A teacher whom I respect and admire posts daily on Facebook a list of “Appreciations” — a spiritual practice of public gratitude for the graces and joys in her life. As she intended, many of her friends and students are now doing the same.
My practice is more private: Every morning I go over the day before, thinking of both gifts and challenges of the day just past. I often have those thoughts of what I could/should have said; or what I could/should have done. But the past is the past, and the best any of us can do about our mistakes is to learn from them and not repeat them. Usually, however, the gifts and graces far outweigh the problems and “off” days of my life.
I have been extraordinarily blessed all my life.
My parents were extraordinarily loving, fair and strong, in spite of the “scandal” of divorce that still shocked people in 1957. They were completely devoted to their children, and never once spoke ill of each other nor made my brother or me feel we had to chose between them.
I was fortunate in the education I received, in California public schools which at that time (pre-Proposition 13) were the best schools in the country, including the University of California Berkeley, consistently rated one of the top five universities in the world.
I was less fortunate in being brought up in a misogynistic, guilt- and fear-driven Catholic Church; but I realized that the core of that form, the Presence of Christ during the mass, is the only thing that really matters, and the rest is useless to spiritual life.
Both of my marriages, the first in my late twenties, with a man I’d met at Cal; the second in my fifties with a man I had described perfectly thirty years earlier and sought for all those years; have been full of love, grace, laughing and crying together. And they are cordial friends, the men of my past, present and future.
But the most amazing blessing, the most enduring relationship and deepest, soul-connected companionship has been with my best friend, Jo. She laughs, and my heart sings. She weeps, and my heart aches.
We have known each other, been friends through thick and thin, through highs and lows, through indescribable pain and through unbridled happiness. We have grown from spiritually restless, desperately seeking teenage girls in a small-town high school to women of both material-world abilities and successes, and spiritual awareness and depth of understanding. I cannot imagine my life without her.
We both turn sixty-five this year; she is four days older than me. We discovered, years after we met, that we were also born in hospsitals just a few miles apart. A star danced . . . Since then she has given me more than I can even articulate. From our meeting, we shared the depths of our political and social awareness together, just us, among age-peers who were completely oblivious to the outside world. She introduced me to Quaker philosophy and practice, which form the core of my path to spiritual discovery and every growing awareness. I supported her at her wedding; she supported me at mine (both of them). Yes, she laughs, and my heart sings. She weeps, and my heart aches.
So I think of her every day when I do my self-reflection. I think of my other friends, too; they are all very, very dear to me. But Jo has been there longer than anyone else; we know each other at a level so deep we can’t articulate it in words. Our connection is JUST THERE, always.
Jo and me at my wedding to Ian