*Ohana

A friend is a friend to the very end;

A lifelong pal upon whose love you can depend

For uplifting, for hope, for help and for sharing—

Our close friends are our world’s best pairing.

We know each other’s faults and secrets, too,

We know the soft and the hard spots; it’s true—

Our friends are ohana; the family we choose—

A strong heart-to-heart bond we that never lose

Our friends are a life-line that pulls us out of despair;

Lifts us and guides us from funk to fresh air

They help us and love us when ourselves we can’t love

They are better even than angels sent from above—

My friends make me rich beyond every measure

My friends are my own world’s greatest treasure.

*Ohana is the Hawaiian word for both family and those whom we choose to be our family. From the movie “Lilo and Stitch,” this quote: “Ohana means family. It means nobody gets left behind.”

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The Lasting Strength of Friendship

Just think of all the songs that describe friendship; from the movie Toy Story there is “You Got a Friend in Me,” Dionne Warwick’s “That’s What Friends are For,” James Taylor’s “You Got a Friend,” and so many more. The reason there are so many songs about friends is that we know how much we love and need our friends.

When we are happy, they are happy for us. When we reach a milestone in our lives, we want to celebrate with them. When we feel alone, we know we can talk with them and feel comforted. When we lose a loved one, or when they do, we grieve together, and the pain is lessened.

Some of us have friends from our childhood who are still our friends. How lucky we are! Some of us have lost friends along the way, and in that part of our heart where they lived is now empty and aching.

Many of us find new friends when we are older; they are a gift and a blessing to us—and hopefully, to them as well. When this happens, we feel that warmth inside that speaks out, whispering ‘this is an extraordinary person who thinks much as you do; you have a connection.’

I have mentioned in previous posts the Chinese proverb of the red thread: “An invisible red thread connects those destined to meet, regardless of time, place, or circumstances. The thread may stretch or tangle, but never break.”

It is said that every baby born has an invisible red thread tied around their ankle. It is tied to all the people they are destined to meet in life. They may be loved ones, teachers, inspirational people, children, marriage partners, friends and more.

I am very grateful for all my “red thread” people. I am grateful for all they bring to my life. I hope with all my heart that I bring as much to them.

 

 

 

Old Friends, New Friends

We love and cherish our old friends; they are part and parcel of our childhood, school years and so many life experiences. We know each other inside and out, we know our favorite things, our preferences, our choices, and so on. We have been school mates, stood up with each other at weddings and funerals, we have laughed and cried together, we have held each other up during all those things that life throws at us.

We may have had differences of opinions that have divided us for a time, but generally we forgive and forget, because after all, we are friends. Time, distance and circumstances may separate us from each other, but our hearts do not forget each other. We always find a way back to each other.

Then there are those new friends in life we meet along the way. They may come to us via people we know, or we may take a course or seminar and meet them there. For whatever reason, we are attracted to each other. It could be that we like the same things, that the same jokes make us laugh. We may share common interests, or view life the same way. We may meet and get that immediate “ah ha!'” moment when we know we have found another tribal member.

How fortunate we are when we know that we have made a new friend, or reconnected with an old one. How grateful we are to have those wonderful people in our lives that lift us up, change us for the better, make us better people. What a gift it is to find kindred spirits along this road of life.

How wonderful life is when we travel it with our friends. Today I am celebrating my old and new friends, and invite you to join me.

 

Can We Forgive Ourselves?

Oh, how hard we are on ourselves over our smallest infractions! As if no one else in the world has ever made a mistake or misjudgment…we even punish ourselves for things we did years and years ago. What a waste of time and emotion.

I say this as one who has had a hard time forgiving myself. There are things I said and did all the way back to childhood; for those indiscretions I have to keep repeating ‘I was a child; I didn’t know better.’ I have had to just let those things go.

There are certainly some unforgivable offensives people do, but most of the things we beat ourselves up over are trivial in nature and not worth the time to worry about them. It takes practice to exorcise those old demons, especially when it comes to friendships.

