Monday, January 31, 2011

Some days are just harder than others

Some days are just harder than others. Like yesterday.  As I headed out for my long run (a planned 22km), I was looking forward to my workout. The sun was shining, I was well-fueled, it was a balmy -1 degrees celsius and I was happily anticipating a mellow run at a relaxed pace along my favourite routes.

Not far up the road, however, I realized there wasn't going to be anything relaxed or mellow about this run.

Friday, January 28, 2011

In gratitude: For wise parents and good friends

I was thinking this week about how lucky I am to have the parents I have.  They're wonderful examples in so many ways. They're terrific parents, doting grandparents, loving spouses (for nearly 50 years!), and generous contributors to their community.  But what I've been thinking about most is what caring and loyal friends they are.  For them, it's never too much effort to make a new friend, too late to get back in touch with someone they once knew, too far to go to attend an important celebration, or too difficult to offer help and support to a friend in need. In short, they've taught my siblings and me that it's important to value friendships and invest the time and energy needed to nurture them. 

They've also taught us that friends don't have to be perfect to be worth the time and effort.  Like all other relationships, friendships have their ups and downs, so it's important to take a long-term view, forgive the things that can be forgiven and look for the best in the people we care about. 
My siblings have learned those lessons well. All of them nurture close friendships with a wide variety of people - which often astounds me given how busy they are with work and family. But, like my parents, they clearly believe friendships are worth the time and energy, and they're teaching their (very many) children those same lessons.

I wish I could honestly say I've been as diligent about maintaining my friendships but the truth is I've let friends drift from my life more often than I care to admit.  Still, looking around me recently, I realized I'd somehow managed to accumulate very many close friends over the years - from all the different places I've lived and all the different phases of my life.  They range in age from 9 to 80-something, come from all walks of life and live all over the world. We keep in touch via email, Facebook, telephone and plain old "snail mail", and we're there for each other as and when needed - offering laughter, love, encouragement, comfort and support.  The joy I feel at being able to "pick up with where I left off " with them - whether a week, a month, or 20 years ago - is a gift for which I am especially grateful.

So - here's to Mum and Dad for being such good teachers, to my siblings for being such wonderful students (and teachers!), and to my patient and generous friends for putting up with me. In case I don't tell you often enough, I love and appreciate you all very very much.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Running with Tolle

As it turns out, my long runs most weekends now involve running from Conquerall Bank to Peace Park and back. I’m not making it up. “Conquer all” Bank to Peace Park. If that’s not a message from the universe, I don’t know what it.

This past weekend, I didn’t start my long run until I’d already put in a few hours cleaning the house and cooking for the freezer. The sun was low in the sky and a cold wind was sweeping in from the north as I hit the road, not entirely convinced a run was a good idea but determined to squeeze in a longish one before starting a new work week.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Lost Friends and New Year's Resolutions

I've been thinking a lot about friendships lately. I'm still close friends with a number of the people I went to school with 30 years ago. I've always thought there was something special about such old friendships - because they give us glimpses into who we were when those friendships began, because they have been honed by years of knowing and forgiving one another's faults, or simply because friendships formed early in life are "hard-wired" in some way.

Unfortunately, as I've learned in recent months, even such old friendships can come to painful ends. Dishonesty and insensitivity on the part of close friends is hard to forgive - especially when they result from what appears to be little more than selfishness.

Responding to my evident disappointment at a friend's behaviour, a former classmate sent me this wise, insightful and comforting message:
We are at that stage in our lives where we are most vulnerable to this kind of thing -- old enough to think we really know the people we thought we have known forever, and so probably more reliant on the stability that view of the universe brings us. It can also disappoint because it leaves you with the feeling that the relationship you had in the past was not as real or authentic as you thought it was. So it can be quite destabilizing when this happens. People can and do change with time... so one person's behaviour that disappoints you today may not always be a sign that you were deceived in the past. I have been bashed about a number of times in the last few years with things like this in both the personal and professional. Perhaps one of the reasons it is hard to accept is that as we get older, our closer and dearer friendships seem more valuable and harder to replace. So when one of them seems to be really damaged there is an even deeper sense of loss.
I've written before about forgiveness and how difficult it is. My better self knows we are all just human beings, equally fallible and worthy of forgiveness - but knowing that does little to ease the sense of loss. More troubling is how tempting it can be to want to seek retribution for the pain inflicted by a friend's betrayal.

To my mind, real love and forgiveness aren't about forgetting past wrongs or ignoring reality. They're about finding ways to accept our friends and loved ones for all they are, sending them light and love, and then (if it's for the best) letting them go - as sad and hard as that may be. 

In 2010, my New Year's resolution was to "love fearlessly" recognizing that love is not always returned in the ways one hopes. As naive as it sounds, I've decided to make the same resolution this year - along with three others:  To try harder to forgive friends who disappoint, to accept truths about myself and others I'd prefer not to see, and to nurture reconciliation whenever possible.  It's a pretty ambitious list, but the alternative (harbouring disappointment and anger indefinitely) seems a much less appealing prospect than challenging myself to do better.