I always wanted a twin. I was kind of obsessed with the idea that I had a doppleganger somewhere, and the Hayley Mills movie The Parent Trap and the Patty Duke show only fueled my imagination.
I've never been the loner type. Not that I don't enjoy spending time to myself or meditating quietly. I actually relish a movie or dinner by myself. I enjoy the sound of silence or the white noise of voices colliding in a bustling restaurant. And if I'm at the theater alone, I can cry with abandon with no one looking over my shoulder. Chances are, I'll probably meet someone interesting or eavesdrop on a fabulous conversation if I'm by myself. So, dinner for one suddenly became dinner for two.
And yet, I do love a crowd. Not a Tokyo crowd, but a spirited crowd or a small, intimate group. I feed off the energy of others. Which is why at the start of this new year I'm reflecting on the beauty of relationships. I'm over twenty years in with the guy I fell for in college. He still makes my knees wobble and he still makes me laugh like a hyena. We are completely different, but it's in allowing one another to have our own space that we can come together with our disparate experiences, viewpoints and tastes.
I think that's been the secret of our survival. He is the yin to my yang. He is the dusk to my dawn. We have fallen into a routine where we know where we excel and where we fall short. I cook the veggies, the grains ( I make a mean risotto!) while he fires up the grill and pretty much takes care of anything that once roamed the earth on four legs (or waddled on two--his duck breast is the stuff of legend.) He loves to watch a good Clemson football game and I'd rather watch a ballet.
We all need partners in our lives and not just romantic ones. Don't take my word for it. In two separate parts of a 2017 study at the University of Michigan, researchers sought to discover whether the link between close relationships and health and well-being are static across life, or if the benefits are most evident in older adults, when concerns about physical health are greater. The researchers asked participants about relationships, happiness and health. For the first portion of the study, the researchers surveyed 271,053 adults and found that valuing friendships was related to better functioning, particularly among older adults. Meanwhile, valuing familial relationships "exerted a static influence on health and well-being across the lifespan," the study says. In the second portion, a large sample of older adults was used to examine whether the effects of receiving support and strain from different relationship sources—such as spouses, children, family and friends—predicted changes in health over six years and subjective well-being (over eight years). After questioning 7,481 older adults, the study showed that only strain from friendships predicted more chronic illnesses over a six-year period. Meanwhile, support from spouses, children and friends predicted higher subjective well-being over an eight-year period. Engaging and investing in close relationships are activities associated with a variety of psychological and physical health benefits. Previous studies have found that the quality of these relationships has been linked to healthier behavior, lower incidence of chronic illnesses, higher levels of happiness and lower mortality. Researchers typically believe that the enhancing effects of investing in close relationships are present throughout life.The researchers concluded that as we grow into adulthood, the value of their friendships has more of an impact on health and well-being than that of their families. Professionally, I've worked for years with marvelous editors, producers and cameramen and women. My stories--whether visual or told in black and white print--would not have been possible without my many collaborators who have become "like family." I have worked on two books. With the first, I was a part of a brilliant cohort of strong-minded women. The latter, I worked with one of my best friends from TIME Inc. We each pushed the other to deliver our best. And that we did. I could not have done it without all their support.
When I had four kids in the span of three and a half years, I would have lost my marbles if not for the woke women I met through the Hoboken Twin Mommy site and later the New Canaan mom groups. One such mom recently came to visit with her twin daughters. Our teen twins learned to crawl together while we ate feta and olives (she's Greek, I'm Italian) on a makeshift picnic area in her living room. Now, they are (one) sipping mimosas with us and tik toking in tandem.
Today, I spend a lot of my professional time and capital on my real estate business. While many agents work alone, I would go crazy. My partner and I bounce off ideas, pick up where the other left off and bring out the best in one another. I have come to think of her as a sister.
Of course, for me, it all comes back to family--the family of chosen friends, the family that I was born into and the one born out of me. I spend a lot of time in the car, between client appointments and Uber-ing my four kids. In those parenthetical moments I love to call those that have punctuated my life, but live far away. It's so beautiful to reconnect with someone you shared so much with, but whose presence you have not felt in years.
And then there are those I have on speed dial. Not a day goes by that I don't speak to my mother or my sister. My Dad? We speak almost daily. He's my political news debriefer. And of course, back at the ranch, I have my two sets of twins. The older ones are steeped in their teenage years. Imagine growing up with your own built-in conscience, co-conspirator, collaborator and sparring partner. Their battles are epic, Jerry Springer affairs.
Of course, I would live in a cul-de-sac (location, location, location) where I immediately befriended the other mom of four who lives next door. Her oldest daughter is a couple years ahead of my girls, so I get a preview of what is to come (sometimes it's a comedy, other times a horror show!). She's my yoda, helping me when the prisoners try to take control. She reminds me to be sane and not trip over the inane. And when that doesn't work, her wine fridge is always fully stocked. The rest of the sac is also a friendly, close-knit ecosystem.
Nurture your friendships in 2020. Form new ones, revive old ones. And of course, edit out the ones that bring you down. No one has time for those.
For 2020, I want to thank all my partners new and old. Without you ALL in my life, it would be one dull ride. Here's to a the next decade, the next chapter. Let's keep in touch and let's keep it real.