“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters, compared to what lies within us.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Yesterday, I came across the above quote and from now on, when people ask me “What’s your favorite quote?” that is going to be my answer. Beyond the literal truth, what I take it to mean is that the details, the events, the happenings, the things that occur in our life are of little matter when compared to what is within us, what makes up our character and personality and the core of who we are. Our attitudes, perceptions, acceptance and how we handle the world are far more important.
I’ve been thinking a lot about a lot of things, lately (shocking, I know. So much thinking!) Friendship. Family. Kids. Life. I’ve had a few days lately where my level of contentment was so high I felt the need to tell the people around me, repeatedly. Some of it, of course, is situational. I mean, who wouldn’t be content sitting on the side of a pool on a gorgeous May day with a beverage, happy kids, and good friends? But then again, was it the situation? Or was it a general sense of being satisfied with myself and the life that we have that leads me to take a bit more appreciation for what’s around me? Because if truth be told, Gabey was causing problems and Stella pretty much begged non-stop for “something from the snack bar” and my beer was warm before I even drank it and I was coming off of a few days of lingering…intestinal distress. But it just didn’t seem to matter on that afternoon.
I’ve spent the better part of the last week watching someone I care about tremendously go through what has been described as “the worst moment of my life”. The details are not important and its not my story to tell, but living something second-hand is hard on a person. All kinds of feelings…shock, horror, anger, sadness, helplessness. Fear for my friend on many levels. And then, her leap of courage of the kind most people will never take. A journey of self-realization read through probably a thousand text messages. And its been said to me to back away and distance myself, after all, its not my tragedy. But how do you that? How do I do that, and stay “right” within myself? The answer is, I don’t. Can’t. What can I say, when it comes to empathy, I’m a badass!
But in all seriousness, her story isn’t over, and won’t be, for a long time. In many ways its just begun. But for me, to have gone through this with her, and to see her break through the surface on the other side, has been powerful. Its caused me to look at all of the things in my own life, to have thanks for things I don’t actually think about on a regular basis, like being able to do what I want, when I want. For having a marriage that is not perfect, but solid and safe. Kids who are far from perfect (sorry guys) and often bring out the worst in my patience level (sorry again, guys) but who are smart and healthy and, lets all just admit it, pretty good looking. For having a family that’s real, without any Duggar-esque drama or estrangement or tragedy. And friendships. In particular, girlfriends. I have lots of friends, and some are old and some are new and some are acquaintences and then there are those who are close to my heart. And guess what all of those friends have in common? A sense of integrity. A sense of loyalty. A sense of happiness and a general peace of mind about life. NONE of them have perfect lives, far from it. All of them are different with different priorties and different lifestyles but when it comes down to it, they are genuine and real and good. And I find as I have gotten older, I’ve slowly gravitated towards this–surrounding myself (and by default, my family) with people who bring positivity and contentment, and letting those who don’t, fall away.
The perfect contrast: last night I had a girls night out with two of my favs, Cristina and Joanie.
We’ve all known one another at different levels over different amounts of time, but somehow fell into a tighter friendship over many nights around my island or at one of our favorite restaurants over the past year or so. The 3 of us could not be more different in many ways: our ages span 2 decades. Two of us are married, one is not. Two of us are childless, one is not (guess who!) Our jobs are different, our styles are different, our pasts are different. But yet there is a connection on a fundamental level and its tough to find words to explain it.
Anyhow, last night as we sat outside around a table with our glasses of wine and our conversation that flowed effortlessly between some hard core emotional advice-giving to trying to come up with something that rhymes with “30” for Christina’s birthday invitations (related: dirty, flirty and birdy were all suggested). I got a message from a lady who I met when our daughters had an activity together this spring. She had sent the message to a few people, and was trying to arrange summer playdates “for the ‘cool’ kids only”. In the past I would have struggled with what to think, how to answer. I would have checked the names on the message and wondered why so-and-so was not on there. When you’re in your late 30’s, what does that even mean, “cool”? This is a woman who once spent a great deal of time gossiping about someone else’s mothering skills to me…only to realize halfway through the conversation that I not only knew who she was talking about, but that it was someone I considered a friend! Once I disclosed this information, her tune suddenly changed to nothing but praises and statements that completely contradicted the catty gossip she’d been spewing just moments before.
And then, an invite to join the group of “cool” kids. Lucky me!
I put the phone away, and fell back into the present time. A lovely summer night of wine, friends, a couple of dogs and some really, really pathetic attempts at birthday poetry. (Its safe to say Emerson will not have any competition from us in the poetry department.) With the aforementioned friend in the back of my mind, and the girls in front of me, and the knowledge that I was there at all because Gabe had the homestead under control and that overwhelming feeling of content…it suddenly clicked.
This is the cool group. Its what lies within.