Cheers and Blessings

My friends are the beings through whom God loves me.” – Saint Martin

My friend, Bill, came to visit me a couple of weeks ago. I hadn’t seen him in 10 years and in those years, he got married and has moved to three different countries. I still live in the same house, but over that time, I’ve had two children.”

Needless to say, we had a lot of catching up to do. At first, as Bill was settling his bags in the guest room and talking with my kids, it felt surreal – like paint from one palette had spilled on another. Then when Bill and I went to dinner, it felt like we were working hard to find stories that conveyed the essence and meaning of the lives we live.

I experienced it as practice of the deepest kind of listening. I had to draw from far-back memories of living abroad when I was a kid, and again for a short time in college. And he had to relate experiences he’s had with other parents to try to know the life I’m living. But we both showed up to do that practice and it didn’t seem forced or contrived.

I don’t understand the mechanics of my deep connection to this friend. I wrote about him about a year ago in It’s Love Calling because we usually only speak to each other once every five years or so. Bill and I connected instantly when we met 25 years ago but have not spent a lot of time together in any of the intervening years. The what, how, where, and why of it are completely inexplicable and changeable – only the who stays consistent.

And in between our calls and visits, so much life has happened that it takes conscious effort to pick out the thread of what’s important to say. Yet this weird connection remains vibrant and meaningful.

My conclusion when I talked with Bill last year and wrote was that our connection exists to remind each other that we are lovable without having to perform for it. That there is a Oneness that we can both touch from our disparate lives when we are quiet and still. Somehow this friendship exists as evidence of and a waypoint to it for each other.

I’d add one thing to that conclusion – it’s a gift to have someone so connected yet disconnected come immerse themselves in my life for almost 24 hours. It shows me that every once in a while we receive the gift of being seen from the outside. Someone who knows us and can see our growth – but they have to stay on the outside in order to bestow the gift. I feel the love of God through my friendships, as the quote for this post describes – and every once in a while God makes a special one to deliver perspective as well.

Bill left this note, “Thanks for everything, Wynne. What a pleasure to spend time in your love filled life. Your family is absolutely amazing. Cheers and Blessings.”

Well, I’d probably describe my family as four parts love, one part chaos – and what a gift that he was willing to jump into our chaos to feel and see our love.

As I write this, I still have so many questions about abundant love, connection, and what humans can evoke in each other. But it feels like I have a better sense and shape of the mystery and have extended the notes that I want to cultivate because I’ve written this. It’s expressive writing at its best and if you are interested in the topic, it’s what Vicki Atkinson, Brian Hannon and I discuss on Episode 8 of the Sharing the Heart of the Matter podcast: Episode 8: Expressive Writing to listen on Anchor. This podcast is also available on Apple, Amazon, Spotify and Pocket Casts by searching for Sharing the Heart of the Matter and new episodes drop every Friday morning.

Please subscribe! Next week’s podcast is Mitch Teemley talking about having the audacity to believe that others want to read, watch or listen to his stories. It’s really good!

The Window Part 2

When we were children, we used to think that when we were grownup we would no longer be vulnerable. But to grow up is to accept vulnerability. To be alive is to be vulnerable.” – Madeleine L’Engle

Do you remember this scene in Winnie the Pooh?

“Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind. ‘Pooh!’ he whispered.

‘Yes, Piglet?’

‘Nothing’ said Piglet taking Pooh’s paw, ‘I just wanted to be sure of you.'”

Winnie the Poor by A.A. Milne

Of the many sweet things about that exchange, one that I notice is how proximity is so reassuring. The “sure of you” quality of a hug or a hand.

When I wrote the piece about The Window six months ago, our neighbors and my daughter’s first best friend had just moved away. The window had shut and the only thing that I knew for certain was that the reassurance that comes from proximity was no longer going to be there.

Getting to the other side of that grief only comes with time. Now I’ve written The Window Part 2 on the Heart of the Matter blog. It’s part reflection on loss – and part reflection on what comes next…

What To Do When We Stink

We are all human. Let’s start to prove it.” – unknown

There’s a famous set of mountain climbing twins from Seattle – Jim and Lou Whittaker. They are 94 years old now but back in the day, Jim founded the gear and outdoor company, REI (Recreational Equipment Inc.), and Lou founded RMI (Rainier Mountaineering Inc.), the guiding company that for many years was the only way you could do a guided climb on Mt. Rainier.

Jim and Lou both had sons who are also climbers. There’s a notable story about one of the sons – maybe Peter Whittaker. Could be Win Whittaker. Regardless, one of the sons was climbing on Everest and was with his climbing buddies up above the Khumbu icefall when he had to go to the bathroom.

Several minutes later, he still wasn’t back and his buddies started to worry and wonder. Finally he reappeared but looking a little soiled and worse for the wear. He was wearing the down suit most climbers wear above base camp – one piece, puffy and hooded – and when he pooped, it had, unbeknownst to him, landed in the hood. When he zipped himself up and flipped the hood back up. Well, ewww!

I was thinking of this story because my post on The Heart of the Matter today, Marketing, Mountaineering, and Making Meaning, is about telling stories – and making meaning of the stories we tell.

