I am sitting in a circle of a hundred women, all wearing white. We pass a small woven basket containing a microphone into which we each speak in turn. We have been asked to share our experiences of the previous three days using the prompts, “At this moment…” followed by, “Moving forward…”
It was 6:00 p.m. Isla Mujeres, Mexico time, on Sunday, March 8, 2015— International Women’s Day. It was the closing ceremony for the We Move Forward women’s conference held that weekend at the MIA Reef Hotel.
Moving around the circle, “I feel blessed” and “I am grateful” were the phrases spoken most often. Insights were shared and commitments made to move forward with the intention of creating our best possible lives. There were tears and laughter, touches and hugs—as there had been the entire three days.
It’s probably the most important thing in a person.”
~ Audrey Hepburn
It may not be the most important thing, and it cannot be the only thing, but laughter is at the top of qualities I love in a person. The only thing better than laughing is shared laughter—hard laughter! The kind where something sets you both off at the same time, and you can keep it going—through words or a glance—longer than normal. Better yet, longer than appropriate! Best of all, long enough to get you in trouble!
I can name them—my oldest friends, my best friends, my mother, son and brother—all people who made or still easily make me laugh. Those I can count on to share a laugh in the darkest of times. I love it when one of my patients and I share a sense of humor, because laughter is healing. And if there can be both tears and laughter in a session, so much the better!
Ravinia is always on my summer “bucket list.” The outdoor music festival is located in Highland Park, Illinois —a thirty-minute drive from our home in Evanston. I’ve loved going to Ravinia ever since the first time—during the summer of 1983—my second summer in Chicago. That night, my husband and I took our kids to see the Preservation Jazz Hall Dixieland Band.
Recently up from Texas, we showed up with a motley assortment of lawn chairs, a red and white checkered tablecloth, Igloo cooler, paper plates, and citronella candles. Wandering the park pre-concert, I marveled at the elaborate picnic set-ups. Linen-topped tables with silver candelabras and crystal wine goblets. Elegant tapers with layers of dripping white wax. Beautiful food perfectly presented on porcelain china.
In this season of Thanksgiving, I have more than most for which to be grateful—robust health, a profession that brings me profound joy and purpose, a beautiful home, money to meet my basic needs—and an abundance of love from my community, my clients, my husband, family, and friends.
Growing up an Army Brat, I learned early-on the importance of friends—and the piercing loneliness that comes with being the perpetual new girl in school—and having none. In addition to being a gypsy-child, I was painfully shy. My friendship-making skills consisted solely of standing on the sidelines desperately hoping to be asked to play. Since I brought nothing but gawky novelty to the game, my brief friendships were always with those as socially awkward as I. But I clung tenaciously to those friends—until forcibly ripped away.
By the time my parents promised we were finally settling down for keeps, I was 13 and had attended 21 schools from kindergarten through 8th grade. I had no grasp of permanence and was wary of committing to one more relationship in which my heart could be broken. Because adolescence is fraught with drama that I never learned to navigate, I was out of high school and 17 when I first started collecting forever friends.
I learned to reach out and to hold on—to be there when needed and to accept the love of others when I’m in need. I learned to trust others with my deepest truths and to feel safe sharing my authentic (sometimes crazy) self. I learned to put my heart at risk.
And, although I’m a good friend, I’m not always easy. I’m still introverted, with a deep inherent need for restorative solitude. When facing personal challenges, my instinct is to hole-up like a wounded animal until regaining my strength. When I write, I go missing. (With the journey of East of Mecca, I’ve been missing more on than off over the last 22 years!) And creating this website and writing blog posts has been a joyous, but time-consuming project—requiring vast amounts of alone time.
So, my closest forever friends are not only entrusted with my deepest truths—they accept me for all that I am and support my dreams by tolerating my absences and accepting long overdue phone calls without judgment or recrimination.
Coming up for air this past week, after a wonderfully festive and crazy-busy few months, I started reaching out to my friends—feeling grateful as always when they reached back. Over time I will be posting essays about these people, starting now with Soul Foodie, about my very first forever friend. Right now, I’m sending out a collective thank you to those I love. My blog posts won’t always conclude with music, but Carole King says it so perfectly—I can’t resist.
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