Contentment

What is contentment?  Is it the same as happiness?  Some say yes, some say no.  I say yes…..and no.

The dictionary describes contentment like this:

Contentment n. 1. The state of being contented; satisfaction. 2. A source of satisfaction: the contentments of a wonderful retirement.

To me, therein lies the difference – that one word: Satisfaction.

The last few days we have received a record amount of snowfall in this area.  Just ten minutes from here we received 163 cm.  The average around the area was about a metre.  Some spots got more, some less.  The storm started on Sunday morning and the snowsqualls finally stopped today.  Needless to say, this led to a lot of closures – schools, government offices, banks, etc.  The place where I work had a couple of half days and there were a ton of people that were pretty much trapped in their homes.  My parents, who live out in the country, were literally trapped in their house.  There was a 4 foot snow drift in front of the garage where they park their cars at the end of a long laneway.  They weren’t able to go anywhere until yesterday when they finally were able to get someone to blow out the laneway.

So we’ve spent a lot of time cooped up in the house over the last few days.  I was a bit of a dolt and helped my husband carry up the Christmas tree and tweaked my overly sensitive lower back.  Then I was stupid enough to try to help him shovel heavy snow and I aggravated it even more.  I ended up spending most of the day flat on my back with a heating pad yesterday.  So I’ve had some time to think.

If someone asked me if I was happy, I would say yes.  I have a wonderful family, the world’s most amazing child, a loving marriage, great friends, an okay job.  I have everything I need to stay alive, a roof over my head, food, warmth, clothes, I’m luckier than many who have none of that.   So yes, I’m happy.

So if the same person asked me right after they asked me if I was happy whether I was content, I probably would have said that the two are the same.  Being cooped up all day in the house with my husband and my son for three days made me realize different.

How did I feel when I had nothing to do but spend time with my family, do a bit of knitting, watch a bit of TV, have an afternoon nap, cuddle a bit (or a lot), eat comfort food in front of the TV, put up the Christmas tree?  I’ll tell you, I went to bed at night satisfied.  Satisfied.  When there was nowhere to go, nothing to do, just the comforts of my home and little family around me, I felt very satisfied, very content.

Happiness can be easy to come by if the conditions are right.  It is something that we should all strive for.  Contentment, that satisfaction with life and what it has given you, can be harder.  Harder to come by, and should be treasured once you find it.

Relationships

Let me preface this by saying – I don’t have a heck of a lot of experience with long term relationships – aside from with my husband.  I have a history of short and very short term relationships, if you can even call the very short term ones relationships (well, that just sounds bad, doesn’t it?).

That does sound bad.  I would not by any means call my past a very seasoned or “well traveled” one.  I just never really had much in the way of long term stuff until I started seeing my husband.

We were friends in high school.  Hated each other at first sight.  Or he hated me anyway, apparently I said something to him the first time I spoke to him that referred to him getting the **** out of my way.  We were both working backstage in a high school production, it was a very fast paced environment and well, he was in my way.  I don’t remember this particular exchange, but hey – if he says so.  Apparently he went back to his side of the stage and asked his manager who the hell I was.  She told him, mentioning that I was really a nice person.  He was quick to voice that he did not agree.

We met up again a year or so later in a class.  We fell in “like” rather quickly.  I loved spending time around him and we soon became inseparable.  So I wasn’t as bad as he thought I was.  I developed a crush on him in my last year of high school that I didn’t share with him and nothing really came of it at the time.  I went away to university and as he was a year younger than me, he stayed behind to finish his last year.  We eventually lost touch.

Until about a year or so later, there was a message on my voicemail one day when I got home.  It was him.  I immediately called him back and we picked up right where we left off.  He was just out of a relationship at the time and I was in one (one of my short term, very different ones) and we fell back into the groove of hanging out with each other very quickly.  My relationship ended, as it was meant to, being short term and all.  Within a few months we began dating.  That was almost 13 years ago.  We were married 8 years ago and have a beautiful 2 and a half year old son.

