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February 10, 2011

Love Anyway

Love Anyway

By Nancy Pickard


All this talk of Valentine's Day is all very well for people who actually have a husband or wife or lover or boyfriend or girlfriend or significant other, or. . .

But what about those of us who don't have any of the above?

What if there's nobody in our life to bring us candy or flowers? 

This is important.  For all of us.  'Cause love--any love--makes us happier and healthier people.

Maybe you saw the article in The Washington Post this week that discussed the health benefits of love? 

Here’s my summary of what it said:

1.  Love can heal injuries faster, lower your blood pressure, reduce depression, encourage healthy choices, and give a feeling of meaning and purpose to life.

2. Overall, married people “are happier, live longer, drink less, and even have fewer doctor’s appointments than unmarried” people.  (They are also more likely to have health insurance and a better income, two facts that also influence health but which have nothing to do with the “love studies.”)

3. People in unhappy marriages have higher blood pressure than happily married and/or single people.  Better off alone than furious and resentful, this suggests.

4  Love hits the dopamine button that gives us pleasure. 

5. “Hugging and hand-holding. . .release the hormone oxytocin, which lowers the levels of stress hormones in the body, reducing blood pressure, improving mood and increasing tolerance for pain.” Calvin_and_hobbes_hugging

6. Love even conquers the common cold.

Well, hmmph, some of us may be hummprhing, that's all very nice for somebody who is one half of a couple, but what if we are alone?  What about the millions of us who don’t have a valentine and may never have (or even want) one?  

Science confirms an answer that is not romantic, but I like it:

The WaPo article goes on to say that studies show that “strong connections to friends, family, neighbors or colleagues improve odds of survival by 50 percent."  Fifty percent!  That's BIG.   The article then says, "Social connectedness proved as beneficial to survival as quitting smoking and exceeded the benefits of exercise.”  (Emphasis mine!) Pickardgroup3

Okay, it's not the same as a candlelight dinner, a bottle of wine, and a roll in the hay, but it's love, and love makes us healthier. Any of us.  All of us.   

It’s been a while since I’ve been “in love,” and I don’t ever want to be again, even though I never felt more attractive or energetic than when I was infatuated.  But at my stage of life I reallyreallyreally don’t want all the stuff that could come along with romantic love, including a whole new set of in-laws and children and family dinners and on and on.  I don’t want to sit by a man’s bedside in a nursing home and watch him die.  I don’t want to be a widow.  I don’t want to start all over again.

But I do want to love and be loved.  I want to be healthy.  I want the effects of love. 

That’s where those connections to friends, family, and colleagues come in.  See photo above of me with members of the New England Sisters In Crime chapter. We may not have had our arms around each other, but when I look at that picture I feel in the middle of a big, warm hug.

I think that one of the nicest things one person can say to another is this:  "I feel better just being around you."   Apparently, it can be literally true at a cellular level.

Love.  It does a body good.  Any love.  Anybody's body.



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I have been single most my adult life and a bit of a loner so hmmmm, does that mean I will die young?

I like being single and like Nancy says the stuff that comes along with romantic relationships is too much for me. Would I say no to a good man if one showed up, probably not. If he had a large involved extended family it would really limit how involved I got.

On occasion I get a bit lonely and think I would like more social in my life and then I pick up a book and forget about it.

As for Valentines, I can buy my own chocolate! I don't care for cut flowers and inherited a diamond ring so all the bases are covered.

you’ve got great elements there and I do like how you encourage the readers to take the time to think.

Get a pet! They have studies that show taking care of and loving a pet reduces blood pressure. And a lot of the same benefits as the 'love studies' indicate.

Works for me!

Love is good.

Commercialized holidays, meh. I'd prefer a nice brisk walk with someone--or by myself--than a dozen roses.

Amen, Nancy.

And how nice that you can also feel the love from "Online Jobs In India" . . .

Dear Online Jobs in India, how I love you.

It's interesting being single in a coupled world, but I rarely feel uncomfortable with the difference. For that I give a lot of credit to my married friends who are incredibly generous about including me. Nice wives, nice husbands, good friends.

Nancy, if having a large circle of friends equals a happy marriage, then you have nothing to worry about.

My husband is a twin, and he and his twin brother are a microcosm of this love experiment. Twice-married and always with a woman (32 years with me) Steve is a family guy, prefers to be with loved ones and dear friends. His brother, never married and a crabby person, has had a bare handful of relationships, none of them serious. Male friendships are fewer all the time, as old friends pass away, and he spends most of his time alone. He looks a good 10 years older than Steve. Picture the "get off my lawn, kid!" kind of guy--that's my twin brother-in-law.

Love makes the world go 'round, and not just romantic love.


