I walk into Starbucks.

A chorus of “good mornings” greet me from behind the bar.

I put my laptop and things down on a table – rookie mistake to NOT claim a table before you get in line. Mornings can be busy in Starbucks and the premimum spots snapped up in the time it takes you to say, “grande soy chi…” Before I can get around to the register to order, Michael reaches over the top of the bar and hands me my chi tea.

“Saves you from making so many trips,” he winks.

I understand the unspoken message.

Have one on the house.

This does not happen every morning – nor do I expect it too. In fact, it’s better that it doesn’t! I would feel guilty and abusive to receive free drinks constantly. No, this morning it was just a little perk from a friend. A friendship formed solely from mornings together while he does his job and I ready myself for my life. (It can take a lot of “readying” when married to an alcoholic. Many a mornings I sat in the corner of “my” Starbucks to regroup, salve my wounds and even cry a little after a particularly bad night with my husband.)

These people ground me.

They make me feel a little more alive.

They make me feel like…

Me.

They know nothing, of course, of my home situation as I know nothing of whatever their’s may be. We talk but only about ourselves, in the best way. Vacations being taken, new phones bought, finally downloading the Starbucks app. Real stuff but not the hidden stuff, the stuff that does NOT need to be a part of every friendship.

I have a “friend” at Target too.

I “met” her when my kids were very small but I can’t even tell you her name. Nor she tell you mine.

When we see each other, we laugh and sigh and shake our heads at how old my son is now, how big her granddaughter has gotten. She remembers when my son was a “babe in arms.” I remember when her granddaughter was born. I “never see her any more,” I tell her. She tells me she was promoted so no longer at the cash register. I tell her “congratulations” and she heads back to work, I head to the toilet paper isle.

There are other “friends” I have in the community. I used to have this friend at the dump. Yes, the dump!! He was this gentel older man and we’d exchange some pleasantries everytime I came to dump off more crap. One day he wasn’t there. I was afraid to ask…but it was ok. He retired. The young guy told me, “You’re not the first one to ask about him.” What a beautiful soul who can turn working at the city dump into a sort of friendly outreach program.

I thought nothing of these “friends” of mine, though I suppose I should stop putting friends in quotes, until I read a study on predicting your chances to live to 100. There was a list with 25 or so factors. Flu shot was ABOVE exercise, so how’s that?! Friends and family was on there, of course. Had to be number one, right? Guess what? Number two! Number one was…how much you interact with the world at large!! Do you know your mailman? Do you talk to the trashman? Do you get random free drinks from the baristas at Starbucks? Ok, that one wasn’t really on there but it counts. The point is, do you live outside yourself sometimes. Do you get outside yourself and let the outside world in?

For me, the added (and important!) side benefit is getting to be the Me who is not married to an alcoholic. The Me who is not screamed at, cursed at and/or ignored. (It takes the special talents of an alcoholic to abuse you both verbally and through silence, ha!) The Me who is friendly and open and who welcomes friendliness and openness. For me, this interaction with strangers comes naturally, easily. So if you’re a bit more private or reserved, you don’t have to run turn yourself into a gregarious people person but consider smiling at a stranger if your eyes meet or saying “hello” to the same people you see everyday.

It will do a lot.

For both of you.