We have a good relationship.  We’ve had our ups and downs, made our mistakes, but we’ve always managed to find our centre again.  We’ve grown from our mistakes and our marriage is stronger now because of them.  He truly is my best friend.  I enjoy spending time with him.  I miss him when he’s not around.  We worked together for about 9 years and a year or so he left his job and went back to school.  He is now a PSW.  He’s happy and loves his job, but it has certainly changed our schedule quite a bit.  I work straight days.  So did he when we worked together.  Now he works all shifts.  We don’t see each other nearly as much as we used to.  At first that bothered me quite a bit.  I am slowly adjusting to the change and so is he.  I don’t mind so much when his job keeps him from being with his family.  I wish he was around more but I’ve also seen it as an opportunity to spend more quality time with my son.

I think, and I have always maintained this and will continue to stand by this – that communication is the key to a good relationship.  If your communication suffers, your relationship will suffer.  All the other things – trust, loyalty, honesty, passion, etc, all stem from good communication.  I don’t feel that you should ever fear telling your mate something because you are afraid of how they are going to react.  If there is something that you are keeping from them….well, it usually means that you are avoiding getting in trouble for something that you know you shouldn’t have done. (I knew I shouldn’t have went into the Coach store armed with a credit card).

I think that the fact that we were friends before we were lovers helps us because we have a solid foundation to fall back on.  He is my best friend.  I still think he is sexy, and funny and wonderful, but most importantly, he is a part of me.  We’re not just family now, as our marriage license states, but we’re friends.  We were friends first, friends still, and friends always.

As I said earlier, I’m not too experienced at long term relationships, but after having a pretty good one for the length of time that I have, I’ve learned some of the keys to them:  Communicate with each other, love each other, forgive each other, and never, ever take each other for granted.

“It is not a lack of love, but a lack of friendship that makes unhappy marriages.” – Fredrick Nietzsche

Judgement

We’ve all been judged at some point in our lives.  By the people we love, by the people we don’t love so much, by people that don’t even know us.  Some of us (not me — yet) have been judged in a court of law.

It is so easy to pass judgement on someone.  In all our perfectness, we look at someone and if they are doing something or saying something or professing beliefs in something that we don’t agree with, we automatically pass judgement on them.  It’s something that happens without even thinking about it sometimes.

We all have beliefs.  Some of us believe in God.  Some believe in Allah, or Buddha, or The Source, The Force or Darth Vader.  Or we choose to believe in nothing, but even in that case, we still believe – we believe that we just are.  Nothing that science can’t explain or will be able to explain someday.  Those beliefs are often a large part of what shapes us as individuals.  If we believe that we are going to be eternally damned, we are less likely to take the cookie out of the cookie jar when we’re not supposed to.

What I don’t understand, and don’t like, is when people use their beliefs to judge other people and condemn them.  I think it is important to believe in something.  I’m a Christian, Roman Catholic actually.  I was raised that way from birth.  I believe in God.  I believe Jesus is the Son of God.  That is my belief.  I hope that because of my beliefs you understand that I am a good person, will do my best for my fellow man and woman.  I try to make it to church on Sundays, and I try to live by the law and guidelines that the church has set out for me.  I try my very best to be a good person and to be kind to everyone.  I am raising my son with these expectations of him.  Do I agree with everything?  No.  Do I think that because I’m a part of this church, that the teachings and ways are 100% right with no chance of anything else being correct?  I don’t think so.  It’s like believing that we here on earth are the center of the universe and we are the only beings and the only planet with life on it.  That’s kind of ignorant, isn’t it?  Arrogant too.

It’s part of all the problems that there are in the world today.  So many wars have started because of beliefs.  So many countries and groups taking it upon themselves to pass judgement on the rest of the world because of what they believe or don’t believe.  I have beliefs, but do I believe that you’re going to burn in hell if you’re gay?  If you marry a person of the same sex?  If you live with someone and have children with them before you get married?  I’m not gay, I’m married to a man, and I got married before I had kids.  Am I any happier because of it?  I don’t think so.  It’s just the way things ended up working out.  What if you are a wonderful person, do things for people, put other people before yourself, yadda, yadda, yadda.  But you just happen to, somewhere along the way, meet and fall in love with someone that is the same gender as you.  Does this cancel out all the good you have done?  Does this mean that you are going to burn in hell for all eternity?  Well, I’ve got no direct link to the other side, never had anyone come back to let me know what happens when you leave this world for the next, but I have a hard time believing that a truly good person can burn in hell for all eternity.  But that’s just my ignorance showing I guess.

