Tuesday, February 26, 2013


"Our lives are too cluttered.We have gadgets, clothes, books, mementos, and possessions of all kinds. We are also chaotically cluttered with bad habits and pursuits that really don't amount to anything important in the larger scheme of things. The so-called hallmarks of the modern busy life are not all they are cracked up to be. If anything, they conspire to fill up every inch of our space and the moments of every day with meaningless detractions that divert us from the things that really matter. And I am as guilty as anyone.
Sometimes it takes a life tragedy to push us back on to the right tracks of our lives. To me, it happened thirteen years ago when my son-in-law, Richard, father of two of my grandsons, had his young life tragically cut short. A schoolteacher, he was driving to work when a crate fell off a truck in front of him. He swerved to miss the crate but lost control of the car and it plunged over the edge of the freeway, ending his life.
What a painful time it was for all of us. I grieved for Richard. I grieved for my daughter, widowed at age thirty-four. I grieved for my two young grandsons, who had been robbed of years of fun with a dad they loved. ..
But at the same time, something profound happened deep inside me. I was preoccupied with things like my career and wanting to be more successful as a writer. I focused on what I didn't have and wanted and what I did have but regretted. All told, I was certainly not a contented person. ... life itself had become a little too complicated for my own good. ...
Standing at Richard's graveside, two realizations overwhelmed me. First, life is short and unpredictable. ... Second, when death strikes unexpectedly, all the clutter and accumulations of your life don't amount to a hill of beans. Death screams loud and clear, 'Get your priorities right, my friend, if you want to live a contented life!'
From that moment on, I have had a profound feeling that there is very little on this earth that really matters besides the relationships we have with one another. And what do we have to do in order to extract meaningful pleasure from our existence? I am convinced it is quite simple : make space for the things that really matter. "
THRILLED TO DEATH : Dr Archibald Hart.
A couple of weeks ago I put up a collection of quotes from this book. There are many aspects to the book, all worth discussing, but the message Hart gives here is perfect for this week. 
I know of friends currently struggling with the death of loved and the occupying thoughts of that time in one's life are significant and unforgettable.
Around this time many years ago I became a widow at age 24. I had no children and I had plenty of time to prepare for my husband's death, so I was very privileged. Regardless, I line myself up with Archibald's comments above - the questioning of what am I doing/putting my time into/aiming for... were natural to me too.
When a close person in your life dies, you suddenly become aware of the the importance of that one. All manner of things everyday are 'missing' now. A relationship has stopped in mid-flow. 
At that time for me, people who had up until then, been at a distance, were now brought in closer. Many of my great friends were willing to become dearer and closer to me, and some people who I hardly knew made themselves available to me in friendship. This really helped me to start to sort out my life and begin again.
Further along in his book, Archibald gives 6 things he believes we need to make room for in our lives. I wish to only talk about 1 in this post - Friendship. 
Hart discusses the increasing choice people today are making to "become loners". He bases his comments on studies from Harvard, the University of Arizona and Duke University. Adults, teenagers and children are all showing this tendency of a choice for isolation even with those they are closest and most intimately connected to.
You can probably identify many reasons for the dramatic increase in this practice. One of course is the alarming time spent pursuing friendship or connection on line, compared to face-to-face friendship. Archibald says, "But is this really what friendships are all about? Can you cry on a blogger's shoulder? Can you find comfort in the arms of an e-mail? I can assure you that e-mail and text messaging do not have the same cathartic effect as a heart-to-heart..."
I have a wonderful friend who lives in a different country to me but this year we marked 50 years of friendship. While in New Zealand last month she visited us. We are not in each other's pocket but we both say that with each email or get together physically, we literally pick up where we left off. I feel totally natural with her and she with me. Even knowing personality pitfalls, and having neglected each other at times, doesn't stop our friendship.
We may have a great friendship with a person we chose to become friends with, but we can have equally deep friendships with people who happened across our path.
People look for different things in a friendship. Similar interests, things they have in common such as a sense of humour or both riding a motor bike. But true friendship, the kind that will last all your life doesn't hold on to these things alone. 
A true friendship 
    ~ is loyal
    ~ is where one doesn't dominate the other
    ~ is where one does not make exclusive claim on the other
    ~ is kind
    ~ cares for and goes out of their way to help the other
Faithful and unfaithful friendship, were themes in Shakespeare's plays, and many poets and novelists of the nineteenth century. Movies from the past and present such as the Hornblower series, ET, Charlotte's Web, Finding Nemo, and the on-going Downton Abbey series, all show us friendships for the better and for the worse. 
But all the watching of movies or reading of books will have no effect if we don't make time or make room for friendships. 
THISWEEKWITHTHEKIDS ~ for your own sake and the sake of your children, pursue some time catching up with an old or new friend - one you really want to be with for many years to come.

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