Can We Just Be Friends?

I’ve been struggling with this question for awhile now, but it really hit home this week.  Probably one of the most influential movies that has impacted my understanding of this question came when I first watched the now classic, “When Harry Met Sally” and heard Billy Crystal’s character state in a matter of fact voice that men and women can never REALLY be friends because the sex part always gets in the way.  That gave and still gives me pause.  Over the years, I have tested this hypothesis and I have come to conclude that there is  A LOT of truth to it.  Notice that I didn’t say that it is 100% accurate, however; in my experience, it is mostly true.

Can men and women be friends?  Yes.  Does the sex part get in the way?  Yes.  Can they be friends in spite of this? Yes? Probably?  Maybe?  Actually, I have no valid data to confirm this.  I do believe it is possible, just like I believe that faeries and unicorns exist somewhere, even though I can’t see them in this dimension.

For starters, it might be good to define what we mean when we say “friends” and to qualify it a little. Let’s check in with Oxford just to be on the safe side.  A friend is:

A person with whom one has a bond of mutual affection, typically one exclusive of sexual or family relations.

A person who is not an enemy or opponent; an ally.

A contact on a social networking website.

To be (or become) on good or affectionate terms with someone.

After looking at all of these definitions, I am partial to the word and definition of friendship instead.  It seems like a more accurate description of what I consider important.  I can be “friends” with hundreds of people, but far fewer of those friends involve true friendship.  This is particularly true of my friendships with men.  Oxford defines friendship as:

 . . . a close association between two people marked by feelings of care, respect, admiration, concern, or even love.

So why am I picking on men today?  There is a reason of course, and it is fueled by a man I recently met and have been getting to know for a few months.  He showed up at a time when I wasn’t looking and when I think I needed to believe that people like him exist.  He was my unicorn.

I met him while I was sitting on a log, enjoying the scenery of the aspen along Kenosha Pass.  Even though I enjoy group hikes, I also love being in nature alone, and such was the case on this day.  I had stopped to rest and have a snack before heading back the three miles or so to my car when a single man (with no ring on his wedding finger), stopped to ask for directions.  I gave them and as he continued on his way, I thought to myself, “now, that is the kind of guy I need to be with.” I thought this because he was out adventuring alone, enjoying nature in a similar way and he appeared to be single.

I was already in the process of gathering my things and continuing on my way when he paused as if he had heard my inward thoughts, turned around and headed back toward me.  I looked at him and asked, “change your mind?” We started up a conversation as we walked back through the wonderland of golden leaves and mystic trees. As we neared our vehicles, he asked if I’d like to exchange numbers and go on some hikes together in the future.  For the record, I have never done that.  I’ve never just handed out my number to a man I just met in the woods, but the connection I felt in that moment was undeniable and friendly, so I did.

Less than a week later, he proved to be someone I could count on in a way I had never imagined.  He inspired and encouraged me to fulfill my personal goal of hiking up to Gray’s Peak for my very first 14er.  For a hike that started at 6 a.m. and ended almost 10 hours later, we got to know each other more quickly than usual.  You don’t truly know someone until you’ve had to hide behind a rock and pee when they are nearby!

It was a few days afterward that I stumbled upon his Facebook page (Ok, fine, I searched for him). What I found was not what I expected; a recent profile photo of him posing with his adult children, and a very obvious wedding ring on his finger.  I thought it strange (and alarming) that he had left out this very important detail about himself.

To be honest, I was more than alarmed, I was downright pissed.  It felt like an intentional omission, and one that hit a nerve because of my own personal history.  When I asked about it, he didn’t deny it and confessed that he didn’t mean to hide it from me. There was already a feeling of connection and chemistry brewing between us so it felt like this changed everything about our friendship and what seemed to be evolving between us.  While it’s not like he lied, he also didn’t present the truth that a wedding ring implies.  We talked about his situation, and based on what he shared, it seemed like it would be safe to continue our friendship without stepping on his vows, which he assured me were over.

