“Old Friends are the Best Friends,” Watercolors by Margaret Donat
My husband and I moved from the home where we raised our two children. We left them behind. They were excited to start their new lives, new jobs and independent lifestyles. While I was excited for our new adventure, the reality that we were 700 miles away from our adult children caught me off guard. How could I not know how much I would miss them?
My world had narrowed. Not only did I miss my children, but my good friends: other women that I could call on whenever I need a shoulder to cry on, laugh or commiserate with about any topic.
I needed a sympathetic ear. I needed a good woman.
I wrote this lament back in 1993, two months after the move.
Looking for a Good Woman
I need a good woman. She can be any age, although closer to my own is best. Any color, religion. She can be short or tall, thin or fat. Just so she’s sympathetic. But then most women are.
We will meet by chance and she will look at me and cluck her tongue for she will see my need. Yes, I know for I was there too, she will think. She won’t be patronizing or condescending. She will listen to my woes silently, shaking her head in recognition of universal longing and grief. She will recognize herself: her own past yearning, her own departure into another realm of existence—not without sorrow or pain. She’s been through it. She empathizes.
“No, you are not silly to cry, even at inappropriate times. Best to grieve, it will help with the letting go.”
She will not be like him who sternly gazes at me while I cry bitterly over multiple losses, while at the same time, I list the numerous merits of our move. “Can’t you get your emotions under control?”
“But at what cost?” I ask. Finding a ragged teddy bear, an old baby sweater, a second grade poem to mom brings the tightness to my throat and tears spring up but dare not spill over.
But the good woman will know there is a need to grieve for all that is gone. She will know it isn’t a weakness to miss what once was and can be no more. She will know the tears will dry in good time and life will move forward. And she knows as I do, that loss makes for strength and change turns into opportunities.
As I cry, she will remain silent until my breathing slows and my tears cease. Then she will take my hand and lead me to her kitchen. “Let’s have a cup of tea and a piece of cake.”
This essay speaks to change, which is something I have always welcomed in my life. In this time of the pandemic when we may long for the familiar and routine, Chris Hilicki challenges us to seek out what it is that we need, not just to get by, but to live “with an authenticity that creates meaning and satisfaction.”
The season of fall stirs up our love-hate relationship with change. After this particular topsy-turvy summer, we’d love to return to some familiar and comfortable routines. But as the days are shorter and the nights are longer, fall reminds us that change is good, if not beautiful and exciting.
Whether it’s in our body, mind, or spirit our lives keep changing. If we’re growing (and hopefully we are) we may experience some growing pains. So we look for role models, discipline, prayer, and even magic wands to help us through our transitions in life.
But transitions can make us crazy. I have stopped wondering why people are crazy and instead wonder why they’re not! Sometimes a little “crazy” is just what we need if it means losing our minds long enough to let our hearts and “Soul” lead us toward the best transitions of our lives.
Get ready to change the way you see change:
Positive Change Demands Truth
The best way we can support ongoing healthy change is to be straight with ourselves and each other. We’re at a stage in life where we can cut through empty small talk.
Healthy transitions demand integrity as the key component for accepting change and expecting good things from it. If we want to keep growing, remember: no denials, no rationalizations, and no deceptions.
Honesty doesn’t have to be painful. Helpful honesty merges truth with kindness and compassion within all your relationships, especially the one with yourself. So don’t “fake it until you make it.”
Truly, life is about more than just getting by and barely making it, isn’t it? This is our time to transition with an authenticity that creates meaning and satisfaction.
Remember that even when nothing seems to be happening, something always is. This is difficult for most of us to accept, especially for those who so eagerly worshiped at the altar of productivity and so easily mistook busyness for progress.
I’ve been criticized for going down a lot of rabbit holes in my life. I’ve been asked if I lost my focus or if I couldn’t be satisfied and content with what I had.
The truth is, my life is about “trying it all.” I’ve gone down about a million professional and personal roads in life and many of them haven’t looked successful in typical ways. But my satisfaction and success were, and still are, defined by trying new experiences that make me feel fully alive.
I’ve never given up on my endeavors as much as I’ve added on to them. And as much as I like comfortable routines, they can suck the life out of me, too. Transitions don’t always mean giving things up. Go ahead, live it up!
Transitions Make You Feel Alive
Sometimes the seemingly un-survivable moments in our lives create a white-water current that sweeps us toward who we are meant to be. The transitions we still need as we age aren’t those that chase some version of settling down. They are the ones that make us feel most alive.
Don’t settle for less. Find your signature move for this time of your life that represents the YOU that you were created to be and haven’t given up on.
Transitions don’t have to feel like a life or death battle. This year stop fighting the battles you’ve already won. You know the ones I’m talking about: the wars you wage to earn love and approval from yourself and others.
The life you need to strive for is the one that stares down mediocrity and believes your personal best is yet to come. This is YOUR best, not someone else’s best.
Transitions Are Brave
I’ve lost, found, and lost again my health and many of my homes, jobs, and friends. Life isn’t always comfortable or easy. The easy part should be using our experiences to lighten the hardships and heartaches of others.
We don’t always get the fairy tale. But we get the “happily ever after” when we see each stage of our life with the potential to be brave. As T.S. Eliot said, “Only those who risk going too far can find out how far one can go.”
Be brave. Be your best. And when you’re “old” (or just a little older) you’ll savor the life that hasn’t disappointed you. You deserve this kind of life. You know I’m right. Transition from today to the kind of tomorrow you want.
As this season’s days are growing shorter and cooler, embrace the transitions that make you feel a little more alive. The leaves keep changing, and so can you. Be brave. Be true. Be you.
As a Doctor of Psychology and Clinical Counseling, Chris combines science and spirituality to draw attention to our incredible worth through life’s difficulties. She’s a passionate stargazer and trailblazer, surviving cancer and chronic illness. Her stories and experiences are shared in nationally distributed books, publications, video blogs, and speaking events. Connect with Chris at www.chrishilicki.com