Karen, that's what I think, too, about my circle of friends. :)

I think of my mother, long widowed (that was a hard time and no doubt colors my attitude). She belongs to four very active book clubs that are her social network. At 94, her friends her own age are gone, but the women in those book clubs love her and embrace her and give her lots of attention. I'm convinced they are a main reason she stays alive.

I'm so pleased Jobs In India stopped by to share wisdom today.--You *did* give us something to think about today, Nancy! I think as we get older, our girlfriends matter. A lot. I love my husband and actually don't flinch from those days that will come in a nursing home (I expect to go first, however!) but it's my girlfriends who make me laugh, feel connected to the world, make me contemplate the big picture. My mother and her friends "The Girls" get together every day for coffee, and I kinda wish I had the same luxury to look forward to every day at 11am.

Wow, Nancy, that is so cool that your mom and her friends meet EVERY DAY like that. I think I'm jealous. Of course, I'd never get any writing done, but what a wonderful habit to have.

Do they meet at the same place every day?
How many of them are there?
Are they varying ages?

Have you written a book about them? (I'll bet you've had a blog or two about them?)

Also--if I had a long-running partnership, I'd be glad (for lack of a better word) to sit by his bedside. I just don't want to *choose* that fate now. I plan on sitting by the bedsides of friends because I already love them, and I know they'd do that for me. I'm kind of hoping for a fatal lightning strike, though. :)

I've seen studies that say people who have "connections" -- friends, volunteer work, causes -- live longer than those who don't. Sounds like you have plenty of love in your life. You don't need flowers to mark it.

Karen, I don't expect you to answer this if it's too personal, but how do you think the twins got that way?

NP, friends are the family you choose. It's their love that gets me through when I'm feeling alone and unloved. And it's a lot less stressful sometimes than being partnered. :)

And I love the heck out of my friends. Hope you can feel it up there in the frozen north!!

And Nancy, think of all the people who love your books. CHOSE them. They went to a bookstore (or someplace) picked one up, fell in love with it, took it home with them.

They touched it for hours, lovingly, in bed, in a chair, on a couch in a hammock. It stayed in their thoughts. They discussed it with friends. They looked at it from time to time, just remembering.

Okay, then.

Besides, you never know what--or who--is around the next corner.

By that yardstick, Nancy, you and I are going to live to be at least a hundred!

Margaret, yes. Big smile. Although, honestly, a hundred doesn't look all that great to me from here. I wonder if I'll change my mind.

Hank, oh god, now I'm tearing up about the books thing. Thank you, thank you for that reminder. So sweet. But the around-the-next-corner? I hope not, in regard to romance. I may start carrying one of those bendable little mirrors ahead of me. :)

Beth, you are AMAZING in your talent for gathering friends around you no matter where you go or how often you move. And I do feel the love-it's melting our snow, thank you.

I agree. One doesn't need a significant other to give and feel love.

For example, I am listening to Grammy Nominees today, and I love Cee Lo Green, John Legend, Aretha Franklin, Gretchen Wilson and Michael Buble. I know they love me too, because I can hear it in their music. I even love Eminem today. But not Kanye. Sorry. I'm not that easy. ;)

P.S. Keeping cool is better than looking for love in all the wrong places. Just ask Rep. Chris Lee. What an idiot.

Nancy, it's a mystery. My mother-in-law said they were the same way from the cradle. Steve was the snuggly one, his twin was the one who would not be comforted, and would cry even if he was picked up.

You know, having a partner also means someone to sit by your bedside, should the need arise. Just sayin'.

Karen, sounds almost neurological, doesn't it? Or karmic. I know, about the possibility of someone to sit by my bedside, but even that doesn't do the trick for me. As long as I have friends I'm not worried about that, and honestly. . .? There's nothing in my history to suggest I'd be smart enough to pick a loving, devoted astronaut, lol.

Kathy, they sing those songs for YOU.
Chris Lee! His children will feel forever mortified by that picture of him.

I was a happy single person. I'm happier with a partner. I know that I'm much more confident since we got together and I'm sure that there are many other changes that my friends recognize that I wouldn't see.
He was on his way to being the reticent hermit -- not grumpy (at least to the public). His family gives me all sorts of credit for bringing him back to life in this world.
We do it for each other.

Valentine's Day is for buying my kids snuggly stuffed critters and chocolates that I get to share. They prefer balloons to flowers.

As for the rest. I'm in the middle of the middle of my life. I don't know what is scarier, spending the last 1/2 of it alone, or starting over!

Pets are not the answer for me. After this dear doggie moves on to happier places, NO more!

I'm thankful for my friends, and my siblings are close literally - and we like each other bunches.

Lots to ponder.

Living to be 100/late 90s runs in my family. Both of my grandmothers lived a looooong time.