I know that this tone doesn’t follow with the normal tone of my blog.  I don’t normally talk about things that are controversial.  “Hot topics” so to speak.  I leave that stuff for the girls at “The View.”  But I have to say that this has been bugging me lately.  The internet is full of people judging people day in and day out.  People thinking that they know everything there is to know about everything, and are so closed minded to other points of view that they are willing to believe in their own ways and no others.  Websites bashing people for just being who they are.  It’s coming across in the schools with all the bullying and online with the cyber bullying and the teenage suicides.  People who think so little of themselves that they feel their life is not worth fighting for.  People who are plagued with the judgement of others constantly.  It’s constantly being drilled into their heads that there is something wrong with them because they are who they are.  Just because of who they are!  Not because of any choice they have made, but because they have chosen to be who they are.  It starts young, in the home sometimes, with judgmental parents.  Happens in the school system from pre-school right through college with judgmental peers.  Happens in the workplace and every step of life.  It needs to stop.  We need to stop looking at what is “wrong” with other people and try to fix what is truly wrong with us.  What is it that makes us so insecure about ourselves that we constantly feel the need to point out the “faults” of other people?  If everyone took some time to look within and let everyone else lead their own lives in peace, the world would be a far better place.

I believe in God.  I believe that one day I will be judged by Him.  I really don’t need your two cents too….unless I ask for it.

Motherhood

If someone were to ask me, what is the best thing that has ever happened to me, I would answer without hesitation, becoming a mother.  I am 33 years old, my son is 2 and a half.

I got married at the “normal age.”  I was 25, my husband 24.  Yes, I’m an older woman.  There is so much pressure from people in life.  When you start dating someone, it’s all about “when are you guys going to make things official?”  We had been friends for years, and dating for about a year and a half before we got engaged.  We left things open for a while until we got asked so many times when the wedding was, we figured that we’d better set a date.  So we sat down with a calendar and set a date that was 3 years away.  Most people were appalled.  3 years!  Engaged for 3 years??

Those 3 years ended up flying by and we had a wonderful wedding.  Looking back at the photos always makes me smile.  It’s a great antidote for being annoyed at my husband.  I look at my wedding photos and remember how happy I was that day and how much I still love him now.  The wedding pics never get buried too deep.  Just in case.

So at our wedding, I don’t think we even made it out of the reception before people started asking us when we were going to have kids.  I mean seriously people! Come on!  Are you never satisfied?  Apparently not.

We waited quite a while to have a child.  I was 30 when I had my son.  A lot of people thought we maybe had problems, or maybe couldn’t conceive.  No, when we decided we wanted to get pregnant in July of 2007, I went off the birth control pill.  I got pregnant sometime in August.  We are plenty fertile, thank you very much.  We just (heaven forbid) decided to wait before we had children.  We maybe never went very many places, but we could if we wanted to.  We had the extra income so that we could go to one of our favourite spots, an inn along Lake Huron that is beautiful and luxurious and serve wonderful breakfast.  And stay a few nights to boot!  We didn’t have to decide if we wanted to go out for dinner at an nice restaurant or buy diapers, so we ate out a lot.   We didn’t have to look for childcare, so we stood in line at Chapters at midnight with all the other crazies when the final Harry Potter book came out.

I guess part of us wanted to get all that out of our system before settling down.  Because as much as we say it won’t make a difference, that we are going to continue to live life as we want, that we are not going to let having a child get in the way of doing the things we normally do, it does.  But it does it in a way that (for us anyway) doesn’t make you regret it.  Perhaps because we have been there and done all that.  We don’t feel cheated out of the things we sacrifice now, because we have a wonderful child in their place, but because we also had plenty of all that other stuff before he came along.  Now we’ve moved on to the next phase.  Mind you, we still will be in line on opening night at the movies when Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. 1 comes out.  We’re very fortunate that my son has a wonderful Grandma (my mom) that loves spending time with him and jumps at any chance to babysit.

I remember being pregnant.  It was a great experience for me.  I hardly got sick (with a few exceptions), I was tired a lot, and maybe a bit cranky, but I didn’t have any of the really bad side effects that many women experience.  The hardest thing for me to give up was Diet Coke.  I took care of myself, did what I was told, and had a truly wonderful pregnancy.  I know of many women who are constantly saying “I can’t wait to get this kid out of me.”  I wasn’t like that at all.  I liked being pregnant and I knew that we were probably only planning on having one child, so I knew that this would probably be my only chance to get to experience it.  Also, I was incredibly nervous about the birth process and what things would be like after he was born.  I had never been a mother before.  Grown up pretty much as an only child, had not spent a lot of time around newborns.  Read all the books you want on parenting, and many of them are good, but none help when it’s 3am and the baby just will not stop crying.  The book may hold the answer, but you’re not in the position to find it at that point.  I was scared about having the responsibility of a little person.  Providing all the necessities of life for him.  And then some.  And what if he didn’t like me?

