Anne Morrow Lindbergh,

in Gift from the Sea, asked the question, What is the shape of my life?

Years after reading that sentence, it continues to resound. It echoes when I examine where my life is and where it seems to be going. Part of having a rich life is filling it with what is important—family, friends, travel, good books…

Too many months away from friends, makes me wax poetic about their importance. The presence or absence of people shapes our lives, shapes us, into who we are—good and bad. 

I often tell my brother, Joey, 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. I know that Dad would be proud of the man his son is. One whose life is held together by simple principles of doing what is right and fixing what is wrong. By treating every person who crosses his path as his equal, as someone worthwhile.

The Choices We Make

Lives are comprised of choices. We know some choices are good when we make them, while we suspect others are bad but choose them anyway. Each choice is full of consequences and results. Through every step down each fork of the roads we walk, friends join and guide us. They mold the shared experience into more.

Good friends give us advice—asked for or not—and let us make our decisions. Later, they curb their desire to say, had we listened to them or, I told you so. 

The blessings of having friends shape our experiences are that even if the friendships fade, the memories remain. Friends, whether or not we’re related to them, give unwavering support. They may slay the dragons breathing fire on us. Or let you stash belongings in their houses when you run away from life one winter. (See Getting Pushed Off the Cliff … On Purpose. 

The approach my husband, siblings, cousins, friends take when helping me, kindnesses and generosity are the defining traits. It is easy to want to emulate what is good inside each of them.

These people shape my life into one of broad experiences. They give me the chance to say, I hadn’t thought about that. So often, they encourage my dreams, and indulgence me in whatever adventure I’m instigating. 

Marriage Shapes Us

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. Check out The Adventures of Burt and Muggins—Alex is as responsible for that as I am. 

Sometimes I wonder how he tolerates the various hues I’ve brought him. Especially, as the kitchen table and chairs recently went from boring dark brown to a RoseMary-mixed Chianti red. I get thirsty looking at the color.

This alteration was followed by the pine dining room table going from its beat up thirty-year-old condition to being stained green, the depth of forest hikes. More color in two rooms with paint names, 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.

Learning From Each Other

Friends teach me that being a friend isn’t only about accepting a person warts and all. It is loving them from their point of view first, their needs, 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. There’s a lesson to ponder.

In the sad absence of our youngest sibling from our lives for a while, having her back is like discovering a friend you’ve known, but not really. Joanne is witty, with a devious sense of humor, full of surprises, thoughtfulness and kindness. Perhaps her eight- to twelve-years older siblings stifled her. In our distance, Joanne shaped her life into this bright spot of joy we are happy to experience.

Children and fathers

Children and father

So, what is the shape of my life?

Life has been shaped by every event that has occurred and every friend who has passed through my life or held onto me. They have broadened me and made me a better, more interesting person, opening my eyes to the unaccustomed. Friend endure 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.

Who has shaped yours?

** Read: What’s your one word epithet?