Yesterday, my son asked me how old was a bottle of salad dressing. I told him to check the expiration date, which he read as 2060. (He was wrong, he read some code.) But he said he'd still be alive in 2060, and when I considered my family history of longevity, I realized that I might, too, or close to it.

This freaked me out.

It's amazing how one's wants and expectations of love change over the years. I'm thinking of the people I intend to send this on to, and wondering if the benefits of love (or any sort) change depending on how much someone wants or doesn't want love in their life. I have a dear friend who is genuinely happy to be in her own company most of the time, wouldn't want it any other way. I have to believe that being part of a couple would be *worse* for her health, not the opposite. Of course, she's a dear friend, which I suppose is the whole point of your post!

Hear, hear!

For the record, it never really bothers me being single in a world of partnered people -- although I think there are more single people than couples -- because . . . . well, I don't know why, really. Maybe because my mom was widowed young and never remarried and singlehood seems normal to me. I'm sorry for people that find it awkward or don't like to go to a movie alone.

But I'm very grateful that I have children that still like to hold my hand(s) walking down the street. I know that won't last forever.

Oh yeah, Chris Lee. The arrogance amazes me. But at least he had the smarts to quit pronto, unlike some people who like to hike the Appalachian Trail.

Speaking of Valentines, mine of nearly 25 years accidentally took my keys with him to work today. His and mine--and not for the first time. Guess who's not getting any damn chocolate on Monday.

Harley, and then they grow up and they'll hug you again. In public. They won't sit on your lap, though.

Ramona, for that he deserves white chocolate. Waxy, pasty, disgusting white chocolate.

Jenny, that's an interesting observation about your friend, and quite possibly true. Like some people just shouldn't have children, some of us are probably not cut out for partners.

It takes a village of people to fulfill a person's expectations.
I believe that whether a person is partnered or not it still is the responsibility to make happiness for themselves. No one person can fill every emotional need for someone else.
Left to my one devices and learning to navigate the friendship world I realize that I have chosen so many different types of people to relate to.
Some of my hobbies don't interest some others. But what do I care.
Ultimately I can only offer myself and I expect that others can only give me what they have.

I will be married 47 years in April but I like to keep a sense of me and then I have something to give.
Nancy you have the talent to make others happy and that I believe is a true gift.

I have been married and I've been partnered and I've been single, and the thing that's best in all those situations is having a deep circle of women friends, hiking friends, writing friends, and my sister, who has been at my elbow my whole life. We are only 14 months apart and even shared the same bed until we were teens.

Thanks for making me think of that, Nancy. I am going to send her a Valentine. A big, juicy one.

When my youngest daughter was little her favorite shirt had this on it:

"A family is a circle of friends who love you."

One of these days I'm going to add that little shirt into a t-shirt quilt with a lot of other meaningful family shirts.

marie, I believe that, too, that it's up to us to "make happiness for ourselves."

Barbara, writing this made me think so often about my women friends over the years. I didn't have any playmates until I was three and my mom says that when two little sisters moved into our apartment building I literally ran toward them with such joy that she realized for the first time what I'd been missing. That was the start of my "women friends." If I knew where those sisters were today, I'd send them a juicy valentine like you're sending your sister!

Karen, I love the idea of a t-shirt quilt. That saying might read differently for some folks: "A circle of friends is a family of people who love you."

Thinking back to near fifty years ago I realized that I was a romantic dufus. My husband was the one who balanced the ardor and responsibiltiy in our relationship. I clung to him because it seems that no one else could really fulfill me. My girlfriends were getting married and the world was changing.
An interesting article in my local paper was reminding us that more people over fifty exist today. New rules will be made pertaining to the concept of aging because after all, there will be more of us to make those rules.
Somehow, I find that comforting and a great relief because I am getting older but I am willing to readjust my perceptions because there will be an network to help me do this.

Gaylin, I'll raise a chocolate in your honor on V.D. -- and then I'll eat it (and you can do the same in Canada). Having been single since 1977 (and allergic to furry/feathery critters), I'll just have to muddle along . . . maybe another tree frog will come to stay. I do have nice friends in storytelling and the library, here (of course) and at aqua classes at the Y, so I guess I'll be fine

. . . and then there's CD Baby . . . latest message . . .

We hope we write you a million more checks.
We hope you write a million more songs.
We hope you get a million more fans
who give you a million kisses.


Jobs in India, is it warm there? Maybe I'm interested . . .

Harley, cling to your babies.
I felt like I had lost an arm when my older daughter left the house to get married.
She was my little savior and propped me up many times with her talents and good sense,
I am blessed with another girl who might be a mirror image of me. We are simpatico and share the need to be loved and reassured..the gene pool continues on that one.
Love is where you find it and sometimes it hits you in the face so I guess we should all duck or get mushy.