I wrote this while I was expecting:

Message for Baby
Hi, Little One.
Can you hear me? In that dark warm place that you live, do you hear my voice?
Do you listen for my voice?
Wait for it?
Are you comforted by it?
Will you recognize it when we finally meet?I close my eyes, and I picture you, floating around inside me.
I picture your little hands, your little nose, your little ears.
I feel your movements, and wonder at how you’ve grown.
Turned into a little person, literally from nothing.
Created from love.
A part of Daddy, a part of me, fused together, to make you. 

Soon we will meet, the date of your arrival grows nearer.
The closer it gets, the more my excitement grows, and with it, my sense of anxiety.

For there are things I need you to know.

I’m new at this.
Every day of your life, as you discover new things, learn about life
I’ll be learning too.
Learning to be a mom. Your mom.
And I know along the way I’ll make mistakes.

But there are things I can promise you, and these I know for sure.

I will protect you.
I will be there for you.
I will love you.

I will give you the best of me,
And probably some of the worst too.
You can count on me to stand up for you, to be there…
…with a smile
…with a hug and lots of kisses
…with an open ear…and an open heart.

See you soon.

Love,
Mommy

 

I remember the first time I saw my son.  I won’t go into my “birth story” here, but I had to have a c-section under general anesthetic.  When I woke up, he had been born just minutes before and I had no pain medication until about a half hour later when I was in recovery.  Needless to say, I was in pain.  I remember being in recovery and lying flat on my back wishing I were dead.  Joe came over and showed me this little blue bundle with this perfect, round face and cute little hat with the blue pom pom on the head.  I remember being struck by how beautiful he was.  And how quiet at the time.
I got to hold him for the first time once I was in my room and feeling a bit better due to pain medication on a pump that I could push every 6 minutes or so.  I had always thought, throughout my pregnancy, that sparks would fly and mountains would move when I first saw and held my child.
Don’t get me wrong, I loved him more than I had ever loved anything.  I would have gladly thrown myself in front of a bus for him.  The thing was, I hardly knew him.  I knew him, but I didn’t KNOW him.  I don’t know if you understand that, it’s just a thing.
We went home, and had one of the toughest months I’d ever experienced.  I won’t go into it all again, but I had an infection after the c-section, my incision re-opened, I ended up back in the hospital for a couple days, and had at least two months of a nurse visiting my home every day until I completely healed.  This made it difficult to bond with him the way I wanted to, and though I spent every waking (and sleeping) moment I could with him, it wasn’t until I was healed that I was able to really get to know him.
Once that started to happen, look out!  I fall more desperately in love with this child every day.  I live to get home and be with him every night.  When I went back to work, we had a very rough time.  He would cry when I got home, not wanting to have anything to do with me.  He would cling to my mother, who was his caregiver through the day.  I would sit on the sofa and cry, hating that I had to work, hating that my son hated me and was punishing me for going back to work.
I’ve been back to work for about a year and a half now.  He runs to me when I come in the door now and we sit on the couch together and have our 10 minutes or so of cuddle time before I start dinner.  The more I get to know him, the more I love him.  Every day as he learns new words and phrases, learns new things about the world around him, he becomes more his own person.  He has a sense of humour.  We can look at each other and get the private joke between us.  And he’s only 2 and a half.  Imagine what more wonderful experiences there are to come.
“It seems to me that since I’ve had children, I’ve grown richer and deeper. They may have slowed down my writing for a while, but when I did write, I had more of a self to speak from.”
— Anne Tyler

Time

What is time?  What a stupid question.  How are you supposed to answer that?  Time is….well….time.
It’s something that we all wish we had more of.  Something that there doesn’t seem to be enough of in a day to do everything that we want to do.  We constantly complain that we don’t have enough time, yet we are always trying to find things to “pass the time.”

