Great Friends – Despite the Differences

I have a dear friend I’ll call Alexa here. I mean, why not? The name is everywhere, and it refers to “someone” many consider a friend, a friend who answers questions quickly, a friend who’s never cross or angry – a friend who’s just always there.

I met this particular Alexa four years ago, as I was in the kitchen of my new cottage by the bay, looking out through my big double kitchen window. I saw a woman walking by pushing a baby stroller covered with a screen, and since she looked about my age, I figured there was a grandchild in it.

Since I hadn’t met many folks here at that time, and since she looked so nice, I went to my front door and smiled; she smiled back. Then I asked about who was in the carriage, but as I got closer, it hit me.

There was a CAT inside. Not a baby, a cat! Lacey. A ragdoll cat. Just gorgeous. We laughed, I know we then walked a bit together, and we learned a little about each other.

Four years later, Alexa and I are still great friends, and yet over the years, we’ve discovered that it’s in spite of our differences, which are legion.

First – what we have in common.

We are both the same age, only six months apart.

We’re both short females.

We’re single – me due to divorce, her due to her husband’s death.

We have kids and grandkids.

We love the village I now live in fulltime, the village she was born in and returns to every summer for six months.

We love to laugh.

We have big hearts.

We have an abundance mindset.

So, a friendship made in heaven, right? Well … maybe with a little help!

Let’s see about those differences …

Alexa loves cats; I much prefer dogs.

She hates cooking; I almost always cook my own meals (when I don’t have an instant one from my freezer). We joke about my never using the “c” word near her. Shivers.

She eats out frequently. I can’t remember for sure the last time I ate dinner at a restaurant. I like making my own dinners. Control? Maybe. Better food? Yup, certainly.

She’s gleefully retired and enjoying her freedom.

I cannot imagine being retired; the thought makes me ill. I would shrivel up and die if I didn’t have all the projects, all the clients, all the opportunities for learning, giving, and growing that I have. Just how I’m wired.

I love working. She hates the very thought of it. She sometimes thinks I’m an alien, dropped from Mars or somewhere because “at our age,” so many are retired. Yup, she’s right. So many are. But not all! Not me.

Her internal thermostat is set far higher than mine; if she’s wearing a jacket outside, I know I need a hat, gloves, and thermal underwear. Maybe another sweater under the fleece jacket I have on. Maybe I shouldn’t be out at all …

We do bond, however, over the New England Patriots; she even owns a few T-shirts with Tom Brady’s number 12 on them. I own none. Never even considered buying one! But I do get a kick out of hers.

We bond over dogs, even though she has a cat. She has had a dog or two in her past, and she always has treats / cookies for whatever dogs we meet on our walks. My dogs adore her … OK, it’s the treats, but still.

And we actually talk about all this a lot, because it’s so funny! If you stood us back to back, looking 180 degrees away from each other, you’d understand our relationship. Almost nothing about our lives’ details is the same. We discussed that yesterday during one of our walks, and we laughed as we always do.

I always pump my own gas. I go through the self-checkout line at the grocery store. I use online banking.

Alexa doesn’t. Stores have cashiers and gas stations have gas pumpers for a reason.

But we’re great friends nonetheless. We text constantly. We meet for walks, even though she doesn’t have dogs that create an imperative to WALK. But she goes with us … because we’re friends.

And all in all, that’s the point: Despite our differences, we’re great friends. I would wish that for so many others who only focus on the differences, without finding the place(s) they agree on. For me, the bottom line is the warmth of the human spirit, that feeling of connectedness way down deep that matters.

What has been your experience with friends? Do you have one or more with whom you share fundamentals but perhaps not the details? Or the other way around?


