At noon, my friend of more than 30 years, has invited me to her newly remodeled kitchen. She loves her home, especially her kitchen, and she is one of the finest chefs that I know. Lunch will be one of her outstanding creations. As her exquisite meal will nourish our bodies, our conversation will feed our souls. We take our time and savor our memories even as we create new ones. We have cried and laughed often over the years and we treasure the miles we’ve walked together, the mutual friends we’ve known, our heartaches, our challenges and accomplishments and the crazy mistakes that we can admit to and laugh over – now. Our friendship is as nuanced as fine wine or smooth dark chocolate. It’s the good stuff of life that we can't imagine living without!
Later in the afternoon, I’m joining three other women for some spirited conversation. I’ve known our hostess since our children were preschoolers, another woman since our children were teens, and the third woman is an acquaintance of a decade or so who is now becoming a friend. We each have known one another in separate as well as shared contexts. We don’t all see each other every day or week; sometimes years have gone by before our paths cross again. To say that our lives are much as they were when first we met would bring outrageous laughter and irreverent comments from all of us! The core of each of us is still intact but life has shaped our outer expression and our inner beliefs. We’re all four close in age and in philosophic leanings. We’ve raised children and now we’re grandmothers but we’re far from rocking chair grannies. We know who we are and have accepted life – mostly – on its terms. We’ve worked for others and we’ve run our own businesses. We have a deep spiritual life. We’ve loved and lost and we’re still loving. We speak up for ourselves and others, we’re curious, we’re social justice advocates, community movers and shakers, most days we relish our retirement. We’re slower to react, more likely to admit we don’t have all the answers. We’re kinder. We can agree or disagree strongly and respectfully. We co-create with enthusiasm. We listen better and, hopefully, speak more wisely.
We’re also broken and healed over and lovelier for it all. We are done seeking perfection, an honorable place in heaven and even our own sainthood! We’ve discovered that simply being human is pretty wonderful and a whole lot more fun! We laugh a lot, cry easily, and truly value the twists and turns that have made us who we are. I like the juicy women we have become and I am certain our time together will be entertaining and transformative.
About my friend who serves me lunch, and about the afternoon trio of friends, and about others that I know well, I can say that for each of us, ageing is happening and is expected. And within the folds of our friendships, sageing is a cherished benediction, an unexpected gift of grace.
In his novel, Jayber Crow, Wendell Berry shares these reflective words that may resonate for many of us:
If you could do it, I suppose, it would be a good idea to live your life in a straight line – starting, say, in the Dark Woods of Error, and proceeding by logical steps through Hell and Purgatory and into Heaven….But that is not the way that I have done it, so far. I am a pilgrim, but my pilgrimage has been wandering and unmarked. Often what has looked like a straight line to me has been a circle or a doubling back.….Often I have not known where I was going until I was already there. I have had my share of desires and goals, but my life has come to me or I have gone to it mainly by way of mistakes and surprises. Often I have received better than I have deserved. Often my fairest hopes have rested on bad mistakes. I am an ignorant pilgrim, crossing a dark valley. And yet for a long time, looking back, I have been unable to shake off the feeling that I have been led – make of that what you will.