Friends, pets, books, meaningful work-I feel lucky to have that-and you guys are too. Sure it could be better, but this will do very nicely.

Storyteller Mary - I will raise a chocolate to you as well, a salted caramel truffle!!

I have what I consider to be just enough friends. I was very ill last June and am still off work recovering and if there is one thing that will prove who your friends really are, it is getting sick. I have friends who live close by, friends who live far away, friends who are online! I have friends with grandkids so I get to sit on the floor and play. Life is good.

I also will not be getting a pet for company, I like other peoples pets, at their houses, not at mine!

Today it is bright and sunny and there is a book on hold waiting for me at the library - a Barbara O'Neal book, now that makes me happy.

Nancy, I have a great husband and wonderful kids who probably make me a happier, healthier person (now that I survived their teen years). But I really need my groups of friends for support, laughter and love too.

My writer's critique group, made up of like-minded and intelligent women and men, meets every week. If I can't make it one week, I miss it terribly. It's so much more than a critique group. We discuss whatever comes up, spend time together outside the weekly meetings and laugh a lot. It's a break from the stress and strain of our lives.

And I would be extremely lonely without my local Sisters in Crime group. The women (and some men) who belong are another link to my sanity. They are supportive, kind, fun and intelligent, and they all share my love of books! They understand that reading is my addition, because most of them have it too. And I love how the people in all SinC chapters feel connected and are so kind to one another.

And Harley, when I was single, I had no problem going to movies or out to eat by myself. Heck, I still do it. Last Fall I traveled to England by myself and had a great time. Got to go where I wanted, when I wanted, how I wanted. But I knew I had family and friends waiting for me when I got back, so I didn't feel alone.

BTW, I've read some studies that show older people are healthier and happier when they are connected to others through the internet. Even the online communities provided a family-type connection which helped the elderly feel involved, loved, and not so alone. Sort of like the TLC community...

Shoot, I'm married and still do stuff by myself. Thank goodness for girlfriends!

Becky, you were intrepid, traveling in England alone.

I'm very grateful for parents who didn't push marriage on their five children. They impressed upon us that anyone could have a fulfilling life with or without a partner. I never felt that if I did not have a spouse then I would not be "whole". When I was younger I assumed that I probably would be married someday but didn't feel like I had to be in a hurry to do it.

Nancy P said "It’s been a while since I’ve been “in love,” and I don’t ever want to be again,"
--It's been a long time for me, too, Nancy, but I'm not going to shut the door on the possibility! I know I can do fine on my own, and being on my own has probably made me a stronger person. I'm not afraid to take a train or a plane by myself, to go out to eat by myself, or to go to the movies alone.

I do like being with other people and take advantage of every opportunity to be with others but I can stay home and lose myself in a book! (I ended up with a fire in my oven a few years back because I was reading and completely forgot that I was cooking dinner until I saw the smoke! Maybe a spouse or Significant Other would have noticed the smoke sooner or would have asked when dinner would be ready!)

I love my Steve, but I'm with you, Nancy. I cannot see myself reupping with anyone else. I have a few close friends, good neighbors, my brilliant and cozy service dog Kendall, and family. Especially my Auntie-Mom, and Auntie-Mom says, "You make your own fun, Reine." :)

Ooh-ooh... My neighbor Jeanne just came to the door with beautiful red flowers to thank me for being "a good neighbor...!" Aww. :) I did nothing, really. But, you see, good neighbors - and really nice, too. That's the best.

Maybe we could negotiate a cyber date for Chris Lee and Jobs in India. Heh.

I prefer to think of love as not something between two people or even group of friends but an act performed on the universe. Something that is put out there for everyone to gather into themselves. Like oxygen.

Some people, like the Twin, just don't inhale deeply enough.

"...Overall, married people are happier, live longer, drink less, and even have fewer doctor’s appointments than unmarried” people...."

Well, only partly true - if you are talking about married MEN.

Men who are married – happily or not – are generally far healthier than their unmarried buddies. According to researchers at the University of Utah, a man’s physical health apparently benefits simply from the state of being married, whether or not he rates it as a good marriage.

BUT a woman’s overall health can be significantly threatened by trouble at home, Women respond to unhappy marriages by being three times more likely to develop metabolic syndrome - a cluster of serious cardiac risk factors that increase your risk of heart disease.

And women who report high levels of marital strain also have more problems with depression, high blood pressure, high LDL (bad) cholesterol, obesity and other signs of metabolic syndrome.

But here's the GOOD NEWS, single ladies: if you are single, divorced or just “between husbands”, after researchers accounted for a variety of factors, they found NO statistically significant differences between happily married women and unmarried women!

More on this at: "Poor Marriage = Poor Heart Health For Women" at HEART SISTERS:

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