I recently went to a writers’ conference in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina (South Carolina’s Writers’ Workshop). My friend, Annie, went with me. What a joyous time we had.
She is the type of friend who makes me believe in my dreams and more importantly, myself. Our conversations touch on all kinds of subjects. Faith. Secrets. Love. Loss. Letters in boxes from dead relatives. Avatars. Transformations. Butterflies and their grace. Energy healers. Being worn out. Being torn down. Being build up. Writing. Food. Skeletons in our closet. Closets for our skeletons. Energy drainers. Friends that we shouldn’t label as friends. Thoreau’s essays. Books that bounce off invisible rhythms of our souls. Serendipity. Fate. Circumstance. Jobs. Dreams. Hopes. Love. And so much more.
Sometimes friends are gifts beyond our scope of understanding.
They give us a mirror and we can see our beauty. Annie is this mirror for me. Maybe because I am an old soul I am drawn to older women.
I have another friend who is 95 and we’re kindred spirits. Her name is Jennie. I am lucky to have a friend like her. She takes me for what I’m. I don’t have to censor or apologize for being me.
She baked homemade baklava for my wedding and all my guests. She is also a writer. I met her in a writer’s group, years ago in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Everyone except her was salivating to get published. Jennie just wanted to write her stories. For herself, her grandchildren and children. One of those stories is an amazing story about being right there at Pearl Harbor before the bombing, during the bombing, and after the bombing when her husband, who was a Navy officer put her and her pregnant belly on a ship back to the mainland. Enemy submarines following her ship the whole way.
Jennie taught me the most important thing about writing, by example: don’t get caught up in publishing it – write to write.
In other words, write for yourself.
Important lesson. A lesson I am still trying to take the test for. I have flunked several times, as I am desperate to get published. For someone to recognize my words, myself, my fate. Someday, I may be on a bookshelf you can check out or maybe I’ll just have finished manuscripts on my shelf with all the other journals. But Jennie’s wisdom sits on my shoulder when I write, whispering her words, “Write for yourself. The rest will balance out eventually.” I listen, as she is a wise friend.
Annie, too, shares this gift of writing for herself. She hesitates to call herself a writer, but she journals religiously or when she has time. And oh, does she have a story. She could have pitched her memoir to any one of those important gate-keeper literary agents at the conference and they would be all over her book. She gets caught up in all the questions and tangles I do. “Where do I start? Who would want to read my story? How do I organize it?” I am able to give her sound advice. Advice I echo from Jennie. “Write for yourself Annie. The rest will work itself out.”
Annie is a spry, sexy, woman who I often forget her age. She is 72. She looks maybe 50.
Her energy feels like maybe 25. We can’t help but giggle and crack jokes around each other and miraculously, I don’t get on her nerves. Some friends can only stand me for a limited amount of time. And I can only stand them for about the same. As it should be. Some friendships are deeper than others and that is ok.
Some friendships I try to force that round peg in the square peg.
With some friends we depart and reconnect a week later, a month later. But with Annie, I didn’t want to leave her side. We were together Friday (all day in the car, lost on country roads) and Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. I felt empty when she left. Sad. Our connection is cosmic.
There are very few friends I can be so real with. I am lucky to have a handful of real friends that take me for what I am. Sometimes too blunt for my own good, sometimes so creative I have a hard time containing my excitement, sometimes discouraged and heartbroken by the world and all the realities that can get a creative down, sometimes a conversation hog, sometimes a mother still adjusting to being a new mom, sometimes a writer (need I say more), sometimes a wife, sometimes a sister, sometimes a daughter, sometimes a sinner, sometimes a saint, sometimes a lady some of you know as memomuse. But true friends really do leave footprints on our hearts. True friends tell us to shut up and listen. True friends tell us to keep talking. “Go on, I’m listening. You’re on to something. Keep the faith. Don’t give up. No, you aren’t that annoying.”
These friends who leave footprints on our soul also are the ones who provide the intensity and depth of the ocean near by the sand. Some friends leave muddy boot marks that make our hearts itch and scream.
I recently ended a friendship that just didn’t make me feel good. In fact, it made me feel icky. I had to sever ties. I ignored the instinct in my heart that this friend judged me and looked down on me. I do understand that this friendship’s chapter ended and I am grateful to have read the book. But I am focusing now on friendships that make me feel alive and grow and thrive.
Life is too damn short to try to shave that thick round peg into a right-angled square peg.
I have realized that I have shaved parts of myself in all aspects of my life (work, creative, family, personal, etc.) trying to fit into that nice, neat square peg. I was born for circles. As they are infinite and each point on a circle is the same distance from the center.
After the conference was over, Annie and I sat at the hotel bar out in the bright warm sun and danced in conversation.
Back and forth, back and forth. Ebb and flow. Taking turns so naturally. Bouncing off each other’s thoughts. Then another kindred spirit joined us, a writer. We all gathered, sipping Bloody Marys, and soaking up the sun. Butterflies kept dancing around us, fluttering along our shoulders. We were in touch with this great big force of self, surrounded by the magic of friendship, of muse.
So, I raise my glass to old friendships and new friendships. Because they all matter. And like a circle, sometimes they continue on, sometimes they just stay at their point in the circle. And some, like Annie’s go round and round, with giggle storms that make your belly ache, conversations that make you want to shout to the world, and comfort, no apple pie sitting on an open windowed shelf, can touch.
What friendships nurture you? Do you foster them? What friendships make you feel bad? Do you continue to shave off your round peg to fit it into the square hole?
Journal Your Journey.
Hope. Wish. Dream. Be.