Remember the Brad Pitt movie about Benjamin Button, the guy who aged backwards? He was born an old man and aged in reverse, vanishing as a baby. I’m feeling a bit Button-ish in my aging process, and it’s so exhilarating I can’t sleep tonight… sitting in my living room typing this at 4 AM because my brain won’t stop running, setting off celebratory firecrackers when it’s supposed to be sleeping. Going over and over the revelations of these past few months, trying to take it all in. Maybe simply because it IS 4 in the morning, I’m feeling very big picture about it all. Very “what’s it all about, Alfie,” if you know what I mean. So if you don’t enjoy random stream of consciousness imagery and longwinded wanderings, you may wanna save yourselves and move on to the next post right now. Check out what your neighbor had for breakfast or see the latest pet memes.

 

Like many females, I’ve always been driven by relationships. Sometimes this has been healthy for me, sometimes not so much. For the most part, I’ve been very, very fortunate, far more than I deserve. A few months ago I drove up to jerzey to support dear friends in a sad time.  It’s funny how that works. When tragedies hit our instincts cause us to come together, to sit in rooms together and just BE. We weep, we tell stories, we eat, we drink, and ultimately we laugh. It’s kind of beautiful, and those moments are probably our first feeble steps toward healing. The human condition is both bizarre and wonderful, and extreme situations highlight that powerfully. Anyway, that week in jerzey touched me deeply, for many reasons. I felt deep affection for the amazing friends who opened their home to us without question, and I experienced profound reconnection with the old friends who came together to provide support for one another. A very intense time, and I drove back wondering how it was possible that I had moved a thousand miles away from people who meant so much to me, with whom I shared a lifetime of stories.

 

And then I arrived in my beloved floridee, and was warmly engulfed by the sweet, sweet folks whom I’ve been lucky enough to find friendship with here. No, we didn’t grow up together and our stories don’t go back years. None of them ever met my Zack, and sometimes that feels like a gap. But don’t think for a moment that we haven’t grown together. In fact, I feel like I’ve been rigorously schooled here. Creating a new story in a new town is an adventure I highly recommend, and I’m thrilled my kids are experiencing it too, even though some are far from me. I wouldn’t want to see them miss the opportunity to stretch themselves, to have to learn about themselves, and recreate fulfilling friendships. I stumbled many times in the process, especially since some of it has taken place in the worst few years of my life, in a time when I presented a Kevan who was, well, not completely there. Not my best work. As I moved into my eventual recovery I sometimes wanted to wear a sandwich board proclaiming publicly, “That wasn’t really ME,” a disclaimer of sorts for some of my craziest behavior in those dark times.

 

But the thing is, that WAS me. A broken me, a grief-stricken distortion of me, but still. What I’ve learned is that real friends extend grace that covers those behaviors, and I also have learned to offer grace to those who seemed put off by them, because we’re ALL just trying to do the best we can. This was a HUGE lesson for me, and I’m only learning it now at this advanced age. The Benjamin Button effect. In my doddering years I’m finally waking up to grace, what a concept. I am such a black/white personality, and over the years I think I put terrible expectations on relationships. I regret that now, but am learning to forgive even myself. Maya Angelou said it perfectly: forgive yourself for not knowing what you didn’t know before you learned it. We’re all just walking each other home, right? I’ve got nothing but love now for every one who shared the path with me, nothing but straight up gratitude.

 

I’m back to myself now, but I still falter in relationships at times. Do something thoughtless, forget something important, revert to my innate selfishness. Again, the human condition. It’s okay though, I’m not sweating it so much anymore, or your missteps either. I want to do better and I will. I’ll continue to learn and grow, it’s never too late. I’ve got my eyes trained on all the good stuff, and man, there’s plenty of it. We swim in a river of goodness, and the current never stops. Just in the past few days, beautiful amazing things have happened. Maybe they do all the time, but I just paid more attention this past week? I’ve hung out with dear, fun friends who made me laugh (my favorite!), and we spoke to each other of things truthful, encouraging, and creative. I’ve had opportunity to give back to my community, something that I learned at the feet of creative givers, and my life has been greatly enriched by it. I’ve even managed to accidentally (right) beat back a lifelong fear of mine, all because an awesome new friend just “happened to be” standing at a place when I went to encourage someone else. I’m telling ya, the river is FLOWING, yall!

 

Why am I finally taking in some wisdom at such an advanced age? Wouldn’t it have been prudent to figure out these things earlier? In a word, yes. I dunno, maybe I saw something shiny and got distracted…. Maybe I was busy learning other things…. Maybe I was not learning at all, but was simply surviving other challenges. Could be any of the above. But I am learning to savor these times of growth, I’m appreciating these hard won lessons as they come in. Like Benjamin, I’m moving into a youthful exuberance, with a side of confusion and wonder. It’s all good, though. I’m in the river, baby! No place I’d rather be.

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