The other day I ran into an old friend that I’d not seen or talked to in a number of years. Back in another time and place we were quite close and for a variety of reasons, we went in different directions.
It was really good to see her! We chatted for a little while, it was nice to see that she was doing well.
Since then I’ve been mentally looking back, to that friendship and several others… replaying the highlight reels, remembering the kindnesses shown, the conversations that took place. Some of them just pure fun, some of them that served to shift my view of the world perhaps, or at least my view of myself, at a time where my world had dramatically changed, and my self-concept needed a bit of objective feedback to become a bit more accurate and reality based.
The three faces that float back in for a re-visit are all three beautiful faces. One is the face of a 25+ year friend who I still see, but not nearly often enough. Another is a wise and beautiful soul who completed her journey in the last year or so. The other is a lovely woman that I dated for a year or so, before Beth and I re-connected after 40-years, discovered that love sometimes grows in places we don’t expect, fell in love, married and are now in the happily ever after part of the program.
Wonderful Friend #1: A trip to the beach with a dear friend.. at some point in a group of friends, the conversation turned to the fact that despite the proximity to Lake Michigan we all enjoyed, we didn’t get to the beach nearly often enough.
My friend turned to me and said something like… we should plan a day, go to the beach, have a picnic, do some writing and meditation. Then quickly added that she was not ‘hitting on me’…which made us both laugh.
So we put a late September outing in our calendars.
The day came it was an unusually warm, beautiful day. We had the beach all to ourselves. She’d packed a lovely, healthy basket and we sat in the dunes near Little Sable Point Lighthouse and talked and laughed, walked the beach, wrote & generally shared space and stories with each other.
With her intelligence, kindness, keen observations (& the photo she took of me that day), she help me gain a new perspective and a new, more accurate view of who I am.
RIP Marianne. You have a special place in my heart and my history.
WONDERFUL FRIEND #2: The best Symphony ‘Date’ EVER!
Sadly there is not a photo that captures this one. She’s been a friend since the late 1980’s. We worked at the same Real Estate Company then. Both of us moved on to other things, and there were some years where we were not in contact.
As I look back, I realize that some of the best conversations I had in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s were sitting in her office.
She asked me hard questions about my direction, my choices and my life. She nudged me in directions that I wasn’t apparently ready to go, but never lost faith. She encouraged me to honor myself and trust what I knew to be true.
We reconnected as my life was in the middle of dramatic change.
At some point we decided that we would go to dinner at the 1913 Grill (so sad that it is gone) and to the Grand Rapids Symphony to hear Beethoven’s 9th Symphony. Dinner included martinis, sumptuous food, stimulating conversation and great anticipation of the performance to come. Then arm-in-arm we strolled down the sidewalk to DeVos Hall and took our seats. I’m guessing we made a fairly striking couple.
I love a big choral work when I can get one, so as the Ode to Joy was getting ready to begin, I had to physically ground myself into my seat. I’d listened to this work so many times I knew I was about to go into sensory overload… and I wanted to be ready. I think I may have looked like the guy in the ad for the speakers where his hair is being blown back. There was so much beauty and richness going on that I had to close my eyes, lest my systems short out from the overload.
Over a nightcap at the Lumber Baron Room, before we each went to our homes, she told me that she’d not seen anyone do the serious prep and hunkering down to get ready for some powerful music, as I had.
It was such a lovely, easy, evening. All senses sated. It is a night I will remember warmly until my final day. (many years from now 🙂 )
I have a lot of ‘favorite’ events in my life. That evening, is quite high on the list.
BONUS: Beth and I have enjoyed some dinner/performance evenings with this lovely woman. I’m happy to report that the two of them also hit it off.
Over those years, she saw in me things I wouldn’t allow myself to see. She gently and patiently held up a mirror and challenged me to look deeply within it to see the reality. We’ve laughed and cried together, sometimes within minutes of each other. She has been, is and will continue to be one of those friends that you treasure so deeply, you cannot imagine a life in which they do not play a significant role.
Who doesn’t have room in their life for a person who is so incredibly warm, generous, intelligent, kind, well travelled, smart and supportive. I am honored to call her friend.
WONDERFUL FRIEND #3: Now the story about the catalyst for this reflection... the woman I ran into unexpectedly last weekend.
We connected via a dating site, very likely too early in newly almost single life (while the divorce was overdue to be completed). One of the dating site photos of me that captured her attention, is the one above, taken at an area where her family had vacationed for years when she was growing up.
We saw each other for a little over a year. We enjoyed so many of the same things and had conversations every time we were together that were intense, enjoyable, paradigm shifting and much more.
She is a Child Psychologist, and I used to laugh that given how childish I can be, it was a perfect fit.
If I’m being honest, as a college dropout who believed that made me somewhat intellectually inferior, the PhD part intimidated me a bit. For most of my life, I’d figured I was average or possibly below average on the intelligence scale. But among the many things this woman showed me was that despite my false belief, I was not ‘less than’ anyone I encounter in my life.
Among her many gifts, she was also a wonderful photographer. On two occasions we ventured out and she shot a bunch of photos of me. At the beach, in my garden, in my Ministerial Robes… and while I’ve never liked having my photo taken, when she and I reviewed the photos, I saw myself in a totally different light than I’d ever seen. Her keen eyes, great talent and her verbal narrative of what she saw in those photos were powerful for me.
To this day, they are some of my favorite photos. I still sometimes hear her voice and words in my head. Words that remind me of what I allow myself to forget, words that help me keep putting one foot in front of the other.
These are three examples of wonderful people who have stepped into my life at various times. They are part of a very long list of people I’m so incredibly grateful to know.
On the overall, I realize that if I can live in a space where I can look for and see the beauty in good times and bad, and can remember that each of the people who have come into my life have done so at my request to play whatever part we have agreed to play together, for a wide variety of reasons, it makes the sweet times sweeter, and changes my perception the challenging times and people, and puts me in gratitude even for them.