Empowering Friendships

I’ve been giving this a lot of thought lately. There are friends and then there are friends! What do I mean by this? One friend may be the support I need in the moment. Another friend brings out the playfulness in me. Another friend shares superficial or gossipy things. Yet, the friend I need first and foremost is the friend I need to be to myself. As I cultivate self-honesty, self-care and self-love in the easy times, I can then employ these more readily in the challenging times.

For those who study Astrology, we are in a period of Mercury Retrograde for the next three weeks. The planet, Mercury, is in the sign of Gemini at this time. Gemini is all about communication, the thoughts that we think and how we relate to others–our relationships. We are asked to look at how we use our own words, how we listen to others and we are asked to be receptive to the influence of the heart on our mind.

I’ve been evaluating some of my friendships. Alright, one in particular lately. For me, a bottom-line question in any relationship is not only do I feel supported in this relationship, but am I challenged to evolve? Is this connection keeping me stuck or is it contributing to my growth as a woman in the world today? While I note my insecurities, does this friendship help me recognize my strengths?

When a friendship is reduced to gossip about other friends shared in common, when the subject matter is always about what so-and-so did, then I want out. Because if this friend is talking about other friends in this way, I can be sure that I’m also the subject of her gossip. How can I feel comfortable sharing anything of any depth with her if she doesn’t hold what I share in confidence?

What do I want in a friendship…I want to share dreams, interests, goals, projects, poetry, art, writing, ideas, fun and frolic. I want to share hopes, fears and doubts. I want to feel safe in doing so.

Yes, this is important to define! And then, who am I as a friend to others is also important to review. What type of friend am I? What I notice is that there are degrees of intimacy in friendships. With some friends, there is access to more of me. With other friends, there is a layer of intimacy beyond which we don’t go. Friendships can be lifelong or transitory. They can be sporadic like the long-distance phone-call to a childhood girlfriend who you talk to a few times a year and seem to pick up where you left off the last time. We get to define what works for us. In the most intimate ones, I desire to be seen and to see…to be supported in my growth and to have a degree of honesty that is able to recognize when there is stagnation.

As you can see from my rambling, I’m contemplating, pondering, evaluating, discerning–great words–what I want and need and can offer to another in friendship.

Mercury in Retrograde is also in proximity to Venus…so there is a tenderness to this contemplation.

Be the friend you want to have…thinking about that one.

How to work with the “Malaise”

Malaise: “…a general feeling of discomfort, illness, or uneasiness whose exact cause is difficult to identify.”

How are you coping with it? The long stretch of not being sure how to proceed? The risks, the frustrations, the doubts and uncertainties, the news, the misinformation, the truth that “no one really knows for sure.” What are the long-term consequences of getting the vaccine? How long does it last? What’s the best one for you? What’s the best one for me? Who can you go to for answers? What if you are one who chooses to wait and see before you get the vaccine, if ever? What is the underlying cause of this virus? Where did it actually originate? What’s the best preventative? Can we gather or not? How many feet apart? Wearing masks, indoors or outdoors? Double-masking? Whaaaaat?

And do we have to face more of this in the future? Is it a result of climate change and what we’ve been doing to our planet? The virus goes to the lungs…are the lungs of the earth sending us a message as we carry on with our deforestation…the trees, the lungs of the planet? A good question–is the earth giving us FEEDBACK? How are we interpreting this?

Some of my friends are trying to live their lives with business as usual. There are others who are working around the curtailments. There are others who go between the malaise and working on one or another projects. For them it’s like swimming against the currents. Progress is slow, if any. Sometimes they go sideways, detouring into a mindless distraction. Some have a new addiction to the news, their computers. And they are suffering for it. As for me, I’m trying to sort through a lifetime of writing. And to maintain the little cottage where I live better. A little garden. The goal is to bring some order to the world that immediately surrounds me. The one I think I have some control over. In incremental ways, daily. It doesn’t have to be dramatic or overnight.

What about you? How are you coping?

