Rate of Exchange


“Remember, we all stumble, every one of us. That’s why it’s a comfort to go hand in hand.”- Emily Kimbrough

I’ve been sort of floundering around over the past few weeks, trying to come up with a topic worthy of discussion, and failing miserably. I’ve decided it’s because my musings here tend to be rooted in conversations I have with friends in the normal course of life…and there’s been far too little time spent lately with some of the people who inspire me and make me think.

Because our house is still practicing social distancing, the precious little socializing I have been able to do has taken on a very special quality. When I saw a friend recently after months apart, I was surprised by the depth of the emotional reaction I had to seeing her in person again. I mean, I’ll be honest, I always feel a little bit like I’m getting away with something in my friendships; like I’m getting the better end of the deal without the other person quite being aware of it. That feeling is even more pronounced now, because I feel the absence of these interactions so keenly.

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Change of Pace

Lean on me, when you’re not strong”. – Bill Withers

As some of you may know, or have gathered from previous postings, I’ve had a fun medical year with a broken foot that ended up needing surgery back in September. I am on my feet and walking around now, but I’m still having trouble with mobility and tend to move at what feels like a snail’s pace.

Last week, a friend and I attended an event that turned out to be much larger than I had anticipated. As a result, parking was at a premium, and we wound up in a spot a couple of blocks away.

When we got out of the car, I apologized in advance for the fact it would be slow going, even over such a short distance. Without missing a beat, my friend looped her arm through mine and said “There’s no hurry. We’ll take as much time as you need”.

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The Bright Side

“Choose to be optimistic, it feels better”. – Dalai Lama XIV

Would you call yourself an optimist?

For years, I would have answered this question with a no… I preferred to think of myself as a realist, with a bent toward cynicism and pessimism. I didn’t hold with the idea of pretending that everything was wonderful when it clearly wasn’t.

I also prided myself on recognizing that some things simply couldn’t be changed and didn’t waste my time trying to remake bad situations. I tried, instead, to accept them for what they were. The smart money wasn’t in a Pollyanna approach to the world; there were just too many difficult things in life. I couldn’t possibly be an optimist, because I was a realist.

Why was it so hard for me to walk on the brighter side of life? The crux of the issue, for me, was ego. I wanted to be taken seriously, and I thought that pointing out and dissecting problems meant I was thinking more deeply about life.

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Profit & Loss

Life is divided into three terms – that which was, which is, and which will be. Let us learn from the past to profit by the present, and from the present, to live better in the future. – William Wordsworth

It seems that when your mind is on a certain topic, you can see connections to the idea everywhere. Lately, life seems to be presenting the subject of love… and what is gained, and lost, by its presence.

About 6 weeks ago, our very old dog passed away. We had known for some time that she was coming to the end, but that didn’t make things any easier when she finally died. I cried on and off for days, partly from my own sadness, and partly from watching my family suffer through losing her. I still tear up over it at times.

There are people who would scoff at that level of grief over a dog, but I know I’m not alone. I’ve since spoken to one friend that said it took her over a year to get over the loss of a dog, and another who said she’ll never have another dog after having lost one several years ago.

I’m not saying all love, or loss, is the same. Those things vary by degrees, but sorrow seems to be an inevitable consequence of caring, and that’s what’s difficult about love. We must hold the things we love very gently- not to keep them from breaking or ending, but because we know that eventually, they will.

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Lock and Key

“Communication sometimes is not what you first hear, listen not just to the words, but listen for the reason.” – Catherine Pulsifer

I recently read a book lent to me by a friend, which is always an interesting proposition, because I find that when someone tells me “you’ll love it!”, I frequently don’t.

She made no such claim, only suggested I read it, and while I can’t say I loved it, the story did interest me enough to read all the way through. It follows two young people who move through their high school and college years in an on-again/off-again relationship of sorts that can never seem to find solid footing.

I say a relationship “of sorts”, because they had a very odd dynamic- neither seemed to be able to fully invest in the relationship, but neither would walk away. Their connection was made of misunderstandings, and it seemed that both were purposely obtuse during critical emotional tipping points.

It was so aggravating.

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Safe Harbor

Friendship is the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person, having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words. – George Eliot

How does a friendship start? Do you remember meeting the people who are now your closest friends? I almost always do, because those people play such a vital role in my life.

