I'm making myself a cup of coffee today, but only one. For the past 11 years, on Thursday afternoons, I've been making two cups of coffee for painting lessons with my friend and painting cohort, Sharon, and we would spend the afternoon talking, laughing, and yes, painting. This week, however, my friend is off on her next big adventure- moving to Cape Cod, closer to her sister, to live on a lake and enjoy the good life!
She and I are, in reality, polar opposites. Sharon is methodical, a planner, organized, prioritizes her life and goals, creates rituals and traditions, and just generally has her stuff together in every area. I would not describe myself as any of those things on a consistent basis, but spending time with her made me more mindful of those areas I would like to improve in. I loved the fact that she brought the same tin coffee can for her water for over a decade. Or how she starts every day making her bed , because it's her first accomplishment of the day. She filled me in on her home maintenance projects, travel plans, exercise classes, church meetings, and symphony outings. I love and admire her energy and her commitment to fulfillment and balance in her life.
Sharon and I are different in age, she is from the city and I am not, and as she was working successfully in the corporate world, I was becoming a mother. Although our lives and experiences are not all similar, we are also kindred spirits.
We love talking about anything and everything- writing, books, art and music, spiritual issues, politics, family and struggles. We find the same things funny and have lots of the same perspectives on life. To illustrate just how simpatico we are, when I felt compelled to write a blog about adjusting to changes in life- read it here -Sharon replied that after she read it, she was convinced that it was time for her to "adjust her sails" and go for it! I'm not sure if I'm happy or sad about writing that blog yet, but it was intuitively written and I can't help but think it was meant to be.
Sharon pulled up to my house at 12:30 sharp each week. I could set my clock by it, and over time, seeing her car pull up became a beautiful little gift in the middle of my week. In fact, through all that happened in my life over the past decade, our lesson each week was probably what kept me painting at all. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, Sharon kept showing up. She also brought me meals and gave me wonderful easy recipes. And she kept showing up. Through treatment, through recovery, I could count on seeing her each week, talking about life, painting, and a myriad of other things other than cancer, and at the end, we always looked forward to the next week.
When my mom began declining in memory, I would talk to Sharon about it and she would share about her earlier experiences with her own mother. We talked about subjects I normally would have talked to my mom about. She became a source of objective advice, and a caring confidant. And always, we laughed. Truly, I could, and did, share everything with my friend.
Sharon has had her own share of difficulty, heavy loss and pain in her life.. And what I learned from her over a decade of sharing our lives for a couple of hours each week, is that she is an empowered, courageous, and remarkable woman. She walks her path with faith and looking toward the future, always finding ways to fill herself spiritually, creatively, and intellectually. She shows up, plans her next trip, paints, writes, finds people to connect with, and does her thing!
Over the past decade, we created space to be artists together. And each week, when she left, I would say "See you next week!" and she would reply " Yes you will!" I love all that simple response contained- an optimistic outlook, a promise, hopefulness, and friendship. I am going to miss my dear friend. As I was contemplating my Thursday afternoon void one morning, I realized that Sharon had gifted me this beautiful ritual, one that I would never have stuck to for over a decade if it had not been for her. And now, this time is carved out for my own art, my own creative space. And I will honor her gift every Thursday . 12:30 sharp!