I have been thinking today about people who have significantly influenced my life over the years, trying to sort out the various facets of my personality and attitudes and determine their source. I have a changed a few names, but not all, just to keep you guessing. And no, this is not an exhaustive list. I have left gaping holes that I will fill at a later time.
I have one sister, five years older than I. We stand the same height, and my children think we sound alike (particularly in our sarcastic moments). Beyond that, the similarities fade. Sylvia left home when I was 13 and thoroughly self-absorbed. I have recognized her influence more as an adult. Her overall calm and her example as a mother to an amazing family have inspired me. I have never managed to match the calm, but I have aspirations...
College was a pivotal time for me, as it should be, and Chris was a huge part of my university life. He is one of those larger than life characters who draw a following, and it took a few years for me to realize, somewhat to my embarrassment, that he played a much greater role in my life than I did in his. Be that as it may, our friendship in a sense embodied those college years for me. I learned to challenge boundaries, not just societal boundaries, but also those within myself. I also learned that life and love are messy, and that is just fine. Creativity is a messy process.
Not all of my life lessons came from comfortable sources. While my friendship with Jane died some time ago, I remain indebted to her for invaluable lessons about what friendship is...and what it is not, or at least what it cannot be for me. I learned to respect my limits, and I learned not to dive headfirst into someone else's life and problems. Years ago, I sat on my bed one evening and wailed, "But I wanted it to be a happy day!" I have never relinquished that childhood wish. I still long for a happy day not only for me but for those around me. I cannot fix everyone's problems. The bare fact of the matter remains that often the healthiest solution for all involved is to simply stand back and let people climb their own mountains. Sometimes we walk alongside and cheer them on. Sometimes we toss them a canteen. And sometimes we turn our backs and claw the way up our own trail.
Melissa and Heather brought exercise into my life, starting with daily walks while we passed Cheerios to our boys in their baby joggers and sustained each other through the ups and downs of life and motherhood. From those early morning walks, they pushed me to yoga and weightlifting, plyometrics, and beyond. I owe these women not only for their remarkable friendship but for a habit of exercise that has become essential to my well-being.
To the village who continues to raise this adult, I send a humble "thank you."