Anne Morrow Lindbergh, in Gift from the Sea, asked the question, What is the shape of my life?
Years after reading that sentence for the first time, it continues to resound for me—in my soul and in my brain when I stop to examine where my life is today and where it seems to be going.
I’ve been thinking a great about friendship and how the presence or absence of friends can shape our lives, shape us, into the people we are or are on our way to becoming.
Chatting with my brother, to his self-surprise, he often makes me wax poetic when I tell him how much he has morphed into our dad. Or maybe his dad-traits stick out more these days because Dad isn’t around to overshadow him. Whatever it is, I watch Joey in amazement at who he is and know that Dad would be proud to see his son be this man—a man whose life is held together by simple principles of doing what is right, fixing what is wrong, and treating every person who crosses his path as his equal, as someone worthwhile.
Our lives are comprised of choices—some we know are good when we make them, some we suspect are bad but choose them anyway. Each choice, we learn as we grow, is full of consequences and results. Through every turn taken down each fork of the various roads confronting us, if we are lucky people, there are friends joining and guiding us along our traveled routes, molding the experience we shared into something useful.
They are the friends who give us advice—asked for and unsolicited—and let us make our own decisions without later yelling that had we listened to them …. Or winding up a diatribe about a poor choice with, I told you so.
The blessings of having friends we are smart enough to hold onto for decades are vast. Friends, whether or not we’re related to them, give unwavering support. They range from the individuals who would slay the dragons breathing fire on us, to the ones who let you stash belongings in their houses when you decide to run away from life one winter (see Getting Pushed Off the Cliff … On Purpose).
If I wrote in here the things that my husband, my siblings do for me … and crazy cousins … and friends who are busy with their own businesses, own jobs, own chaotic lives … . Their kindnesses and generosity across the length of my life has molded me into someone longing to emulate what is good inside each of them.
These people have shaped my life into one of broad experiences, the chances to say, I hadn’t thought about that, encouragement to follow my dreams, and indulgence in whatever the latest adventure it is that I’m instigating.
When Alex and I first got together, I asked this often stoic engineer if he would allow me to bring color into his life—both literally and figuratively. He has—if you don’t believe me, check out The Adventures of Burt and Muggins—Alex is as responsible for that as I am. Sometimes I wonder how he puts up with the various hues I’ve brought him. Especially, as the kitchen table and chairs recently went from boring dark stain to a Rosemary-mixed Chianti red. I get thirsty looking at the shade.
This alteration was followed by the pine dining room table going from its beat up thirty-year-old condition to being covered with a green stain that reminds me of forest hikes. More color in two rooms full of colorful names like Ancho Chili Pepper and Camp Fire and Warm Mustard.
We alter our settings, the homes we occupy, with little changes like paint or a new rug or a couple of pillows. Yet those little redesigns can refresh our outlook and enliven our perspective so that we see our environment anew and with gratitude.
Friends teach me that being a friend isn’t only about accepting a person warts and all, but it is loving them from their point of view first and then your own. Meaning, hmmm, let’s see … Jackie is a single-tasker. Now, she can get multiple things done at a time: bake, do laundry, clean. But, when she is actually doing the baking, she is only baking. To talk to me while mixing, she stops adding ingredients, talks, then resumes measuring.
I can be doing laundry, cleaning, and visiting with a friend while baking—tasks continually happening at the same time, always in motion.
Of course, maybe that’s why she is a better baker than I am. Lesson to ponder.
In the sad absence of our youngest sibling from our lives for a few years, having her back is like discovering a friend you’ve known, but not really. She is very witty, with a devious sense of humor, full of surprises, thoughtfulness and kindness. Perhaps her eight to twelve-year older siblings stifled her as has been known to happen. And in our distance, Joanne shaped her life into this bright spot of joy the three of us are happy to experience.
So shapes of our lives? Mine has been shaped by every event that has occurred and every friend who has passed through or held onto my life. They have broadened me and made me a better, more interesting person as they have opened my eyes to the unaccustomed and endured with me through the many incarnations of who I am. In the dark moments, I stop the sadness by thinking how rich I am with the people God has inserted in my life.