Reflections on friendship, possibility and change

Every once in a while we meet someone who shifts our world a little bit. Someone who sees us in a way not many others can. Someone who accepts us more willingly and openly than most. And when we are blessed to come across such a person, our load becomes lighter and we see new possibility in our lives to which we had previously been blind.

I’ve been blessed over the past couple of years or so to have had such a person in my life. A colleague who quickly became a friend because of her generous, warm spirit. On days that were dull and tedious, she brought light and purpose. On days that were stressful and heavy, she brought laughter and levity. On days that were joyous and fun, she delighted in the moment.

I am writing about her today, because as of yesterday, my friend is starting a new journey in her life in her well-deserved retirement. A new journey she’s not sure she is completely ready for, but one I know will see her fly in ways she never thought possible.

Starting a new phase in life can be terrifying – whether it’s retiring, becoming a new parent, starting a new career. The fear of the unknown is daunting, but it is precisely in these moments of great change when the greatest discovery of self takes place. It is precisely at the time when our carefully crafted foundations are rocked that we discover more deeply who we are, more clearly what we are capable of and can stand more firm in our new knowing.

Change is powerful because it forces us out of our comfortable selves where we tend to settle for less than who we are and shows us what could be. It breaks down the constrained definitions we have of life, and shines light in the dark corners we worked hard to conceal. But what is funny is that on the other end of a significant change, when we get past the initial denial, anger, and resistance, finally stop fighting and learn the lessons the change has taught us, what was once the unknown becomes familiar and we begin to settle again.

So instead of hiding from change and the unknown, let’s seek it out. Instead of fearing the uncomfortable, let’s embrace it. Instead of holding back from new possibility let’s boldly walk toward it.

I desire this for my friend as she walks this new path. I desire this for myself when I am faced with the unexpected, and I desire this for anyone who seeks to be more than they are right now.

As I read back these reflections, I recognize they are not so simple desires. I know I will not always be able to live up to what I hope for myself and for those around me. I can only continue to seek and try, and when I come up short – as I very often will – I can only hope that I will remember the gifts from my friend, the lessons she taught me, and the simple desires she inspired today.

The sniff test

On the weekend, my husband came home with fresh mint leaves and the second he opened the bag, I was instantly transported back to my childhood home with the image of my mother bending down to snip some sprigs to use in her tea. I could see it as plain as day, like she was standing right in front of me. I stopped my husband from putting them away just to give myself a chance to linger with the scent a little longer.

How many times are you taken back to an old memory, or a place from your past, just at the faintest whiff of something near by? Smells have the power to conjure up horrible moments and leave us winded by despair, or just as powerfully to lift our spirits with the memory of a glorious, fun moment, or maybe even remind us of a long-lost friend. Amazing.

I started thinking about some of my favourite smells:

  • coffee grounds – I could stand all day with my nose in a bag. Is that weird?
  • a campfire -who doesn’t love this one. Instant peace.
  • fresh breeze by the lake – Makes me feel invigorated and powerful!
  • freshly baked chocolate chip cookies – Might have to make some of these today 🙂

At the thought of each of these smells, more crystal clear images from my past invade my mind – my first job across from a Timothy’s coffee shop, summer camp romances, canoe trips – (OK maybe the chocolate cookie one isn’t really from my past. Just a lifelong love of mine.) Anyway, as I start giggling to myself on my trip down memory lane – my husband looking at me like I’ve just smoked something – I thought what a great and easy thing this can be to lift my spirits whenever I’m feeling crappy. Just shove my nose into a bag of coffee grounds and voila! Instant happiness. How sweet is that? No intense meditation needed.

So, I guess my simple desire is to find a way to smell these smells more often…just might freak out my kids, my husband or my friends if I start sniffing their hair or something a little more intensely in my attempt to better capture their smell 🙂