I stood in the long driveway waving goodbye as she zoomed away. I held back tears as I watched Kelly enthusiastically wave back through her sunroof. Her sporty white car mimicked a puff of smoke that was evaporating into thin air. That officially ended the five-day visit we had just shared. Kelly was my friend from elementary school. Typically our lives were too busy to connect, but we finally carved out a few days just for us and stuck to the plan. We were inseparable then and still are. It was finally our time, when the only thing holding us back was nothing at all.
Kelly’s car was but a mere dot on the horizon, when I reflected upon the importance of friends, especially those from childhood. The solidarity of these individuals is unlike anything else. A true friend offers an understanding and compassion that is as solid as the promise made when becoming blood-brothers (or sisters). They say, “Make new friends but keep the old; some are silver and others gold.” Childhood friends are gold, and they enrich your life in so many ways. It is as if they were a part of your being all along. They hold the knowledge of days gone by when you didn’t even know yourself. They belly laugh at your clumsy adolescent mistakes, and they teach you to laugh at yourself. They offer up a fresh perspective and liberation. They take you at your word, know your history, and are acutely aware of your quirks. Yet they love you despite it all. In essence, they balance you.
When I started my career, I yearned for that same balance at work. Luckily, I had the privilege of hiring all staff and seeking out employees who mimicked the compassionate energy a friend provides. Of course applicants had to possess all the proper credentials, but my final selections came down to those I felt would be the greatest match to our ‘existing work family’. As a result, I was met each morning with an office crew that genuinely respected and cared about one another. Even clients would comment about how they could feel the admiration amongst us. You can’t fake passion, and that ‘genuine friendship’ was as palpable in my office as the smell of the morning java that greeted us each day.
Real friends can get you through just about anything. Support groups attempt to do what a true friend does naturally. In these challenging times, do not forget the value of friendship and the importance of allowing yourself to be playful as you were in childhood. The moment Kelly arrived on my doorstep, the childhood memories and our fun frolics flooded my mind, reminding me how valuable it is to keep kinship alive. It was as if all my troubles disappeared. I was instantly granted permission to laugh, act silly, and simply live in the moment.
That mindfulness (living in the moment) is what we often lack as adults, especially when facing struggles and challenges. We don’t know what the future holds, so why go there? When the world goes sideways, we often forget that everything is really going to be okay. Children only live in the moment, so a friend from childhood will often reset you back to that mindset. In doing so, you’ll get a much-needed reprieve from everyday worries and challenges. Mindful meditations are built upon this very practice…reeling us back into the ‘here-and-now’ to create a mind and body of pure tranquility.
Nature accomplishes the same. When you find yourself stressed out about the future, simply step into the architecture of nature. Your thoughts will immediately shift for the better. The peaceful chirping of birds, the calmness of sunbathing lizards, and the enchantment of mischievous squirrels will instantly transport you to a safer, kinder, gentler place. It’s no wonder that so many parks are flooded with the joy and laughter of children (and their parents).
On our last day together, I drove Kelly to the Irvine Regional Park (that I fondly call Peacock Park, due to the flock of flamboyant peacocks that walk about freely). We joined these feathered friends as we laid out on our blanket, looking as if we were about to make snow angels in the grass. We laughed like high school girls until we couldn’t catch our breath. As we reminisced about simpler times, a ballet of rolling clouds passed by. Huge green leaves from mature trees danced in the wind, framing the sky’s canvas. We giggled as we simultaneously looked for animal shapes in the clouds. We were indeed in the moment. In doing so, neither of us had a care in the world.
Our eyes drifted to an excited 5-year-old who had just learned to ride a bike as she squealed, “Look at me, Daddy, I did it!” Our eyes were also drawn to the many youngsters playing catch with their parents. It was magical, endearing, and it was the stuff that happy childhood memories are made of. This is what often goes missing in our adult lives: the wonder, imagination, and excitement of childhood. However, it’s not exclusive to that age group. Kelly and I were acting young (even though we are in our 50’s), and as a result, we felt young.
Yes, we all have hectic lives and busy schedules. But my jaw-dropping adult moment was recognizing the importance of occasionally dropping our chores in exchange for spending time with an old friend. Make the time to run barefoot in the park and dip your toes into magical moments of childhood. May you remember to take time to see life through a child’s eyes. Doing so will calm you and create lasting feelings of wonder and delight, just as the elephant and the dragon did when we discovered them floating in the cotton-candy clouds.