|Me, Carol and Linda cooling our feet|
My habit in the morning is to get up and make myself a cup of tea and bring my laptop back to bed in order to read the news of the day. I think this is the first time in many years that I have woken the morning after the Fourth and not seen several pictures of exploding fireworks. Not on the Bellingham Herald site, the Washington Post, or even Yahoo News. It must be because it fell on a Saturday and Sunday's papers usually have a broader perspective. I'm not sure why, but I noticed the difference. I was going to snag a picture of fireworks for my picture, but instead I used this picture of the three waders from last Thursday's hike. It makes me thankful for my friendships.
Friendships. I have to say that as I have grown accustomed to becoming a retired skydiver, I still gaze at the pictures of my friends in freefall and enjoy the excitement of the sport on my Facebook page. Probably a hundred of my Facebook friends are skydivers from around the world, and I notice that I'm glad for the opportunity to stay connected to my old buddies and see what they're up to. But I also notice that I don't seem to have any need to join them; my appreciation for their happiness is not diminished by my decision to retire. I'm getting used to this idea of letting go of activities that filled me with such delight not so long ago. The activity is not less enjoyable, but the need to participate as I once did is fading away.
I realize how fortunate I am to have established the circle of friends that sustain me. My friend Judy, whom I met at the Y, is my go-to-the-movies pal, and she and I will travel together later this month to Seattle to see Wicked, which is coming there for the month of July. I've gone to numerous movies with her and we've dined at our favorite places for the past seven years, and now she feels like family.
The friendships I've formed from my Thursday hikes are also around seven years old now. I started hiking with them in 2008, after moving here when I retired from work, and I would never have guessed that my days would be so enriched by this activity. We meet every Thursday; nobody has to say ahead of time whether or not they're going, so the people who show up vary from occasional hikers to regulars. I'm one of the regulars, but I also made a decision after last week to skip those difficult hikes when we have such hot weather. I just don't have nearly as much fun when it's so hot and I feel my strength draining away as I struggle to keep up. I'm happier in cool or cold weather, which is one of the reasons I moved to this part of the country.
Two of the long-time hikers in the group encouraged me to join their walking group on Saturday mornings. It took me awhile before I did join them, but I finally started walking with them at Lake Padden on New Year's Day 2010. One of the nice things about having a blog, I can look up the date since I wrote a post about it. I never expected it to become a regular thing, since I spent summer weekends at Skydive Snohomish and didn't want to give that up. But that was then. Now I look forward to it; it's how I start almost every weekend these days.
Yesterday the walking group gathered at our leader's home (Cindy's) for our annual Fourth of July potluck. There were fifteen of us, all women I've grown to cherish as friends. As in my hiking group, you just show up and the number varies as do the people. Men are also welcome, but they don't seem to come more than once or twice and then we don't see them again. We laughed about it yesterday and figured they might feel intimidated by all of us. We also discussed books we've enjoyed, and Cindy talked about how next year will be her tenth anniversary of having started this group. She'd like to do something special, so we'll try to think of some ideas. They also feel like old friends after five years of walking together. After the walk we usually go out for coffee and chat. It's a really good group.
I'll bet you know about the other group that gives me such pleasure, don't you? You should, since you're part of it. There are probably two dozen or so fellow bloggers whom I have come to care about (and worry about), and we write posts and comment back and forth to each other. I thought briefly about listing some of my blogging family, but then I realized I might forget somebody who is crucial and then I'd feel bad about it, so I'll just say how much I appreciate my online pals. Who would ever have guessed a few years ago how the blogosphere would become such a significant social outlet? Not me, that's for sure, but I am eternally grateful that it has. And this October, I'll join five other bloggers for our third annual gathering on Vashon Island, staying at the wonderful Lavender Hill Farm.
I read often about the importance of staying connected to social groups in order to improve one's mental health. My family is scattered around the country, but I keep in touch with them through Facebook, and my sister Norma Jean and I video chat a couple of times a month. Norma Jean is the sister I'm closest to, but I love and appreciate my other siblings, as well as their extended family, which is pretty large. And then there's the guy who is lying next to me, the one who shares my daily life and makes sure I have good food to eat (he's the cook in the family). Now who could ask for more than that? As I recount all the friends and family I have in my life, I realize why I'm not feeling more of a lack as I move away from skydiving. There's a hole, for sure, but it won't be there for long.
Until we meet again next week, stay safe and, if you feel like it, you might take stock of all those people who sustain you, too. Somehow since I've written all this down, I am feeling very wealthy, very blessed, and ready to start my day surrounded by love.