The Friendship Doctor

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Talking about friendship with author Jane Green

"Love is a verb" ~Jane Green

New York Times best-selling author Jane Green is a mother of six. Remarkably, she has written a book a year for the past 12 years. Like her other books that focus on the emotional lives of lives of women, Jane's most recent one, Promises to Keep, was inspired by the life and death of her real-life friend Heidi, who was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer.

The journey she shared with her girlfriend, accompanying her to chemo and spending time with her when she was too weak to leave her bed, profoundly affected the way Jane thinks about relationships, especially her friendships. My interview with Jane below highlights some of her thoughts about that life-changing friendship with Heidi:

Irene:

Jane, I know you were born in London. What challenges did you face as an expat making friendships in a new country? How did you meet those challenges?

Jane:

It took me a long time to find my footing here. I moved and made instant friends through having a young child and joining a mommy and me group, but few of them were lasting. By the time a year was up, I had a core group of three who remain amongst my dearest.

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Irene:

How did you meet your friend Heidi, who inspired the book? What was special about that friendship?

Jane:

Heidi was one of those three mentioned above. I met her first at a children's music class. I didn't know her name, but we cracked up laughing at the ridiculousness of the teacher. When she left, I was instantly regretful that I didn't ask for her number. All I knew was that her name was Heidi, she had a son, and she lived on the other side of town. I spent a week trying to find her, and on the Friday I was hosting a playgroup in my yard. I was alone with my son, waiting for our regular mothers to arrive, when my garden gate opened and in walked Heidi. She had been invited by one of the regulars.

We became instant fast friends, and put our children into pre-school together, so we were together every day. She was a remarkable girl. She had more confidence and sparkle than anyone I have ever met, was utterly comfortable in her own skin, and as a result drew people to her. She was incredibly wise, and measured, and the first person I always turned to for advice.

Irene:

What impact did the premature and tragic death of a friend have on your life/friendships?

Jane:

I am very busy, life is very busy, and I was, I think, a somewhat lazy friend. I love them, I know they love me, but I didn't make much of an effort. I would forget to call, and was relieved that even if we didn't see each other often, our friendships somehow stayed the same. Going through an illness and then death of a close friend, has changed my attitudes to friendship enormously.

I learned that saying you love your friends isn't enough; that love is a verb, it requires Acts of Love. It is all about the doing, not the saying, and now I make a point, every day, of emailing, or phoning, or making a plan with those I love.

Irene:

You have four young children, a new husband with two children of his own, and an active career. How do you balance friendships with the rest of your life?

Jane:

I have learned that it is imperative that I make time for my friends, that they demand to be as much a part of the mix as my family and my work, and perhaps more so, because they are not an inevitability. All relationships, be it your spouse, your family, your friends, take work, and I make sure that a part of every day is spent connecting with friends.

Irene:

What friendship lessons do you think that mothers need to convey to their daughters?

Jane:

Kindness, I believe, is key. Avoiding "girl drama" by not engaging and walking away. Consideration of others.

 

Book Giveaway:

Jane's latest book is so gripping that I had a hard time putting it down. Would you like a chance to win a free copy and be one of the first people to read Promises to Keep? If so:

Post a comment here about the most important friendship lesson you've ever learned or else email it to me at Irene@TheFriendshipBlog.com with the subject line: FRIENDSHIP LESSONS.

Please be sure to include your email address if you post it so I can contact you if you are the winner.

Winners will be selected at random from all entries received by 11:59 PM on Tuesday, July 6, 2010. U.S. shipping addresses only, please. Good luck, girlfriends!

Irene S. Levine, Ph.D., is a psychologist and professor of psychiatry at the NYU School of Medicine. Her latest book is Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup With Your Best Friend.

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