As children, we have no concept of time.  Our parents were always trying to put us off using time. “5 more minutes.” – an answer that has a pretty good shot of shutting up a kid constantly asking “how much longer??”  We didn’t really know what 5 more minutes meant, but it gave us a time frame.  We knew that 5 more minutes wasn’t too much longer.  We were always doing things to pass the time as children when we didn’t have any responsibilities.  I watch my two year old son now, and I see the same thing.  He doesn’t have anything that he absolutely HAS to do, except eat, sleep, take a bath, etc.  Someone is always there to make sure he does those things.  So what does he do?  Spends his whole day passing the time in between those activities.  Playing with his trucks, doing a puzzle, hanging out in his tent, drawing on his chalkboard, colouring, watching TV, looking through his books.  Or best of all, cuddling with Mommy.  His whole life consists of passing time.  At two years old, he has all kinds of it.

As we get older, go to school, make friends, have fun in life, we start to find that when we are doing something we really don’t want to do, time tends to tick by much more slowly.  One month of school sure does go by a lot slower than two months of summer, which fly by in the blink of an eye.  Waiting for our Birthday, Christmas, all other exciting things to come seems to take forever.  When the actual event gets here, it’s gone before you know it.  This is how time tricks us.

I have spent the last week on vacation from my job.  I’ll admit, we didn’t do much this past week.  I got out a bit, met with some friends, Joe and I went for dinner to celebrate our anniversary (8 years), but we certainly didn’t break any records for excitement level.  But that’s okay.  I got to spend a whole week where I was at home with my son every day.  I got to nap with him almost every afternoon.  I got to go into his room and get him out of bed every morning.  It has been heaven.  And it has gone by so fast.  I go back to work on Tuesday and I know it’s going to be tough on both of us because we’ve both been spoiled by each other this week.

When we get into high school, time goes fast.  Post secondary goes even faster.  Real life, jobs, marriage, adulthood, faster than one ever thought possible.  Until the children come along.  I thought time went by fast before, it’s nothing compared to now that I have a child.  He is two and a half.  The last two and a half years have passed at a rate so fast that it has scared me.  I took a deep breath, and by the time I exhaled, here we are.  Joe and I were looking at pictures this week of when he was a newborn, and the first year of his life.  You don’t realize how much they change sometimes or how quickly they grow until you do this.  Before I know it, he’ll be starting school…high school…college or university…moving out…getting married…okay, I’m starting to hyperventilate now.  🙂

It’s when you really think about time that you start to contemplate your own mortality.  From the moment I took my first breath 33 years ago, I have literally been dying.  I know it sounds awful, but it’s true.  I don’t mean to sound morbid, but we all have a specified amount of time on this planet, in this life.  Someday we will move on.

So what does that mean?  We want to be remembered after we are gone, right?  We want to leave our mark, make an impression.  We want those that are left behind to not only remember us, but perhaps to live by lessons they have learned from us.  So what do we do?  We make the most of the time we have here. Live every day like it is our last.  Look at everything that life hands us as an opportunity to learn something, to make a difference.  Know that the smallest of actions can create a ripple effect and have huge ramifications.  Treat people the way you want to be treated.  Tell the truth.  If you don’t know something, admit to it.  It is a chance to find out the answers.

Take every moment and cherish it.  It is yours, grab it and use it.  Don’t find yourself trying to pass the time all the time.  If you have time to pass, use it to do something you truly love.  It doesn’t have to be going out and saving the world every time you have a spare ten minutes, it could mean picking up that paperback that has been sitting there for months that you have been meaning to read.  Those saved episodes of Greys Anatomy that you haven’t been able to watch yet because your daughter has hockey on Thursday nights and you’ve been putting it off because you’re so exhausted at the end of the day that you just fall into bed instead of popping a bowl of popcorn and settling down to get caught up.

Do the things you want to do, as well as the things you have to do.  Have no regrets.  And please, please….tell the people that you love how much you love them.  As often as you can.  There’s no such thing as overkill in that department.  It’s nice to feel loved, and it’s nice to know that if something were to happen, there are no questions, and no regrets regarding your feelings.  There are no guarantees in this life.  We literally can be here today and gone tomorrow.  Instead of brushing him off, take the time to hang out in the tent with your kid.  It only takes a few minutes, but it makes him so happy.  Take a deep breath and try and find out why he’s whining and hanging off your leg instead of losing it even though you’ve had a crazy day and all you want is some peace and quiet.  He doesn’t know how crazy your day was, he wasn’t sitting there when your boss came and dumped a pile of paperwork on your desk at 4pm.  He just wants your attention.  Wants you.  Look into that sweet little crying face and squat down to his level, put your hands on his cheeks, give him a kiss and a hug and listen for a second.  You’ll probably find out that he just wants his juice cup refilled.