I met my oldest friend on the school playground, in third grade. She approached me because her mother had advised her to “look for someone who’s alone” to make new friends. I was indeed alone- very alone, in fact, since I’d just moved cross-country, didn’t know a soul, and was facing long, solitary days ahead. We’ve lived thousands of miles apart for many more years than we were ever close together, but even when I’ve been lonely, this lifelong friendship has meant I’ve never been alone. (Undying thanks for that super-timely advice, friend’s mom.)

I connected with another friend due to her son’s thoughtful act; he spoke to my son, a stranger, at the park (Is there a playground theme happening here?), providing words of encouragement that made him feel better in a moment of sadness. When my son told me what had happened, I had to express my appreciation for his kindness- and that conversation served as the beginning of one of my most precious friendships.

I could go on- I find there’s something memorable about how all my close friendships began. (Sometimes, it’s not the first meeting, but a moment when a casual acquaintance clicked over into true friendship.)

What sets these two particular friendships apart is that I have the benefit of being able to actually look at a history of communications with both of them, and it’s very telling.

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Won’t Power

The beginning is the most important part of the work. – Plato

Generally speaking, I’m not a procrastinator, and tend to live by the philosophy that it’s easier to keep up than to catch up. If anything, I am a precrastinator, doing things before they strictly need to be done. It’s not due to any particularly admirable trait, it’s more of a stress-aversion technique. If I don’t have to worry about disorder, deadlines and uncertainty, I have more peace of mind and am better able to sleep at night. At this stage of life, sleep is in short supply, so I do what I can to help out.

I do, however, occasionally procrastinate. In fact, this week has been a prime example.

Several weeks ago, I read about a concept developed by Greek philosophers called akrasia, which is the state of acting against your better judgment. It’s a fascinating idea that people know that they should do one thing but choose to do another. Akrasia has a couple of different translations, but one interpretation is… procrastination.

I find this to be a thought-provoking topic. And yet, I’ve been messing around all week, feeding myself some line about “considering the concept” as I came up with about a thousand different things to do instead of writing a blog…about procrastination. Oh, the irony.

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Meant to Mentor

“People are like chains, the closer they are, the stronger they become.”  – Federico Chini, The Sea Of Forgotten Memories

It’s hard to believe, but I realized this week that I’ve now known one of my dearest friends for a full decade. We met in an entirely different stage of life- ten years ago, we were both homeschooling our children, and we got together frequently on their behalf. (If you choose to homeschool young children, the bylaws do require this, because the number one, wide-eyed query you must always be prepared to answer is “But how will you socialize the children?”)

It’s a little bittersweet, but I find that I’m really enjoying the fact that we’ve now moved into a phase that allows us to connect just for us. Oh, sure, sometimes we’ll invite the kids along to hang out if they’d like, but many (most) times now, we don’t. They’re high school and college age, and they can do that for themselves.

Last week, during one of these visits, we were talking about the concept of mentoring, and I mentioned I’d done some reading on the topic and recalled some imagery about holding hands across generations. “The premise”, I assured her, “was really neat. Something about having two hands, one to reach forward to the generations ahead of you, and one to reach back to those coming behind. I’ll find the quote and send it to you.”

Well, I’m a liar. I’ve now been scouring the internet for a week, looking for mention of this concept… and can find no trace of it. I’ve discovered suggestions of the idea in a few different places, but I am beginning to suspect that I’ve absorbed several things and then created a mashup of the concepts in my own head. It does sound like something I’d do.

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Worth Your Salt

“Of all the horrid, hideous notes of woe, Sadder than owl-songs or the midnight blast; Is that portentous phrase, “I told you so.” – Lord Byron

“I told you so.”

Are those fighting words, or what?

It’s a terrible blow to the ego when you realize that you were wrong about something when you really, really wanted to be right. But it can get worse. So much worse. That injury is magnified exponentially when someone suggests to you that the reason you were wrong was due to shortsightedness, naïveté, or just plain stupidity. “If you’d just listened to me”, they say, “you wouldn’t be in this situation”.

Oh, you’ve got a wound? Here’s some salt for you.

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Out of Sight, Out of Mind

“Because when some people are invisible, everyone suffers.” – Gloria Steinem

Several months ago, I was standing in my local fabric store, looking at miles and miles of fasteners, knowing I was far out of my creative depth. (To call my sewing skills “adequate” would be charitable, if I’m being honest.)

As I stood considering, a lady browsing nearby flagged down a store employee and requested help to find a specific item. The employee slowed just slightly and gestured vaguely toward where I stood, saying, “Oh, there’s probably something down there” before continuing past the woman.

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