...and I did it again this weekend. Quick trip to Norfolk to catch up with some childhood and high school friends, and also make some new ones. Going home is always a bittersweet experience. It reconnects me with the places, people,and experiences that are a big part of who I am...very grounding. In that reconnecting, memories are conjured up that aren't always pleasant...sadness over how many have passed, accidents, illnesses. And current trials in life...several in the room had just lost mothers in the past six months. Others are currently going through marital problems. One had just lost his wife to cancer. And yet, looking around the room, I saw smiles, nods, heads thrown back in laughter, faces deep in concentration as they listened to stories, hugs everywhere, exclamations of surprise. It was truly a joyous experience to be in that room.
One of the things I love most about this reconnection is the realization that these people really 'get' me. They know where I came from, they know just how much history we all have together, and they realize the importance of staying connected, of community, of letting go of trivial misunderstandings and differences that once seemed so important. They get that we all have quirks, but they also embrace us despite those quirks, oftentimes because they know what we've been through, how we grew up, what we've had to deal with in life, and that they too are loved and accepted for who they are by the rest of us. In that room that night were differences on many levels, and yet the focus was on the things that have been a part of us for 35 or more years, and that is the good stuff, the stuff that sustains us, and the stuff that makes it so good to go home again.
In the past ten years since I've been in the area I now call home, I've made some wonderful new friends, and I cherish them. But making new friends in mid-life can be a challenge. We often don't give each other the benefit of the doubt, and allow for some wiggle room when our friends make mistakes or don't meet our expectations. They don't really 'know' us or 'get' us in the same way that those who've known us since grade school do. And I think it's a shame that we don't see each other for the complex beings that we are. It's almost like we should all come with a table of contents, with each chapter titled according to the ups and downs of our lives. Rather than assume the worst about each other, we should be assuming the best...assume that we've had influences that shape our very core. We should be listening to each others' stories, not judging the foibles. Cliche' as it is, life is just too effing short to be cutting people out of our lives or holding grudges over petty differences. It makes me sad to watch others do so, but I won't dwell on it. My life is rich in friendships, and so many true blessings, I've determined to focus on those friendships and blessings and continue to move forward, with my feet firmly grounded in the knowledge of who I am, embracing it fully.