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I wrote this poem in March of 2012. I don’t remember what was going on in my life at the time. It was a year after my mom had died. A year and a half since my dad had died. I’m guessing I was rousing myself and redirecting my life after the challenges of their final years. The thing is…perhaps we’re always rebounding from something or other in our lives. Yes, it’s true, the magnitude of what has resulted from the virus is different because it’s global, not only us. Yet, we do know some of what it takes to rebound.

Betweenland
by Christine O’Brien

Footing is precarious
The old, familiar ledges
eroding beneath my feet
before I have something
solid in place
If trust were substance
I’d stand upon it
finding safe ground
in the midst of dissolution
From there,
I’d look out upon inner continents
–the old ones disappearing
as the new ones surface
The discontent and yearning
from which they’ve sprung
in my own sweet soul
calling more of me into being
The woman that I am
standing on this plot of land
looking across the horizon,
now so close,
to see the other one
stretching out his hand
towards me


The Scroll

the scroll

These days, we rarely (if ever) see someone standing on a podium reading from a scroll.  At least, I don’t.  Decrees, notices, announcements, rules, regulations, messages.

This painting evolved from a class taught in Paint Your Heart and Soul.  The angel looks a bit worried.  As if she isn’t looking forward to reading the message on the scroll.  We all want good tidings.  Perhaps it’s time to write your own message and start sharing it with others.

When 911 happened, the soul plummeted.  A dear friend and I went for a walk in the forest.  He often recalled that was the best action to take at such a time.

Beyond that, what could we do–in the moment?  What did taking action at a time when we felt so helpless look like?  I opened my books of poetry and began searching for and finding hopeful verses.  I wrote them on postcards and sent them out anonymously to friends, old and new.  To family.

What message would you like to read from your scroll?  These difficult days, sending something good off into the world helps to counterbalance the barrage of challenging news. It’s an easy thing to do.  You don’t have to go anywhere (except to mail them) and  you don’t have to sign it unless you want to.

As I’ve noted before, we aren’t letter writers typically.  However, we can write a postcard.  Imagine what a surprise it would be for you to receive a postcard with a message of hope or support from someone you haven’t heard from in years!

Soup Night

Navigating winter in the mountains, for those who don’t fly south, is an art form.  Of course, there are those who love winter sports and they are in their element.  I am not a skier, snowboarder or snowshoer–although I’ve experienced two out of the three.  For me, the challenge with winter is getting through it–overcoming the isolation which heavy snow imposes.  Travel north or south is inhibited as the highway may have restrictions.  Or, driving in a “white out” with poor visibility can be daunting.

A few winters back, when the first heavy snow hit, a depressed feeling settled over me.  Looking out my window as the large flakes whirled abundantly, I could see that soon my world would be covered in white.  While pretty on a postcard, there are the practical challenges.  I need to contact the men who shovel my driveway and walkways.  Be sure that I have enough fuel.  Is the cupboard fully stocked if we are going to have several days of snow?  Do I need to wrap the water pipes if the temperature drops too low?  Living close enough to the stores, I layer clothing,  don my hiking boots and trek through the snow and slush to get to the post office and grocery store if necessary.

This particular day, I was dicing onions and carrots for a pot of soup.  It occurred to me that I could invite friends over to share the soup.  I called about six friends.  They couldn’t promise, but they’d see how bad this storm was going to be.  One friend blatantly said, “Christine, no one’s going to come!”  However, just the thought that someone might show up spurred me on.

The invitation was “If you dare to come out tonight, I’ve got a hearty pot of soup on the back burner…bring your favorite soup bowl!”

That night, in a heavy winter storm, four people came.  The next week, there were eight of us.  By the end of the winter season, soup night had become an institution which rotated among several homes averaging ten to twelve people.  This meant we needed two pots of soup, bread, salad and occasionally dessert.  The warm feeling of sharing and communing while the world outside was enveloped in cold and white brought new meaning to winter in the mountains.