Take a second and think twice about everything you say, and everything you do.  It won’t take nearly as long as you might think, and you’ll have far fewer regrets.

Treat time as a gift.  As currency.  To be spent carefully.  On what matters.

“A man who dares to waste one hour of life has not discovered the value of life.”
– Charles Darwin

Leaf

I wrote this sitting in first year English when I should have been studying somebody from the 17th century, not the turning leaves on the trees outside.  Every fall I think of it and dig it out and read it and wonder how many people can relate to it.


leaf

Leaf



I’m holding on as tightly as I can
But it’s hard.
The cold autumn wind is strong.
It’s trying to break me off.
My life is short, time is swift.
In the spring I sprout quickly
The warmth of the sun spurns my growth.
The emerald green of my existence is healthy and fresh.
Looking down I could see so much
From the very young to the very old.
The young running and playing,
The old strolling and often stopping to rest.
They all look up and they see me,
But they often take my presence for granted.
Because I am one of many, I am looked at as a piece of one whole.
But I am not.
I am individual, different and distinct from my peers.
I am often underestimated.
For I survive a lot in my short life.
Heavy rain and wind, with no protection.
But when I was young, I was not bothered
For I was strong, secure.
But now I am growing old, and dying.
The suns warmth is no longer as strong.
The cold winds are dominating
And I struggle to hang on.
Gone the lush green I once was,
And with it my strength.
I have turned bright orange.
I hear the people below, bundled up.
They are marveling at my beauty.
How ironic
That the most beautiful point in my life
Is during the final moments of it.
And as the wind finally has its way and sends me off,
I wonder at how the time that makes my life
Is but a moment or a season.

Friendship

Seriously…what would we do without our friends?

Everyone, if they are lucky, is surrounded by all sorts of people in their lives.  We have parents, hopefully for a long time, though sometimes they are taken from us far too early.  They are the ones that shape us.  Our very first role models, our first protectors, our first teachers.  They love us unconditionally, and are a presence in our lives whether they live next door, across the country, or in Heaven.

Grandparents, very special people who have so much wisdom to share and are able to love us just as much as our parents do without the burden of having to discipline us.  The life lessons they have to teach us are more about experiences and advice than behaviour and manners.  Times with grandparents are to be especially cherished if you have them, because many people don’t.  I was extremely lucky to have met three of my grandparents, the one I didn’t get a chance to meet I missed by two weeks.  He passed away shortly before I made a trip to Malta to meet him and my Grandmother for the first time.  My other Grandfather I was blessed to have in my life until I was 18 years old.  I miss him every day.  Words can not describe how wonderful he was.  My only surviving grandparent is my 85 year old grandmother, whom I love and am truly grateful for her good health and independent lifestyle.

We have siblings, whom if we are lucky, we are close to.  Sometimes for whatever reasons, we aren’t, and this can be hard.  Sometimes because of age differences, or with the rate of second marriages being so high, we grow up apart from each other, and we don’t get as close as perhaps we should.

And then our children.  The centre of our lives.  The apple of our eye.  The cream in our coffee.  The little munchkins that we love even if they dump the box of cereal on the kitchen floor or press the button on the water cooler and get water all over the place – speaking from experience?  Hardly! 😉  They are the ones that we try to shape into the people we wish we could be.  Try to discourage them from making all the mistakes in life that we made.  Try to grow them up to be a person that doesn’t just take up space, but actually makes a place for themselves in this world.

Then we have the more complicated people.  Spouses and relationship people.  People who are in our lives because we choose them, not because we are born into the same family.  If you’re truly lucky, your spouse is also your friend.  I’m so blessed that way.  We invite them into our lives and hope they stick around and hope we stick around forever.  We have made a commitment to them, whether it is on paper, in front of a priest or other religious figure, or just to each other in whatever way – and there are some creative ways.  These people often bring a host of other people with them into your life – I’m referring to the in-laws.  Sometimes good, sometimes not so good.  Overall, I have been blessed in this area as well.