Susan Rooks
Susan Rooks
With nearly 30 years’ experience as an international workshop leader, Susan Rooks is uniquely positioned to help people master the communication skills they need to succeed. In 1995, Susan formed Grammar Goddess Communication, creating and leading workshops in three main areas – American grammar, business writing, and interpersonal skills – to help business pros enhance their communication skills. She also leads one-hour LinkedIn workshops (Master the LinkedIn Profile Basics) via Zoom to help business pros anywhere maximize their LinkedIn experience, offering it to Chambers of Commerce and other civic organizations free of charge. As an editor, Susan has worked on business blogs, award-winning children’s books, best-selling business books, website content, and even corporate annual reports (with clients from half a dozen countries), ensuring that all material is professionally presented.

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  1. Susan, what a great article and I thank Dennis Pitocco for sharing it on the Women of Facebook Create page so we could all read it. I enjoy being with like-thinking people but really celebrate my friends who are from different cultures and backgrounds. Must be the Army-brat in me. I love to learn new things. Thank you for sharing your friend and thoughts with us.

    • And thanks so much for that, Kat! I never know where Dennis will share my articles, but … he always does it right!

      I love having friends from different cultures myself; in my first marriage, we hosted 6 exchange students for a year each time, so our kids would grow up with the international mindset. And it worked: both girls traveled widely after college, and my oldest is in the Foreign Service, currently serving in Poland.

  2. I’ve had 4 core friends for the past 15 years I share everything with. We dropped our “manuals” for each other long ago. We do happen to share many of the same values and beliefs. However, we are all in very different phases of life. One is raising her kids and I have grandkids. One has kids just leaving the nest. Mine left 10 years ago. One has never had kids. One is in my exact phase of life.

    As the internet has grown and technology has transformed it’s made things easier and easier to stay in touch. We love Zoom Chats now. It’s like having coffee together.

    • Funny how our friendships evolve, isn’t it, Debi? And how different they can be? And how our ages don’t always mean anything?

      The one thing I have found, however, is that many folks my age don’t travel in the same circles that I do, don’t have many of the same interests, and often are retired and doing not much of anything. As I wrote, my friend Alexa thinks sometimes I’m an alien because I will not stop working, unless I have to.

      I also enjoy seeing my younger friends grow their families, grow themselves, and begin to see that aging is an OK thing to have happen — especially if we consider the alternative.

      It sounds like you have a wonderful and arm group around you!

  3. Susan, this was so beautiful. Friendship is a gift to find a friend with whom you bond is such a pleasure. I’ve had a few bonds myself over the years.. weather we are constantly in touch or observed from afar..there’s nothing like picking up as if nothing else mattered..these friends we acquaint with, come and go…there’s always a meaning why we met them so.
    For me..I have a very special friend and I tell her so…she’s my sister to me and I tell her so
    My sister by choice is how I introduce her. I am so truly grateful
    Reading your words has brought up memories of my friends…and also made me think if I’ve been one to. Time to reach out! Thank you so much???

    • Thanks for the lovely note, Paula! I also have a friend whom I call my sister from another mother! Having only a brother, it’s great to have women in my life who offer so much.

  4. What a beautiful, beautiful piece to awake to on a Sunday morning. I love your writing here. And your message. Different doesn’t mean “bad;” it just means different. I think to myself, maybe I am friends with some people because of our differences. We wouldn’t have much to talk about otherwise. Differences breed curiosity, and curiosity breeds conversation and sharing. My best friend – my wife – is a Yankee fan; I am a Boston Red Sox fan. SO much to talk about.

    • And from you, Jeff, that’s a huge compliment! Your writing — especially in your latest article on being present, now — is music to my ears and eyes. Thank you, Jeff. So glad we’re friends!

  5. I really enjoyed this one, Susan! I think it’s a great “how-to.” How-to what? There are startling statistics that show more of us have fewer close friends, fewer of us know our neighbors, and more of us feel isolated and lonely than ever before. You so simply give us a little bit of a roadmap and the reminder that we don’t have to align completely on everything to enjoy very satisfying relationships. Thank you!

    • Wow, and thanks, Melissa! No we don’t, although obviously it’s comfortable when we can find some basic shared ideas.