And the meaning of this one? Well, there are a lot of ways this can go so I’ll just say this. When you are trying to do something hard, it’s best to surround yourself with people with whom you can laugh at your s…

(featured photo from Pexels)

Do You Think I’m Stupid?

A friend accepts us as we are yet helps us be what we should.” – unknown

My best friend in college and I used to debate whether or not it meant that someone thought we were stupid if they lied to us. In those days of black and white, I definitely thought it to be a sign they thought I was stupid. Of course, the thing I feared most was being thought of as a dumb blonde so I probably was inclined to the position.

Now in these days of seeing the shades of gray in everything (and not just my hair) 🙂 I tend not to take umbrage if someone isn’t truthful. It’s the topic of my Wise & Shine post this week: Telling the Truth

(featured photo from Pexels)

Unlearning My Way Back

A child can teach an adult three things: To be happy for no reason, To always be busy with something, and To know how to demand with all his might that which he desires.” – Paulo Coehlo

My sister-in-law recounted a conversation she had this week with my daughter, 7-year-old Miss O while holding hands and walking through an outdoor shopping center near our house.

Miss O said, “I love this place. Fun stores, good food, no BS”

My sister-in-law paused for a beat, wondering if she should ask, hoping Miss O didn’t know what it meant, and then asked, “Do you know what BS is?”

Miss O replied brightly, “Of course! Bad Service!”

After I stopped laughing, I wondered why it is that we think it’s bad for 7-year-olds to know swear words. Other than the fact that their executive brain function isn’t fully developed and they might deploy them inappropriately, indiscriminately or both. I landed on the fact that it feels like a loss of innocence.

I heard an interview once with singer and songwriter Billy Bragg where he posited that the opposite of faith isn’t doubt – but cynicism. If I think of Miss O using bad language, it feels cynical as if some beliefs of childhood would have had to have suffer in the process.

At their age, Miss O and Mr D believe that:

They are loved beyond measure and worthy of love

If you pray, those prayers will be answered

There is magic in the air so that sometimes fortunes found in fortune cookies will reveal the next fun thing

Potential new friends are everywhere

If you cry and show your vulnerability, you will be taken care of

Looking through this list I’ve typed, I think that I need to unlearn my way back to those beliefs. Because my cynical self might have been feeding me a lot of BS instead – and by that I mean bad service, of course. 😉

Thanksgiving Prep

Everyone is my teacher. Some I seek. Some I subconsciously attract. Often, I learn simply by observing others. Some may be completely unaware that I am learning from them, yet I bow deeply in gratitude.” – Eric Allen

In this week leading up to Thanksgiving, Miss O has taken on the extra job of cleaning all the art supplies and projects off the dining room table before our seven guests show up tomorrow. As I help her, it makes me think of all the Thanksgivings we’ve celebrated there – the years when my kids were tiny babies and we passed them around the table from person to person, the years that my nieces were young and we ended up doing exercise contests before and after dinner. Then there’s the year where it was the first holiday after my dad died and we felt his absence so powerfully.

But one of the most infamous Thanksgivings in this house was the one right after my husband and I separated and I invited him to dinner anyway. It’s the subject of my Wise & Shine post this week: Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?

I hope you read it. But more than that, I hope if you are celebrating Thanksgiving this week, you feel my gratitude for you as part of this wonderful WordPress and blogging community. I’m grateful for you. Just to be clear, I hope you feel that gratitude even if you don’t celebrate Thanksgiving.

High Expectations

Things are always in transition. Nothing ever sums itself up the way we dream about.” – Pema Chodron

Yesterday I delivered a presentation on mountain climbing to Miss O’s class at school. My friend, Doug, who I’ve done a lot of my climbing adventures with, joined me and we had a talk filled with pictures, a lot of equipment, and stories. We also had the most enthusiastic audience of second graders (Natalie, Chaya, Belle and all the other teachers out there, hats off to you for years of being teachers to these young and energetic minds).

Miss O had been so excited all week. She’d told me and her teacher that she’d written “best week ever” over her mood meter assignment. And then when Doug came to stay the night before the presentation and we started packing our climbing gear, she extended that to this was going to make 2nd grade the best grade ever!

So it surprised me when Miss O had to step out of the room to collect herself in the middle of the presentation. Through teary eyes, she told me that she felt that Doug was bypassing her when he handed out all the equipment. Which might have been true to some degree since she’d handled all the stuff the night before.

But I think it was more that her expectations were SO high. And I think she had a picture for a part that she’d play in the presentation or how it would reflect on her that didn’t quite match to reality. She modeled my climbing parka but mostly she was a participant.

This reminded me of every big occasion in my life – parties, birthdays, holidays, presentations – I’ve always felt a let down when they passed and I was still the same person afterwards. All that looking forward to something and then I’m still me with my same life when its done.

I’m projecting here because these aren’t the words Miss O used when we talked about it later but I think it’s a fairly common experience after we look forward to something. As Pema Chodron says in the quote for this post, “Nothing ever sums itself up the way we dream about.” There’s a mismatch between how we imagine in and how we experience it, and more than that, there’s an exhale after its done and before we find the next thing to look forward to.