When we inadvertently offend a friend and they get angry (by something we said or did in all innocence), it’s best to simply apologize. And by ‘apologize’ I mean saying that you did not mean to offend, but now that you know you have, a sincere apology is in order: “I am so sorry; I did not mean to offend you in any way. I hope that you can forgive me.”

We need to be sure that the apology is real, too. The kind of apology that begins with, “well, I’m sorry that you felt what I said/did was offensive.” NO. That is a crap apology and is worse than saying nothing.

If they can’t (or won’t) accept the apology, then they may need space to nurse their hurt and anger, and time to get over it. If they can’t and you have made a sincere apology, there isn’t much more that you can do.

You have reached out, have been sincere, and the ball is then is in the other person’s court. If they are too upset and do not want to respond, then give them time and send them love. That’s all that we can do.

Often a long friendship breaks apart over a perceived slight; one person wants to hang on to their anger for one reason or another. Also, some friendships just fizzle out and you wonder why you ever connected in the first place. Sometimes we have to reevaluate friendships; there are some that just aren’t meant to last.

I had such a friend years ago. I met her when we were waitresses at a popular ice cream and burger place in my home town. We hit it off immediately, and I admired her quick wit and her sense of humor. She said and did things I would never have done; I got a kick out of her nerve.

Time went by; we went off to different colleges, and she joined a sorority. That was something I personally never cared for; I just wasn’t the sorority type. But as usual, I admired her strong sense of self. From there on I began to see a marked difference in our values.

She met the man she would marry in college, and soon she was planning her wedding. She asked me to be the maid of honor, which touched me. However, having never been a maid of honor before, I had no idea of what the traditions were or what I was supposed to do.

According to her, I was a terrible maid of honor. I seemed to do everything wrong; I didn’t throw her a party, I didn’t give her a proper gift (I did gift her with a much-beloved piece of my deceased grandmother’s *Capodimonte vase with beautiful flowers painted in their true colors, but evidently that wasn’t sufficient), and I didn’t do any of the proper maid of honor ‘duties,’ whatever they were.

Later on, to make up for my perceived short-comings, I made her a beautiful (and time-consuming) quilt for her wedding bed.

The day she told me that our friendship would be so much better ‘if only you (meaning me) were a better friend’ made me see the light. I walked away and didn’t look back. I finally realized that being a friend to her meant paying a price I just couldn’t afford.

A real friendship is a sweet and precious thing, and I cherish the few really dear friends that I have. I realize that friendship is something to be treasured and enjoyed; we take that wonderful person into our hearts just as they are, and hopefully they do the same for us. We do not take those friendships lightly; we don’t see flaws; we see all that there is to love about that person.

Am I a perfect friend? Far from it. I am grateful for the friends I have, and there isn’t one thing I would change about any of them. I am all too aware of my faults, and grateful that my friends like me anyway.

At this stage of my life, with more time behind me than there is ahead of me, I am all too aware that time is fleeting and precious.

I hope that the friends I have know how much I love and care for them; how deeply entwined they are in my heart. I would not be who I am without them; they are part of my heart and soul. One of many quotes about friendship is one I truly love by William Shakespeare:

“A friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still, gently allows you to grow. ”

*From Wikipedia: “Capodimonte porcelain is porcelain created by the Capodimonte porcelain manufactory, which was established in Naples, Italy, in 1743. Capodimonte porcelain was made in direct emulation of Meissen porcelain. Capodimonte is famous for its molded figurines and its decorative modeled flowers applied to cups and vases.”

 

 

Camp Friends

Just the other day, I met with two of my old “camp friends.” When we were all about 9 years old, we went to Girl Scout camp together each summer until we were all about 13. When we first met, we scoped each other out as kids do; deciding who might like the same things we liked, and so on.

For me, it was the first time I’d been away from home for more than a day or two; that alone was exciting. When we all arrived at camp, and tearfully bade our parents goodbye, we were asked to come up with nicknames for ourselves. Looking back on it now, I realize that that was not only a great distraction (as our parents quietly left after many hugs and kisses), but a lot of fun.

