A dear friend of mine of many years called me up a few days ago. We chatted for an hour catching up on so many changes in our lives. My ex and I were closed to her and her husband. We were inseparable for many years. We endured incredible pain and losses. She lost her husband a few years ago. I moved to North Carolina. Life happens! Things change and growth takes over in a way that we don’t recognize the people we once were until we reconnect with those souls that remind us of who we have become. We lose track of the drama, challenges, and day-to-day mundane living. So to catch up and hear her struggles reminds me of how far we’ve both have traveled. It allows me to see the mirror of strength, tenacity and faith. It’s never easy to pick up, move on, and leave toxic relationships. It’s never easy to face the disasters that we have been blinded to see until that moment when we can see clearly. It’s even harder to release the guilt and shame of anything in the past. But, we must.
In the midst of this conversation she said, “I have become very picky at who I allow to come play in my playground.” I was in a store when she said this. In between picking up incense and a bottle of water I stopped and just had a huge aha moment. I understood this. I just never heard it with such simplicity. I got it clearly and in a few seconds my mind traced back the many folks I allowed to play when they didn’t deserve the privilege to share with me in my joyous space.
You want to learn who your friends are? Go through some major life event and see who has the guts to stand by you. You want to witness how people behave? Watch how they react to illness, loss, and financial changes in your life. We have been programmed to step back and just disappear. But, in truth, a true friend will not judge you, shame you, or blame you for anything that’s happening in their lives because life has no stop signs, only yellow warning lights. You can’t just sit forever and let it pass by. You have to keep moving.
I decided at that moment, hearing these words, that it’s important to be aware of the folks you let into your playground. It’s imperative that you choose wisely who will share in your joy, laughter, sorrows, secrets, and journey. It’s important to remember that not everyone is carefree without an agenda. Some people have ulterior motives that eventually hurt and you never see it coming until it’s too late.
I sent her some pictures of my adventure with my daughter yesterday and she sent back, “I belong in your playground.” I belong in hers and many others. That’s the beauty of playgrounds, they are free to enter as long as you remember that the sandbox is not for dumping your crap and leaving it to stink up the place.
You do not have to entertain everyone who enters your life with the same openness. You are, however, responsible for kindness, love and empathy. But, you do not need to allow every single person into your space with the same intensity that you would share with those who have your back. Intimacy is earned. Now, go create a playground that makes you sing with joy and live in the moment. I look forward to visiting some of those spaces!