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Posts Tagged ‘friendship’


Over recent weeks, I’ve had the pleasure of visiting with several different friends from out of town, all friends who came from different cities and from previous lives of mine. Not only was it wonderful to catch up with these old friends and reminisce about times gone by, but it was a compelling opportunity to look back on my journey, to see all of the dots that have connected, and to reflect on all of the wonderful souls who have touched and shaped my path along this winding road of life.

Boston, MA

The first of these friends, Simone, was visiting from my home city of Boston. We began working together when I was a mere 23 years old, fairly fresh out of college and wet behind the ears. Looking back on that young age, now 14 years later, it is hard to even recognize the person that I once was. I was just barely beginning my journey into adulthood and I had so much to learn, and so many tough lessons that were still ahead of me. In my wildest imagination (or nightmares!), I could not have conceived of what was yet to come. I was, however, fortunate enough to land the job of a lifetime. For several years we organized student tours abroad and got to reap the benefit of traveling to exciting, foreign lands. This was a professional life filled with wonderful friends, laughter, hilarious travel stories and adventures and simply joyful and rewarding times. These were the days of our lives.

Fast forward five years and I would find myself a new resident of the nation’s capital, Washington, DC, and a newly enrolled graduate student. Having left behind a broken heart and dark clouds in Boston, I was starting over in a new life, preparing to embark on a career of international diplomacy and peace-keeping. However, a semester of confusion, dissatisfaction and feeling like a fish out of water, would eventually lead to my leaving graduate school and landing serendipitously in a job working for an International Human Rights organization. This is where I would meet Lauren, the second visitor to San Francisco in recent weeks.

Washington, DC

Lauren and I would become part of what I coined the “The Sex and the City” foursome of ladies who would get together regularly for dinner and girl talk. These friends were the rocks that kept me grounded during my four years in Washington. Lauren would witness me evolve into my first management role in the .com world, she would see me grapple with the stresses of a high-pressure, long-hour career, and she would see me struggle through a confusing yet painfully beautiful long-distance “relationship,” a relationship which would eventually leave me completely shattered, turned inside out and gasping for air. About to embark on what would turn out to be my “dark night of the soul,” Lauren would be part of the good group of friends that would send me off on my forever-destined journey to the west coast, leaving behind my east coast life and friends, leaving behind a part of myself.

The journey west would take me to Los Angeles, a city that would unwittingly become home to the deepest depression, the most gripping pain and the most intense struggle of my life. But simultaneously, and somewhat ironically, it would become the most bewitching and magical place I have ever lived, deeply connecting with the fibers of my spirit. Filling me up with her bittersweet nectar, Los Angeles would eventually become the gateway to a profound spiritual awakening, a complete transformation and a brand new Jeannie, alchemized by the fire of life.

Magical Los Angeles

Enter Garrett. A childhood friend of the family, Garrett had known me since I was a young girl and he had seen me grow into a woman. He had known me through various lives and several different versions of myself. Upon my arrival in Los Angeles, he was one of the only people I knew and was often the only shoulder to cry on during a very dark time. Garrett was witness to the darkest years of my life, the most profound turmoil through which I have walked, and for this I am grateful.

I am grateful because today when I met Garrett and his girlfriend for coffee in downtown San Francisco, while they were visiting from Los Angeles, I was able to shine brightly and tell Garrett how happy I am, how much joy, wonder and magic I experience on a daily basis. Had Garrett not been there to witness my lowest point, I’m not sure anyone would truly know how extraordinary and powerful my transformation has been, and how grateful I am for all of the trials and tribulations that have led me to this place.

As I look back on these friends, and the many others who have laughed with me, cried with me, fought with me and walked alongside me, I am deeply touched by the indelible marks that each one has left on my soul. It is often said that we should not look back to the past, but I profoundly disagree. There is so much grace and beauty in putting the pieces together and making sense of how the journey unfolded. Some of the most important lessons, and even revelations, of our lives come from time reflecting back on our previous journeys. It is all a beautiful, and necessary, part of our evolution.

It is true that however we might plan and plot, in large part we have no idea where are journeys will take us next, or where each path will lead; but what I am sure of is that there will be beautiful souls along the way, souls who will come into our lives to help us along our journey. There will be souls who help us, souls who hurt us, and there will be souls who crack us wide open, but each one of these souls has a purpose and a powerful lesson to teach us. And as we walk along our path, however much it twists and turns, and however dark, scary and painful it may become at times… we should embrace the journey.

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Me and my brothers in front of the Golden Gate Bridge

My very first introduction to San Francisco was at the tender age of six when my mother took me and my two brothers across the country on a 2-week train trip. I don’t remember much of San Francisco, except for this photo missing my two front teeth. That and the crookedest street in the world. It, like many experiences of my early years, faded into the recesses of my memory.

