The Golden Rule

13 10 2013

I would not have been able to imagine a few years ago that I would have hundreds of “friends” that I don’t really know. Social media has changed and connected the world in unimaginable ways. But the same basics of friendship are the same whether you’re in real life or in the online world.

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I’ve had lots of sharing between friends IRL and online this week. Two stories I’ve recently written have involved real-life friendships that go back decades and I’ve shared those stories with my virtual friends. My story of reinvention was my way of celebrating a dear friendship as it moves into a new chapter.  I hold this friendship and our story sacred and it was important for me to tell it. I’m grateful it has been life affirming for those who read it.

I wrote an open letter to another old friend this week. He is my congressman in Washington DC and we differ politically. I’ve known him for years and believe him to be a good man. I held that memory of the boy I’ve known since we were barely teens when I wrote the letter. I’ve stayed away from writing anything political because we all know that the conversation can get ugly fast and end friendships. I am not friends with people IRL or online who spew vitriol.

Not all agreed my position in my open letter, but the conversation stayed respectful and civil. Friends should be OK when they disagree with each other. We should know that differing opinions could be expressed, if spoken kindly. Friends don’t have to always agree with each other, but they do have to respect each other. I’m grateful that I have friends who have different opinions. How boring the world would be if we were all alike.

I have been part of a wonderful group of midlife women bloggers for most of this year. I call myself a writer these days because of the encouragement I’ve found in this online group. I traveled to Chicago for the BlogHer conference this summer because of the strong connection I felt to these fabulous women. I learned that odds were if you connected with someone online, a friendship IRL is easily formed. This week the three creators of that online group publically split.

We all have known a couple that looks like they have a rock-solid relationship, one admired or even envied. What a shock it is when this couple splits up. This splitting of this business partnership felt like that divorce.

I am saddened by this business split and fortunately I don’t have to take sides. Different people have different truths. Relationships shift and change over time. Friendships come and go, because we grow and evolve differently. I’m grateful for the old and the new friendships in my life. I’m even grateful for those I’m no longer friends with because I’ve learned something from everyone.

The timeless Golden Rule still applies IRL and in social media world, “One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself.“ Here’s my virtual toast to you all, “To my friends, be kind to each other.” Now I’ll have a glass of wine IRL.





When the Levees Broke

22 09 2013

 

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Before and after Katrina is how we mark time down here in Louisiana. We just passed the 8-year anniversary of that milestone hurricane. The lives we knew were washed away when the levees broke. For my high school friend, Karen and I, it marked the washing away of our long-term marriages. My husband moved out the week before the hurricane and Karen moved out of her home, the week after. We found our friendship in the storm’s aftermath and often clung to each other for support.

94992665We both realize the women we were back then wouldn’t recognize the women we are today. Eight years ago newly single with a teenage daughter; I was scared and expecting to be laid off from my job. While that did not happen, it made me question what did I want to do. I tried out a home-based business giving wine tasting parties (a lot of fun, but I drank all my profits). That led me to get over my fear of pubic speaking, which led me to becoming president of my professional club, which led me to giving workshops on creativity, which led me to starting a design business with my sweetie, which led me to discover new talents and strengths. Most importantly I learned to let go of fear and to embrace things outside my comfort zone.

140381196Karen left her affluent life and empty marriage to find meaning in her life after her kids had grown. She moved back to her hometown to family and friends who were critical of her decision. She went from moving in with her mother, to crummy first apartment, to nicer apartment, to buying a house, to renovating that house and making it her oasis. Her small job with an old family friend grew as his company was bought and sold and bought and sold. It is now part of the largest engineering company of its kind in North America. With each evolution of the company, Karen’s job has grown and she’s moved up the corporate ladder. She’s now moving to the center of business for the Eastern region. All of her strengths have come out and are shining brightly.

Karen’s moving up North…to Nashville. Her moving is bittersweet. We recognize that we are closing a chapter in our lives. Her renovated house has a For Sale sign in front and boxes are waiting for the movers. The days of dropping by each other’s home or creating a spontaneous adventure are over as we know it. We know our friendship will shift and change.

I was just in New Orleans for a fun romantic weekend with the man I’ve been in a loving relationship with for 4 years. After the levees broke, I believed that city would never be the same. I was right, but not how I imagined it. I would never have imagined that young people would flood the city post Katrina with their new innovative entrepreneurial spirit. These newcomers wanted to be a part of reinventing their lives while reinventing this old drowned city. They’ve embraced the unique, creative, funky culture and infused it with a new vibe. The dark depressive cloud that hung over the city has blown over. Arts, music, food, business, housing, education are now filled with this new spirit as new ideas and new ways of doing things are happening. And the wonderful, live-and-let-live-with-a-go-cup-in-hand New Orleans spirit is still embraced, it didn’t wash away.

Me and Karen shopping at the Farmer’s Market and cooking up an adventure.

Me and Karen shopping at the Farmer’s Market and cooking up an adventure.

Like the crescent city, Karen and I have reinvented our separate lives. We haven’t ignored our own past, but we’ve grown and built on it. We’ve moved past our after-Katrina chapter. We’ve rebuilt the levees, hopefully strong enough to withstand future storms.

I’ve learned to flow with the current that my life leads me to. It sometimes takes a storm to push us in a new direction. It’s good to occasionally take time to look back at how far we’ve come. I’m grateful for where my journey has taken me. I’m going to miss my friend, but I’m also looking forward to where new travels will take us.

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