All the people I have mentioned above are tied to us in one way or another.  I know there are exceptions to every rule.  I know there are people that are estranged from their parents or grandparents or siblings for whatever reason and do not feel tied to them at all.  There are single people who do not have a commitment with another person to spend their lives together, or even a short time together, and to see how it goes.  Mostly, I’m drawing from my own experiences.

But the title of this blog was “Friendship” wasn’t it?  Sorry, I’ve been babbling on so long that I’ve forgotten.  Our friends are the mud.  Sounds nice, doesn’t it?  What I mean is, they are the mud that fills in the cracks in our lives.  Have a bad relationship with a sibling or troubles with the spouse?  Our friends are there to fill in that gap and help us to feel fulfilled.  Even if it is just by being there to help us through the tough times.  We don’t sign any piece of paper or make any oath for friendship.  There is no ceremony.  (Unless you’re part of the YaYa Sisterhood).  They are just there.  They don’t run at the first obstacle, though technically they could, as they don’t really have any blood or legal ties to us.  They listen when we need them, pick up the phone at four in the morning and try to act like they were awake anyway, and still come back for more.

My mother once said to me that she could tell who I was talking to on the phone just by the way my tone of voice was, what phrases I used, without hearing a name.  Mind you, she was observant and very interested in my life and what I was doing, but I like to think that this is because each of my friends bring out a part of who I am.  I expose different sides of myself to each friend, but each side I show is a true, authentic version of myself.  I’m not trying to, that is just the part of me that they draw out.

I have a friend that has been my BF since I was five years old.  I had dinner with her last night.  I know how fortunate I am to have her in my life.  We have been a constant thread in each other’s lives since then.  Our lives have moved much in the same direction often as we got married within a couple years of each other, bought houses within a year or so of each other, and our boys are about five months apart.  We’re very different in a lot of ways, but alike in the things that matter and I think of her as a sister.

I have other friends that I met in high school, some of whom I keep in contact with quite regularly, and others mostly through social networking (Facebook, etc.)  Some of these friends are among my bestest ones and I have very strong, very real ties with them.  They know who I am and we have grown up together.

Then there are the friends that I have met after high school.  Most of these are couples, who Joe and I have met together and formed friendships with.  We don’t always get to seem them as often as we would like, as life gets very busy when you have jobs and kids and everything else, but these friends are special because they add a whole new dimension to your life.  A sense of fun, a kind of adult companionship that comes with getting to know people as the person you are now.  There is a much different side of yourself to give to friendships such as these.  Sometimes you meet someone and you just click from the beginning.  You understand each other, you find each other funny, and you love spending time together.  Friendships like that are truly a gift.

Unfortunately in life, people move on, become absorbed with what is going on with them, perhaps meet new friends or family, and you can grow apart.  This can be hard, and can come as a surprise when you think that there is no way that could ever happen.  You’ll be meeting for coffee and swapping rheumatism stories for sure.  Of all the people in my life, I am sure of this person and I know that we will always be as close as we are now.  Time goes on and all of a sudden you look up and you’ve grown apart.  You talk maybe once every six months and see each other even less often.  Aside from the big events, you really don’t know what’s going on in their lives and they haven’t a clue about yours.  When you do see each other, you’re so busy getting caught up on the trivial things, that you don’t even really scratch below the surface much anymore.  You might not know exactly where it happened, but there was a definite shift somewhere, and now you’re really more acquaintances.

It can be easy to get bitter about stuff like this, especially when you don’t really know who is to “blame.”  Often times, there really is no one to blame.  It’s just life.  When you put it in perspective, you’ll see that every friend that is in your life or was in your life is there for a reason.  Each person fills one of our needs for friendship in a different way.  Friendship should not be forced.  You shouldn’t hang out with someone just because you’ve been friends forever.  It’s a two way street and you should have a reason for wanting to be there for that person.  If there really are no issues to be resolved, no real bad feelings toward the person, no big fight and lots of bad things said to be sorry for, then maybe it’s just time to take that friendship for what it is, be grateful for what you have gained from it, and let it be.  Perhaps one day life with steer you both back to each other again.  Perhaps not.

Either way, when you count your blessings, count each of your friends as one.  Know that they probably count you as one too.  They are the chosen, no contract, most wonderful mud in life.

“I would rather walk with a friend in the dark, than alone in the light.”  — Helen Keller

Peace.