We are bound together by a cord of where we began our life.
We all started our lives in the Silver Valley of North Idaho, in the shadow of the Bunker Hill Company. "Uncle Bunker" was a big influence on our lives growing up, and the people in our families. Because this company had such a big presence in our lives, and helped shape us into who we are today.
As we reach the half-century mark in our lives, we realize what an incredible bond we have because of our shared lives growing up with each other, in the same place, at the same time.
Our paths were typical of many women. After graduation from high school, we scattered to different colleges, or, even if we were at the same college, our path diverged. Soon we saw friends walking down the aisle. Soon we saw friends becoming parents.
Then geography took over as well. I moved to Montana. Some stayed in the Silver Valley. Others ventured farther, to Washington, Alaska, Wisconsin, other parts of Idaho and beyond.
We had a season of establishing our lives, our careers, our families.
Then, about 14 years ago, we started connecting again. On a yearly basis. Each Christmas, we would gather to visit, share gifts, and get caught up on our lives. It was always a time I looked forward to each year. I rarely, if ever, missed one of these get-togethers.
This year, as our lives are again transitioning, with our children getting older, and many of us becoming "empty nesters", we are now gathering together on a monthly basis. And these monthly times together are not just to visit and catch up, (even though that happens, too). These are times of meaningful dialogue and sharing about who we really are, and who are the women we have become throughout the years. We have reverted back to "Show and Tell" and "Storytime"....but at a much more adult and personal level.
The beauty of doing something like this with this group of women, is we have been together in one way or another throughout most of the journey. Even though we may have been separated through time or distance, we have all contributed and been a part of each other's journey.
We started off the year making "Vision Boards". We wrote and shared lists of what sophistication and success means to us. We took a look at different areas of our lives, and determined how satisfied we were with those areas at this part in our lives.
Yes, we have an assignment, or "homework" each time we get together. Last night our assignment was this:
"Try this: Set aside one hour's writing time. You may with to take yourself to neutral territory , a café or coffee shop. Once there, settle in to write and to describe yourself as you would a literary character, in the third person. Not "I am fifty-four years old" but "She is fifty-four years old." Describe your looks, your attitudes, your perceptions. Try to draw a clear portrait of yourself, filled with telling details. In other words, pay attention to how you are and how you are doing."
(Right now we are getting our assignments from a book by Julia Cameron called "The Sound of Paper: Starting from Scratch".)
It is hard to describe how incredible it is to be gathered around a table with women you love, and have loved for a majority of your life, and have them share their view of themselves. Then to get positive encouragement and feedback from those gathered around the table. And to be reminded again and again and again what wonderful, complex, kind, loving and fabulous women I have in my life. Women who have gone through trials and tribulations, joys and triumphs, and continue to go through trials and tribulations, joys and triumphs, but have used these moments, whether good or bad, to shape them into the people they are today.
Because who we are today is a culmination of the things along our journey, and how we have reacted to them. And each of us have, in one way or another, become intertwined with each other, and are now sharing our separate journeys and helping each other on the way to continue the shaping process.
I was a bit overwhelmed last night as I shared my own story, and listened to others stories.
And realized that we need one another. We need this interaction. And obviously everyone who has come together needs it as well, because it is becoming a priority in our monthly lives to gather together.
I showed a video to my students recently, a TED Talk by Scott Dinsmore who started the website "Live Your Legend", and he shared his story about how his business got started. Part of his success he credits to surrounding himself with people who told him he could do it, and who motivated and told him to believe the impossible. One of the statements on his website says:
And make sure to choose your friends carefully. They dictate your potential.
Right now I am surrounding myself with these women who encourage and push me. They love me for who I am. They cheer me on, even if they don't realize they are cheering me on.
Recently I sent an email to one of these women, and was able to make this statement:
"I feel like I am on the edge of something great, and this summer is the preparation I need to take a big jump. I'm just not sure what exactly I'm am jumping in to....but that is what makes the process so fun!"
And I really don't think I would have come to the place I am right now without these women.
Because they have helped shape me. Along with all the other things in my life, they have helped shape me. They have been a part of the process.
And I look forward to our time together as we continue to help shape, love and encourage one another.
Because it is a precious and wonderful gift.
Here are some of the women who have helped shape me over the years. Later in the evening, we brought another woman into our group through the beauty of technology. We Skyped with one of our lifelong friends who now lives in Germany, and who recently had a birthday. So we all wished her a Happy Birthday, and spent about two hours, as our day ended, and her day began, getting caught up with her.