Some 20 years later I would be sitting in my office in Boston, daydreaming about moving to San Francisco with one of my best friends and colleagues. I’m not sure why we had it in our heads that San Francisco should be our destination; perhaps it was the fact that both of our older brothers had already moved there, perhaps it was the adventure of moving west towards a new frontier, perhaps it was the romanticism of a place we couldn’t fully imagine, some place new, different, exciting. Perhaps it was simply the fantasy of leaving everything behind and starting over, a new person in a new life.

San Francisco skyline

Despite our daydreams, life had other plans for both of us. She, my colleague and friend, ended up on her own adventures between New York City, Paris and Washington, DC. My own path led me to Washington, DC and then finally west, but to a different destination… Los Angeles. Though I had spent all of that time dreaming about San Francisco, circumstances had led me elsewhere, and San Francisco just didn’t appear to be in the cards. That is until 2009, when a series of events “inadvertently” led me right to the place of my previous daydreams… I had finally landed in San Francisco.

At first it was a love-hate relationship. My heart was stuck in Los Angeles, and that coupled with my love of the warm weather of Southern California, meant that I was pretty miserable and found every reason to complain about San Francisco. It was not living up to my dreams of all those years before.

But as it always does, time went by and things began to change. My heart-strings began to release their tight grip on Los Angeles and I began opening up more to the idea of San Francisco being home. Little by little I began to acclimate to the weather, I began to find a new community of friends, I began to plant roots. San Francisco was becoming home. As it did so, the beauty around me began to become more and more apparent. Every time I would walk to yoga, I would stand in awe of the spectacular view of the skyline that was simply the backdrop of my walk through Alamo Square. The succulent scent of California’s year-round flowers wafted into my nostrils everywhere I went. The breathtaking view of the Golden Gate Bridge would render me speechless each time I passed over it or caught a glimpse of it from atop a high vista point in the city. The stunning views of the San Francisco Bay, dotted with beautiful sailboats, would come into my eyesight during a routine walk or drive. On almost a daily basis I would find myself amazed by the staggering beauty around me and exclaiming to myself, “My God. How on earth do I live HERE?”

View of Golden Gate Bridge from Marin Headlands

As a writer dedicated to focusing on the positive and seeking out the joy of life, I strive every day to appreciate the beauty that is all around me and to not take it for granted. But like any human, even I have my moments when I lose sight of it. Tonight was one of those moments. As we just changed the clocks and it is suddenly getting dark much earlier than it was previously, I found myself disappointed by the loss of light in the day. As I was preparing to leave for yoga this evening, I posted this update to my Facebook page:

“Really not thrilled about it being DARK for my walk to yoga.”

Looking out the window I could see that it was dark and I was not looking forward to the walk in the cold, especially when I was so used to taking this lovely walk with the warm sun on my back.

I headed out the door and onto my usual route to yoga, which takes me through Alamo Square, home of The Painted Ladies. The minute I set foot into the park, I once again stood in awe. In the crisp fall air, the city was sparkling with absolute brilliance against the night sky, cradled by the glow of the bright moon above. I was immediately humbled and realized the error of my ways with my previous Facebook post. It was ironic that I was on my way to yoga. One of the themes that we frequently explore in yoga is the embracing of not only the light, but also the dark, the shadow side of life. As the seasons change and we move into a darker time, the yoga invites us to explore the darker side of ourselves, our experiences and our emotions. And it invites us to embrace both, to see the beauty in both, the opportunity for growth which comes from each. As I reflected on my dissatisfaction about the days turning into night, I realized that I was missing out on the opportunity to embrace both the light and the dark. And as I walked through Alamo Square and marveled at the beauty of the night scene around me, I felt nothing but wonder and gratitude.

San Francisco at night, from Alamo Square

I thought about the 6-year old me sitting in front of the Golden Gate Bridge with my brothers, completely unaware of the fact that this would one-day be my home. I thought about the 20-something me daydreaming with my friend about San Francisco, about how we would get there and what it would be like. And I thought about the current me who had evolved from a place of daydreaming, to ambivalence about a city, to embracing it as my home. And as I looked at the stunning skyline glittering beneath the light of the moon, I was overcome with emotion and I once again thought to myself, “My God. How do I live HERE?”

This post is dedicated to Jules, who has forever been my ally and friend
along this journey.

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It is true that when times get tough, you learn who your true friends are. It is also true that friends come and go throughout our lives. And sadly, it is sometimes true that someone who you thought was a true friend, turns out not to be. I’ve learned that tough lesson more than once and that, unfortunately, is a lesson that stings no matter how many times you learn it.

So what makes a “true friend”? Well, of course everyone has their own definition of that, and as we grow and learn, that definition can, and frankly should, change. I’ve been told on more than one occasion that my expectations of friendship are too high. But whenever I am told that, I think to myself, “Thank goodness for that!”. I expect a lot from myself as a friend, and I always strive to be the best possible and most loyal friend I can be. I would never want to change that. Why on earth would I want to expect less from a friend than I expect from myself??? That’s like saying “Hi Jane, nice to meet you. I look forward to a disappointing friendship.” That would be ridiculous, right? The idea that one should have low expectations of a friendship, is completely absurd to me. I outright reject that premise.