At the end of the presentation, I told the story of friendship brownies. It was the climb that Doug and I were doing and we were climbing on Doug’s birthday. His wife asked him to carry some brownies to celebrate and he said “no” because he’s vigilant about only carrying what’s necessary. So she asked me and I said, “Sure” because we sometimes carry weight for our friends when they can’t or won’t do it themselves.

Miss O passed out the friendship brownies to the class and so it all ended well. Then she asked me to tell the story of the guy who was dancing with his toilet paper and I think those 2nd graders might have liked that one the most! Hard to tell whether ending with potty stories meant we ended on a high note or low one but the audience, including my delightful daughter, was pleased.

Meaningful Interaction

Many people will walk in and out of your life, but only true friends will leave footprints in your heart.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

I was reading an article written by a single mom with kids who was bemoaning her situation in life. And there were many things I could relate to even though her kids are a lot older than mine (maybe in their 20’s). Because it’s hard to live in a house where you are loved dearly but not really cared for.

But there was a lonely note in her writing that I couldn’t place. So I looked up loneliness in Brené Brown’s Atlas of the Heart. Brené includes the definition of loneliness as defined by social neuroscientist, John Cacioppo and his colleague William Patrick as “perceived social isolation.” And Brené expands on this with “At the heart of loneliness is the absence of meaningful social interaction – an intimate relationship, friendships, family gatherings, or even community or work group connections.”

It brings to mind two times in recent years that I’ve felt lonely and had to adjust my social interactions to make them meaningful. The first was when I first became a mother. I remember one night I courageously left my daughter with a babysitter and went to a restaurant to drink wine and watch a Seahawks game with a good friend. I had fun – but the next morning got up and felt empty because what used to be fun for me longer met my needs. I longed for more meaningful interaction.

And the second was when the pandemic started. All of a sudden my meaningful interactions with other parents were eliminated or reduced to online. I had to find another way — and that eventually led me to blogging.

Thinking about Brené’s comment – it isn’t about how many friends we have or whether we are in a partnership, it’s about whether we are meeting our needs for depth. In fact, I think the loneliest place I’ve ever been is inside a committed relationship. I send a wish to the author of that article and for us all to have the focus on cultivating friendships where we are seen.

What makes you feel less lonely? What counts as meaningful interaction for you?

(featured photo from Pexels)

Lying or Telling the Truth?

We are here to live out loud.” – Balzac

I remember reading a parenting book that stated that by age 4, kids lied on average about once every 2 hours and by age 6, every 90 minutes. I’ve never seen a statistic about how much grown-ups lie, it’s probably not even measurable.

But I generally believe most things people, including my children, tell me. I think what is truly dangerous aren’t lies but instead when we forget to tell our truth. It’s the subject of my latest post on Pointless Overthinking: Conditions of Truth.

(featured photo from Pexels)

Patience To Stay Open

Fear wants us to act too soon. But patience, hard as it is, helps us outlast our preconceptions. This is how tired soldiers, all out of ammo, can discover through their inescapable waiting that they have no reason to hurt each other. In is the same with tired lovers and with hurtful and tiresome friends. Given enough time, most of our enemies cease to be enemies, because waiting allows us to see ourselves in them.” – Mark Nepo

I have a friendship that is in trouble. When I ask my friend questions about herself, she doesn’t answer but instead redirects the question. This is change in our 10+ year friendship. I’m not sure the cause but I’ve supported my friend and her husband through some difficult issues so my suspicion is that it’s more important to her to have a seemingly friendly relationship where I remain “on her side” rather than an authentic one where she has to tell me what’s bothering her or what I’ve done.

Just writing about this makes me a little light-headed. Because it touches on the divide between barely living and living barely. That is to say, I spent too many years barely living when I pretended that life was great and I buried all suffering deep down. Then I discovered that living barely, trying to keep the thinnest possible covering between my heart and the world actually lets more things in and more importantly, more things out.

But just because I want to try to live without pretense doesn’t mean my friend can right now. And what I understand from my tentative attempts to open a space between us to speak is that she isn’t ready to talk.

So I’m trying not to break things in my impatience. To declare the friendship over because I can’t stand the uncertainty or to insert a defensiveness because I don’t understand. Or to assume or imagine anything.

My dad told me of a group of olive farmers he met who owned a prime piece of land in a contested part of the world. Even though they had a deed of property they were regularly hassled by local soldiers. They developed a motto, “We refuse to become enemies.

That phrase has stuck with me of a reminder that no matter what the other side is doing, we can keep open the channel of our hearts. The motto tells me that we can be in conflict without stirring up that fear within.

When something reminds me of my friend, I’ve found that instead of ruminating on the problem with all the dark alleyways of anxiety I can say a quick loving-kindness chant: “May I be happy, may you be happy; May I be at peace, may you be at peace; May I be loved, may you be loved.” It helps keep me from closing down.

What do you do when things aren’t going well with a friend?

(featured photo from Pexels)