Now all my life I have hated spiders. Everything about them gives me the heebie-jeebies—-the way they scuttle so quickly, the way they will all of a sudden appear, dangling down on their silk, and their strangely alien look. To this day, I can’t sleep if I know there’s a spider in the house–anywhere.

So, when the kindly young and pretty counselor asked me what my nickname was, I blurted out, “Spider!” Go figure why. But every day since then at camp that was my handle.

I loved everything about camp: being ‘on my own’ for two weeks, sleeping in a big canvas tent with three other girls, having campfire stories and songs, hiking, biking, making things, swimming, sailing, canoeing, playing games, and so on. But best of all, I liked making new friends.

The two I liked the most were Kathy and Lissa. Kathy had long rippling light brown hair, and let me brush it now and then. As I always had had short hair, I was in awe of all that long hair. Lissa had a head full of shining curls, and was giggly. Both of them became fast friends to me all those years ago at camp, and when I am with them these days, I can still see the little girls we once were.

Now that we are all grandmothers together, it is both strange and wonderful to know that we have kept the thread of friendship for so long. Our lives have all gone in different directions, and taken us many places. We have experienced joy and sorrow, gain and loss, ups and downs, health issues and dreams for our children and grandchildren.

Our jokes and stories are different now, seasoned with age and experience. But when I see these two old camp friends of mine, I am a happy adventurous child nicknamed “Spider” again.

 

Friends Are Family, Too

The great thing about being friends for a long time is that they become family. The bad thing about being friends for a long time is that they become family. And families, as we all know, aren’t always harmonious.

I have great friends. Over the years, we’ve learned about each other, shared our dreams and fears, our highs and our lows, our highest joy and our deepest despair. We have suffered through relationships that went bad, and rejoiced for the ones that stayed healthy. We may or may not have had children, and we may have suffered injuries or disease or loss. Some of us have lost parents and siblings, or are in the process of losing them.

We have seen each others’ warts and frailties, our strengths and triumphs, and cried with each other and laughed with each other. Some habits we have drive each other nuts, but we learn to accept them as part and parcel of the friendship. We have seen each other through childhood, young adulthood, adults on our own, and now, as we stand on the very edge of “olderness” in our mid-sixties, we wonder together how we got here—but are glad we all got here together.

We have at one time or other bitched about each other, our marriages and relationships, discovered differences between us that we respectfully (for the most part) accept about each other. We have decided that some things are just not worth agitating about, nor does it matter in the general scheme of things. The friendship itself is what matters.

I am grateful to my family and friends for helping me smooth out my many rough edges.

I just received my Reiki Master Practitioner certificate this past weekend, and am blown away by the difference between this and my first two Reiki practitioner classes. It opened both my mind and heart, and made me realize why I am here and embrace the work I need to do. On the other hand, I am still the same cranky, irritable and crabby person I always have been. Getting to Master level certainly did not mean I would be instantly a better person. It, like everything else in life, changes us slowly over time, just as our friends do.

Living our lives is a process. Growing into our potential is another, and managing life events that come to all us humans is another. I thank God for my family and friends, who have become stars in the firmament of my own night sky. Their light directs and guides me, comforts and lifts me up.

The Hawaiians have a word in their language, “ohana,” which means family (in an extended sense of the term, including blood-related, adoptive or intentional). Ohana emphasizes that families are bound together and members must cooperate and remember one another.

I thank God for my own ohana, which helps me be so much more than I could have been without them.

 

 

Our Dear Friend

The Crankee Yankee (my husband) and I are sad this morning. Our dear friend, Jeannie, from our model train group, the Bedford Boomers, died early this morning.

Long story short, Jeannie was in Mass General in Boston since January for surgery on her esophagus, which needed massive repair. During her stay, many other things happened, including her having to have a pacemaker. After many ups and downs, she was finally ready to come home to her husband of many years and their two cats. She was due to come home tomorrow.

The fact that she instead went to her final home this morning is small comfort to us who will miss her dearly, and for a long, long time. Jeannie loved angels and I am sure beyond any doubt that she is one herself now.

“*Good-night, sweet prince;/

And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.”

*Spoken by Horatio in Act V, Scene ii of Shakespeare’s Hamlet.