For me, a true friendship should be a 2-way street, their should be mutual give and take and mutual respect. Now this does not mean that one has to talk to a friend every single day, and that one should expect that. Every friendship is different. Although rare, there are “best friends” that you talk to everyday, and those who find that are very fortunate and should not take that for granted. But there are also those great friendships that endure the test of time and distance. You might go months, or even years without talking, but then when you do, it’s as if no time has passed at all. Those are some of the best friendships I have ever had. Because even though you speak rarely, those friends are there for you when it really counts, and you for them. Regardless of which type of friendship you’re dealing with, the most important factor is that it is balanced.

Now of course even with the best of friendships, like any relationship, there are times when it may be out of balance; times when external factors distract us and steal our energy; times when one might give more than the other and vice versa. A good friendship should allow for those ebbs and flows. We of course all live through the dark times when we may be the one more in need of taking, rather than giving. But when you look at the overall picture, over a span of time, the friendship should be balanced. If you are the one who is constantly making the effort, the one who is calling and following through, and it is not being reciprocated, then that is not a balanced relationship and is not fair to the person who is doing all of the giving. Nor is it healthy or sustainable. At that point you need to ask yourself “Am I more often happy or disappointed in this friendship?” If it is the latter, then give yourself permission to let the friendship go.

And if you do have to let a friendship go, of course it is upsetting, but just know that it is part of life and learning. One must always be true to themselves and respect themselves first and foremost, and if you find that a friendship is becoming more toxic to you than it is beneficial, then it may be time to let it go. And instead of being sad, be grateful. Be grateful that you had the opportunity to learn and grow from that relationship. Because even the worst of friendships are a gift. They have the power to teach us some very important lessons and they also provide us the opportunity to become better people and better friends ourselves. And most importantly of all, be grateful for those friends that have proven themselves to be true. For even if you only have 1 of them, 1 true friendship is far more meaningful and fulfilling than 100 superficial friendships.

This post is dedicated to all of the true friends in my life. You know who you are.

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Image by Flickr photographer: WhiskeyTangoFoxtrot

All of my life my father has said to me, “Jeannie, friends will come and go throughout your life.” I always hated that idea. As someone who has always been a fiercely loyal friend, I’ve always felt adamant that if someone was a good friend, they should stay in your life forever. Well, if you’ve lived any amount of years into adulthood, then you can imagine that I’ve lived through a lot of disappointment in my life: Because of course as my dad predicted, many friends have come and gone.

Sometimes people simply drift apart, other times friendships go down in flames, and still other times one person will continue to make the effort, while the other seems to stop caring. I’ve experienced all of these scenarios more times than I care to count. And for some reason it always seemed to affect me more than it did most other people. In fact, I remember the very first friend who “left” my life. I was only 10 years old and she had been my best friend throughout my childhood. We were always at each other’s houses, we would spend hours playing in the woods, doing silly and adventurous childhood things. And then one year we ended up in different classes, and suddenly our circles and in turn our friendship changed. We drifted out of each other’s lives and I was devastated.  I have vivid memories of sitting in my mother’s office crying endlessly as I listened to depressing Phil Collins’ songs. Ok, so I was a bit melodramatic even as a kid, but I was heart-broken.

Now I’m 25 years older and I’d like to say I’ve gained a bit of wisdom. As years have passed and I can look back on my prior experiences, I now have the perspective of being able to see that each one of those instances happened for a reason. In each scenario, I was growing and changing, and so was the other person. And in many of those cases we were simply growing apart, in different directions. We were walking down different paths. And I’ve now learned that each time someone I cared about left my life, it was happening to make space for someone new that was to enter my life; someone who was more aligned with the path I was currently on.

This lesson has culminated for me more than ever in the past few years. Having gone through my “awakening” of sorts, it has completely changed me. I have a different perspective on life and the universe in which we live, I have had experiences that have confirmed the immortality of my soul, and I have learned how to access higher levels of my consciousness. This has been a unique and life-altering experience to which I find that many people cannot relate, and it has been difficult and frustrating trying to explain it to friends that I’ve known for years. And as has always been the case throughout my life, some friends have fallen away. But they have made room for others and more than ever, I find myself meeting person after person who has gone through similar experiences. Synchronicity happens left and right and “magically” seems to bring the right people into my experience, and I suddenly find myself surrounded by friends who are on this same path. I’ve even seen the return of old friends who left my life long ago, and we unexpectedly find ourselves back on the same path, after a long detour. You know that friend I was crying about when I was 10 years old? She is one of those friends.

So what’s the moral of this story? My dad was right, people will come and go. And yes, it will be sad, even heart-breaking at times. But you can trust that it’s for a reason. It’s to allow yourselves to grow and expand in different directions and to make room for new people to come in to support you along your current path. So if you find yourself facing a situation where you are losing a friend, although it may be hard, let them go with love. Then open your heart to the new people who will come into your life to support you; and you never know, they may just come back.

This post is dedicated to Jessie.

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