Every couple of weeks, we would meet at the crack of dawn and go on an epic hike somewhere.  It was nice to finally meet a man organically, without the taxing effort of online dating.  We  laughed so much on these excursions and realized our mutual love for nature.  He was always very respectful and conscientious of honoring my boundaries, and it felt safe and solid to be around him.  This was entirely new to me and I got swept up in it.

During the moments in between our hikes, there was much flirting and communicating via text messages, and a few phone calls.  It was about this time that it occurred to me that I needed to clarify a few things about the status of his divorce proceedings.  Being ready to sign on the dotted line is much different than just living under different roofs.  It turns out that he didn’t even have a lawyer yet.

As the truth of the situation came to light, he began to pull away.  Suddenly, the closeness that had been so easy and tangible at the beginning, was replaced with mild indifference and a formality that felt foreign.  I started to question whether I had imagined the connection entirely. The energy between us started to yo-yo between two extremes and it left me feeling much less safe and grounded.

In an effort to be a grown-up and not make assumptions, I asked what was going on.  His response was the type of bullshit answer that I have heard in various forms from a long line of men throughout my life, and it was not well-received.  It sounded like a cop-out and in one swift moment, two months of budding friendship became tenuous.

In a recent blog, I shared about how I had finally managed to let go of 18 years of anger, blame and hurt from my own divorce.  I know that my friend is at the beginning of this process, and that he has a long road ahead of him.  How can I be friends with someone without giving in to my curiosity and attraction to him?  The answer is simple.

I have come to the conclusion that this chance meeting and the challenging emotions that have surfaced within me because of it, are here for a reason.  I just don’t truly know the reason right now, but I think it involves learning to allow my friends to be where they are without needing them to be where I want them to be.  In other words, to accept them without condition, and focus on my feelings of care, respect and kindness.

I’ve had to ask myself some tough questions.  Am I the kind of person who only wants to be friends with those who have successfully walked through the fire of change? Or do I want to be the kind of friend that walks beside them, giving encouragement and acceptance along the way?  It is the latter of course, and I finally realize that in order to do this, I must stop projecting my expectations onto them, and just sit back and be grateful that they showed up at all.  On this day of Thanksgiving, I am grateful for all the perfectly imperfect people who show up for me, and give me the support I need, when I least expect it.  I hope that I can return the favor, and give back all that I have received with unconditional love and acceptance.

 

Forgiveness Looks Good on You

Letting go is in the air.  Trees are doing it.  The seasons are doing it.  Seems like we are in good company if we want to do it.  I’ve been carrying something for a really, really long time, and this week, I made a decision that I am ready to let it go.  This week, was the mother of all weeks,  thanks to a Full Moon on 11/11 in Mercury Retrograde.  Oh yeah.  Good stuff.  If you didn’t feel it, then I guarantee you just weren’t paying attention.

This was the kind of week that is like a naughty puppy, or child, the kind that will do just about anything, good or bad, to get your attention.  It got mine, that’s for damn sure.  I’ve been yo-yoing between waking up at 3 a.m., unable to fall back to sleep and going to sleep at 8 p.m. the next night to make up for it; but my desire to let go started on my only day off of the week and the first Saturday I’ve had off in recent memory that had drop-dead gorgeous weather. All my usual hiking partners were busy doing their own thing, so I grabbed my aging, but ever-willing pup, and we headed to the woods of Nederland and the Hessie Trailhead with the intention of hiking up to Jasper Lake off of Devil’s Thumb trail.

I packed my micro spikes, some borrowed snowshoes and plenty of layers in preparation for the deep snow that I knew would meet me at the top, and got to the trailhead by 6:45 a.m. along with a record minimum of only 5 other cars.  I love getting up really early to hike, and not just because it usually means less people will be there.  The light is so stunning as it rises over the horizon and touches the trees and mountains in front of it.  There is nothing like it, and pictures just don’t do it justice.

It was cold, icy and perfectly quiet; my favorite hiking conditions. About two miles in, we made it to the trail that would take us to the elusive Jasper Lake.  I say elusive because I had a hard time finding any sort of direct trail to it via my AllTrails app, so I used the Devil’s Thumb Pass to King Lake trail as a guide to show me the route that would take me to Jasper Lake without hiking the full 15 mile loop.

