Thursday, September 29, 2016

Behold, I Call you Friend

Cups of hot coffee and slices of leftover carrot cake circle the unadorned table, but it is the people sitting along the edges who make me pause, and give thanks. It is the quintessential morning-after ritual. We talk of nothing and everything as the morning stretches out into the burgeoning day. There are no plans, or schedules to keep, just undiluted time to memorialize the festivities of the night before. It was a bold and beautiful celebration of our dear friends 60th birthday but truthfully it was so much more. These are the people I chose to surround myself with on a regular basis. The people who have become my tribe. When we celebrate one, we celebrate all, because "no man is an island, entire of itself, every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main." John Donne 

Here we are, decked out in wrinkled pajamas, massive bedhead, unbrushed teeth, free of the masks we normally wear. When I take a mental step back I marvel at the laughter, story, and guardianship of the table talk. "Few delights can equal the mere presence of one who we trust utterly," says George MacDonald. I drop the fortress around my heart, I'm vulnerable, open, and ever so grateful for the sanctuary of friendship. For me this is a top ten moment for 2016. I can't be the only one keeping a list? 

Amy Chan says, "If you want to know someone, just look at who they choose to spend their time with." I give that a hardy amen. As I move begrudgingly into middle-age, I am aware that my time has become a precious commodity, if not to the world, at least to me. You might wonder what the hell do people my age actually do? Turns out we're not retiring as early as our parents (college tuition much), we're fairly active in our Autumn years, embarking on second careers, watching grandchildren, blogging, taking care of aging parents, and falling deeper into the embrace of old friendships. They call us the sandwich generation for a reason and that's not just because we like to eat. 

"Every decision we make changes things. The people we befriend, the examples we set, the problems we solve..." Seth Godin. The clock continues ticking as the decades of raising kids, chasing the dream, juggling mortgage payments, remaking ourselves, and our marriages have slipped away. As the past increases, the future recedes, and we begin to realize we only have today. Katherine Anne Porter says, "the past is never where you think you left it," because it landed on Facebook or some other form of social media. These new technologies have changed the way we maintain relationships with people from our past, present, and future. I don't know if this is a good thing or bad? Maybe I don't need to keep in touch with my entire high school cheer-leading squad, an incarcerated college roommate who wants to make amends, or the supervisor who fired me from my first job? I'm alarmed by the images of your perfect white teeth flashing across my screen, a video of your cat eating a lizard head-first, or a disastrous future if I fail to re-post. To stalk, or not to stalk, that is the new question.

My dirty little secret, the people around me have an enormous impact on my identity and self-esteem. When you view me through a wider lens I too can see my full potential, but the people who only notice my failings, are simply not worthy of my time. I'm not sure if it was ignorance or immaturity that seduced me into keeping toxic people around for so long. It took more than half a century but I'm finally learning how to maintain healthy boundaries and choose my friends wisely. Courtney Martin writes, "deliberately making friends with people that we deeply admire, people that make us laugh our asses off, people that push us to be more ourselves, is an under-appreciated and radical act in this culture of performance and reverence for the wrong gods." 

I think it was Jesus himself who coined the phrase "Behold, I call you friend." Only a true friend can call you out on your own shit and still make you feel loved. I trust the wisdom of those I travel with in this life, I receive forgiveness I don't deserve, and validation I greatly appreciate. Rumi says, "Each one of us is a jackass with wings of angels tacked on." Lucky for my friends I tend to save my jackass for driving in traffic and dealing with health insurance. (There may be more scenarios but who's counting?) 

A final 2016 top ten moment and I'll leave you to browse Facebook. It was a cool evening, there were about sixteen of us gathered around a pizza oven, in the backyard of a dear friend. I looked up as our hostess clanked her fork against a glass to get our attention, she said, "It warms my heart to see all you young people gathered on our patio, (On how I love that someone in this world still calls me young) because I know my children have chosen their friends wisely, and it comforts me to know you will be here for them long after I am gone," Ginger holds up her glass of wine, "to good friends." My eyes well up with tears. Her kind words nurture her guests so much more than food.

"Just as many wise spiritual teachers have argued that our thoughts beget our actions, I would argue that our friends beget our culture. They become the force we measure ourselves against, the source of so much of our joy and courage. They are our respite, and our welcomed responsibility. And all that choosing makes for a very rich life," Courtney Martin. 

Haven't had enough? Come visit me at Living in the Gap 


Kimberly G. Giarratano said...

I love having a tribe -- I think that's what we take with us into our older years.

Cheryl Oreglia said...

Thanks for your comment Kimberly. I totally agree, always travel light, getting over the damn hill is enough, the rest is just a burden!

Unknown said...


You and Larry are dear friends! It was a great party. Thank you for having us as part of your family and tribe. So many memories throughout the years. From when the kids were young to today. So many memories ahead! Growing families, trips to take. Lots of food and wine left to enjoy. Looking forward to enjoying it all with you and our friends. Love sitting around in the morning. No pretense. Hanging with people you love and care for. That's livin!


Unknown said...

I thought I could hear drum beats from the lake. So glad you have such good friends. Love you bunches and always, smg

Cheryl Oreglia said...

Thanks for the kind words Greg. The older I get the more I realize how deeply relationships shape and define me. So grateful I am for our tribe. Looking forward to our next adventure. xxoo

Cheryl Oreglia said...

To the Motherload! I love you to the core of my being Sue. Oh do we share the memories. Many more to come. 💞

Carrie Beckort said...

So true. As hard as it was, a few years ago I ended a a friendship that was toxic for me. She's a great person, but for some reason our friendship started having more downs than ups. I didn't feel I was my best self around her, and we both deserved better.

Cheryl Oreglia said...

It is so difficult to walk away from someone you've loved and felt connected with. I still struggle with lingering pain from unresolved conflicts that destroyed a relationship I thought was solid. Life is too short to maintain defective relationships. Better for everyone to just move on. Thanks for your note Carrie.

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