Sunday, June 5, 2011

Puzzle Pieces and Friendships That Keep On Giving

I had two themes to write about today, born of the same experience, and so I hope I wove them together in a way that's easy to read.

Back in the 90s, I started going to Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACOA) meetings, and it changed my life. It had so much to do with the person I am today. In this group, I met many amazing people who had been through the most unbelievably tragic experiences and lived to tell...and who had the same common denominators in their life as me and everyone sitting within those walls. Meetings felt like crawling into a warm, safe lap. These people had a lot of experience, strength, and hope to lend if we wanted it. But there came a time when I needed a more personalized group....of just women. Don't get me wrong--we loved our ACOA brethren (some of my friends even married a few), but there were things we needed to discuss sometimes, in the privacy of our own gender.

And so, I asked a core group of trusted women friends if they'd like to form a women's spiritual group, in which we could discuss our life path, our challenges, our solutions, and our enlightenment. Our age range spanned forty years, but we were all in the same place as far as emotional and soul growth. We held these gatherings every other Sunday for about ten years. Ten years of life, trusting one another with deeply personal things. Sticking together through changing careers, changing relationships, painful breakups, family deaths, marriages, births, serious mistakes (and what we learned from them), victories and achievements...everything. We were like war buddies.

After the group ran its course, we still kept in touch. But the times we all got to see each other, all in one place, were few and far between. The last time was just before I moved to California in 2005.

Today, our eldest member held a reunion. Not every single person made it back, but most of us were there...sharing great food, love, laughter, and memories. We all said a little about where we are today and what's been going on...and it was all so beautiful. Lots of changes, lots of water under the bridge, lots of life  lived. We were all a little older and wiser, and better for it.

I came away from this gathering with many gems of wisdom, like the old days, but two of them really sank in the deepest, for me.

Our eldest (now 64) said:

"This getting older thing is kind of cool. You start seeing the biggest puzzle pieces of your life coming together at last. Things you could never figure out about your past, your issues, or your inner workings, start to make sense. And things start feeling more complete and whole than they ever have. And the stuff you used to get in your head and worry about all the time just doesn't matter anymore."

I loved that. I think I feel a few puzzle pieces clicking together with each passing year, and it makes me glad to be the age I am. (I have more to say about aging, but I'll save it for another journal)

And what someone else shared (and everyone agreed), was that even though the times we spend together in person are few and far between...we carry one another around in our hearts, remembering the little sayings we've shared, seeing some little gift we've received from another in the group that still sits on our windowsills, or glancing at our group photo refrigerator magnet taken one Christmas. It's living proof that friends need not be in close geographical proximity in order to be "with" us or close to us. This is, perhaps, the start of how someone becomes eternal to us, even after they die.