older. I have always been skilled at making friends and connecting with people, so I found that there was a variety of people within my social circles. Some peers were perfect for hanging out and others held the potential for a deeper connection. That person could have been exactly what I needed; someone who was able to rally with me or take a pause when times were low. Unlike the friends who always were down for a good time, these individuals I considered to be a part of my journey with life, and my journey towards growth.
I’d like to ask readers, how often do you reflect on the inevitable changes in your relationship to others? We humans are anything but stagnant. It can take many years to learn that who we allow into our lives affects how we behave and think over time. Let’s explore relationships using rock-climbing as a metaphor:
You and your partner are at the local gym training for a sport rock climbing competition. The goal is for both partners to get to the top as quickly as possibly. Consider two scenarios:
The two of you climb up the wall on your own paces. You regularly check in with the other and encourage the other to not look down, to keep pushing forward and that it’s okay how sweaty you both are getting. Your friend ends up getting to the top before you and by reaching down and out to you has to pull you up. The momentum is literally dependent on the strength and support of the person who is holding you. It’s tough but you’ve both made it.
You are climbing the same wall and your partner is below you, grappling onto your ankle. They’re focused on the wall, they’re wondering why they even agreed to this in the first place, and they keep asking you what to do next. Where is the energy going? Will you even make it to the top of this rock wall? After all, you’re carrying more than your weight.
A close friendship allows another person entirely into our world – this is a truth that I am beginning to understand and observe in my own life: Relationships affect our direction. When we align ourselves with these individuals it is crucial that they are in a growth mindset. Connections become that much more powerful when both members, regardless of place in life, are motivated to push forward in who they are and what they’d like to achieve. Reflect on the above scenarios, both partners were engaged but there was a difference in how the second partner responded to the situation. There was a shift in how each person continued to reach the top. If you want to continue to grow, protect yourself by choosing which relationships you will keep close. That way, when it’s time for the next convivium you know you are, indeed, in the midst of good (for you) company.
Afraz Shirazi says
I am a student in AGNG 320 at the Erickson School of Aging, I found your post regarding the importance of healthy and balanced relationships really intriguing and enlightening. I was able to resonate with your perspective because I have experienced both of the types of the relationships you have described in the scenarios above. As a result I am now more cautious in cultivating and maintaining healthy relationships with the people who are important to me. I certainly agree that in life you encounter various types of people and the people that you allow into your circle can influence many aspects of your life. From my personal experiences with friends and loved ones I have learned to surround myself with people who want grow with me instead of inhibit me. As a result I have been able to form meaningful connections, and relationships that allow for balance and motivation.
Afraz Shirazi says
In our AGNG 320 class at UMBC we have read and discussed the importance of healthy relationships in regard to the longevity of life and the aid of individuals with illnesses such as dementia. We read about how close knit relationships where both individuals were willing to put forth effort could potentially help an aging adult combatting dementia, lead a more normal life. We have also discussed the importance of not only human interaction but positive human interaction. The idea of less dependence and more codependence,where people rely on each other rather than one person relying on the other. This relates back to what originally interested me in the post because despite age, or any other factor, healthy relationships are key at every stage of life. The only distinction that remains is that as we get older these relationships become more valuable to us because life can become more complicated. It is important to surround yourself with people who will uplift you and grow with you not only during the good but also during the bad. Essentially I found this post to be so powerful because of the positive message that it sends. In the end its about the quality of people you surround yourself with rather than the quantity.
Carly Lesko says
I am currently an Aging 320 student at the Erickson School of Aging. I very much enjoyed reading this post about relationships and what it means to have good company because I, too, strongly believe that the people around you can have a huge impact on your life. Not only does good, healthy companionship matter when one is in his or her elder years, but good companionship also has an effect on how one grows up. I am only in my early twenties, but I have learned so much about family and the people around me through the many experiences that I have undergone. I long for deep connections with others rather just surface based relationships. I think that having meaningful relations with another person helps me so much to feel complete, like I am making a difference in both my own life and someone else’s.
I also could really relate to the scenario examples given in your post as an athlete. I understand what it is like to have teammates that are able to provide a positive and supportive presence in order to achieve team goals. On the other hand, I also know what it is like to have teammates that may have selfish habits and bring the team down by their lack of confidence or support for others.
Carly Lesko says
This reading reminded me a lot about what I have been learning in my Aging 320 class. We often discuss the importance of social and familial relationships with elders. However, what mostly stood out to me in reference to this post was the importance of educating caregivers on the extent of diseases as well as most beneficial treatment methods for their patients. We emphasize the importance of educational programs that can both benefit those experiencing aging as well as those around them. The people around you must be educated on whatever it is that you may be going through in order to provide a real, meaningful connection and relationship.
Thanks for such a great read!
Nicole Scarola says
I am a currently a student at UMBC. I am taking Aging 320 as part of the Erikson School of Aging at UMBC and am looking at this blog as part of an assignment although this post is intriguing to me. The importance of the people you surround yourself with has resonated with me greatly the past few months. As I am getting ready to graduate undergrad, I am realizing how grateful I am for all of the people in my life that have gotten me this far. I see that I am in need of wonderful people to help me get through each and every day.
For me, being a “people-person,” I cannot imaging aging without being surrounded by my loved ones. I know the more people that are important to me that pass, the more difficult everyday life is for me because I do rely on them a lot. Like mentioned in the blog above, relationships highly affect the direction we go in life. If it were not for my parents for supporting me financially and emotionally, I would not be where I am today about to graduate and move on to Graduate school to receive my Masters.
I know the people will always be an important part of my life influencing me each and every day!
Nicole Scarola says
In my class we have been studying how relationships and engaging with other people help people live longer. Hence, why many times there are social events, roommates, and group meals in nursing homes because human interaction is so important. This relates to what I have been going through lately because I too see the importance of interacting with people. Another example other than graduation for me is that when I work at a daycare, I truly miss adult interaction throughout my days with all babies!
Thanks for reading!
Alexandra Hart says
I think this is the post that the email suggested a comment on relationships response for. I’d like to say that aging has improved my emotional intelligence enormously. A dear friend and I have recently navigated a successful change in our relationship, which included sexuality for some years. I needed more spontaneity and fewer committed days and hours in the relationship,and he, as a disabled person needed or preferred the status quo. This was a tricky shift.
But with the open hearts and values we both held in common we were able to move through it and retain a deep regard and ongoing friendship. He suggested I simply follow my own desires and energy and see where it went, and I did. When my time and energy permit, I frequently choose to spend it with him, and I’ve requested successfully that if he has a need that is more than a wish or desire, that he will phone and get my help. So far, so good. No overnights, but good quality time together still.
Years ago this would have been a stormy breakup, but not with the advent of a higher EQ on both our parts.
Bill Jacobs says
A key to living a fulfilled life is to be able to be alone without becoming lonely. I live with my wife of 46 years in the country outside of a university town in a rural location. I am retired, she – not yet. We have been fortunate in becoming part of a network of friends, all of whom are “good for each other.”
In retirement, I love to spend time both in and around the house doing chores while not relaxing too much. I relish to be able to do the ordinary things in life. It is a blessing.
If that was all that I had to look forward to, however, I think that the joy would begin to wane. I always know that my wife and myself have friendships with a great group of fun-loving people. Music is at the core of the group, and developing relationships while the music is playing has been fruitful.
As I look ahead, a new motto has begun to emerge – “I may not be able to add more days to my life, so I’ll add more life to my days.”