We stayed friends

I have known my oldest friend for 27 years. We are both also 27 years old. She lives in Modesto, CA, where I was born and lived until 4 years old. Our families were friends, and so we became pen pals as kids, eventually graduating to email and cell phones and the occasional real-life visit. Through all of our years of school and travel and living, we stayed friends and it's still really good and easy to be together. Which I think is pretty neat.

I got to see this dear, 27-year friend last week. We found ourselves on the streets of New York City. Wandering Manhattan and Brooklyn, doing every wonderful Big Apple thing we could in a few days. And a few not so wonderful but genuinely New York things, like sweltering in the subway, wearing cute shoes that made your feet hurt, switching to a different subway line because the one you need is running on a different track, and entertaining a drunk on the subway because it seemed like the right thing to do. But mostly, just good things, like Shakespeare in the Park – which was magical, crossing the Brooklyn Bridge at sunset and eating at Grimaldi's pizza. 

We walked around the charming Greenwich Village, eating the best falafel at Mamoun's, fresh bagels, and Bleeker Street Pizza. We ate a lot of good food, which I believe is the best way to experience a city.

We wandered up the Guggenheim, which sits across the street from Central park. My favorite part was how this tree cast a shadow on the creamy spiral:

And when it rained, we wandered the Met, which was awe-inspiring – what an incredible collection of sculpture. We asked many people to take a picture of us – most of them are terrible, at best – but this is my favorite. It is New York in a nutshell:

We walked to the 9/11 memorial in Lower Manhattan. I was surprised – it's breathtaking. A smaller recessed pool within a huge recessed pool. From the side of the bronze wall inscribed with names, you can't see the bottom of the inner pool – it is a seemingly endless void. I looked up the artist statement from the memorial designer, he says this about it: "They are large voids, open and visible reminders of the absence." He also planted rows of trees as a symbol of life, regeneration, and to mark the public's space. He nailed it. It's beautiful.

From there, we ferried to Ellis Island, where I looked up my great grandpa in the registry. I found the original ship manifest: Axel √Ągren arrived in 1924 from St. Tuna, Sweden. A farm-laborer headed to Chicago with $25 in his pocket. Wow. In the registry room, we gazed at the same tiled ceiling. 

Appropriately, we capped off our adventures with cappuccino and cake at Caf√© Lalo on the Upper West Side. We sat by the open windows, the trees outside twinkling with lights. Shout-out to You've Got Mail for highlighting this gem. I would absolutely meet Tom Hanks here with a rose and a copy of Pride & Prejudice. And yes, yes I do think daisies are the friendliest flower.

(Forgive the endless scroll of photos. I couldn't help it.)

Thanks to my lovely, long-time friend for this memorable time together.

On a final note, if you're looking for a great book this summer, I absolutely recommend Shotgun Lovesongs. It's a fantastic story about a group of friends from rural Wisconsin doing life and growing up together. Very well-written, funny, and charming. This midwest girl loves a good midwest story.

Happy summertime.


Stand back and see

Sometimes you have to decide. You have to decide what's a big deal and what's not, what's worth mouthing off about and what's better left unsaid. My Strengthfinders test told me that connectedness is one of my top five strengths. This means, among other things, that I believe things happen for a reason, that things are linked together for a purpose, and that every event or opportunity is the result of a series of actions or lack of actions. A consequence of this strength is that I tend to dwell, ruminate and process small bits of life more than others. But you do still have to decide, what's worth it? I was woken up at 2:30am the other night by a few neighbors hanging in the street, listening to Prince loud enough for all of us to get up and dance. I was awake and annoyed. But it wasn't worth it. Good thing one of my other strengths is adaptability.

Here's the thing – most of the time, the stuff we worry about, the stuff we lay awake at night anxious over, the stuff that runs through my head as I run or stand in the shower – most of the time it's not worth it. You should never make big decisions in the middle of the night. Will it be there in the morning? Yes. Will it seem less big, less overwhelming, less of a burden? Probably. Nighttime is an incredibly vulnerable time for your mind and spirit.

I realized suddenly that most of my present anxieties and fears were actually for and with other people (that's my empathy strength talking). I was concerned about how my actions or lack of actions would effect the people around me. The connectedness in me was really worried about how my story was impacting or failed to impact the people around me. (Apparently, connectedness compels you to consider not only how what you do and say affects people you know but also how it affects individuals you will never meet. This can be a blessing and a burden.) Then I heard these words come alive in my spirit:

That's not your job. Who told you to worry about that? You have been given a great story, and your only job is to live it well. Who gave man his mouth? Who shut up the sea behind doors when it burst from the womb? Who can tip over the water jars of the heavens when the dust becomes hard and the clods of earth stick together?

Ah yes. I put my hand over my mouth, better not to speak.

I was talking to a friend the other day, a friend who has been on a somewhat parallel path these past few years. It's really easy to get caught up in the day to day, to see only your immediate surroundings, but my friend encouraged me to take a step back and look at the story as it has unfolded. It's incredible. We looked at all the ways that our lives have intersected, all while our schools, jobs, and travels have taken us all over the world, and there is no question that it is with great purpose that our journeys run parallel now, if only to be present and to remind one another to be true to the story laid before us.

I'm grateful. I'm grateful to be reminded of my place, to have friends who are with and for, to stand back and see the great story and know that it is so for a reason.

* Special shout out to my friend Susan, for encouraging and inspiring me this week, for reminding me why I write.