The trail became a single file, narrow path with at least a foot of snow on either side.  I was feeling very much like I was in the Robert Frost poem,  The Road Less Traveled since it was clear that the majority of humanity was taking the trail that leads to Lost Lake.  We got to an open area with an amazing view and an Indian Peaks Wilderness sign that seems oddly out of place.  The wind started howling as we hiked across the exposed landscape.  The snow here had given way to the dried up grass beneath it, but this was misleading because just on the other side, the thick snow returned and I had to switch to my snowshoes.

Since I was attempting to record my route, I had downloaded the trail to my phone and was using it to pick my way through the now two feet of snow.  Many wrong turns later, I finally found a single set of footprints that led the way into an area that had not seen any other humans since the most recent snow storm.   It was eerily quiet and the silence and view invited contemplation.

We were about four miles in and still had two to go before we would hit the lake.  My dog was so done.  He had not been on such a long hike in over a year and even though he wasn’t overheating, he was definitely tired.  One look at him using the snow as a pillow, and I knew we weren’t going to make it to the lake.  We pulled over, found a few rocks near the edge of a cliff and sat down to enjoy the view with some cold pizza for me and apple slices for him.

I started thinking about my life and what I wanted for the rest of it.  For close to 20 years, I have been on a crusade of defiance.  That crusade began when the ink dried on my divorce papers and I decided that men were not to be trusted.  I lost something very dear to me that day. I lost a piece of my heart, and I have wasted many years aiming blame and guilt at the person who took it from me.  I stood up, and spoke out loud to the trees and mountains around me and set an intention that I was ready to let all of that pain go.  I asked to be guided to release my anger and hurt and find a way to forgive him, and the Universe heard me.

As is oft the case, I promptly forgot the magnitude of my request, when first thing Monday morning, men from my recent past started popping up like forgotten popcorn kernels.  These were men I had met since arriving in Colorado, not my former husband, but they gave me some much needed closure and tested my resolve for forgiveness.   It was about this time that I realized it was 11/11 which in numerology is a power number sequence that is like a door opening in the fabric of consciousness that surrounds our forgotten awareness that we are creator gods.

“Angel Number 111 signifies that an energetic gateway has opened up for you, and this will rapidly manifest your thoughts into reality.” – Joanne Walmsley – Sacred Scribes

That evening, I found some instructions on how to use the power of the full moon and this numerological anomaly happening during Mercury Retrograde .  I wanted to wait until 11:11 p.m. to give this little ceremony an extra added boost, but started early because I knew this was unlikely to happen.  I made my list, burned it, and then wrote down the top three things that had stood out from it.  I took this list, put it in an envelope and went to bed.

The following day I was invited to participate in a mini Tibetan bowl sound healing session with some graduating students at Atma Buti Sound Healing School.  Sound is a powerful healer and one that I had not previously experienced in this way before.  Surrounded by bowls as I lay facedown on a massage table, another bowl was placed on my lower back and as it was struck, I felt a shot of energy rise up my spine and out of the top of my head.  That was the beginning of an even deeper shift that was soon to follow.

On Friday, I was gifted with a full body sound healing session from a very loving woman and healer I am lucky to call a friend and co-worker.  When she asked if I’d like to set an intention for our session, I knew that my request from the Universe on Saturday had come full circle.  I restated my desire to let go of the pain from my divorce and all the broken relationships that had followed.

During the session, I could feel this knot in my belly, right around the 3rd chakra/solar plexus area.  I knew that is where I was holding all the pain, and I knew I was ready to release it.  It is one thing to decide to let go and it is another thing to actually do it.  Knowing how to do it does not come naturally for me or most people I know, but when we do it, we definitely know it.  I pictured my former husband and I saw him as someone who came into my life to to be the “bad” one so that I could embrace radical forgiveness and know myself in a new way.

The tears poured out of me and I sobbed until I was empty.  I cried for everything that I had lost and for the hope of something that I know I will find again.  I visualized him surrounded in white light and I sent him a heart hug of forgiveness.  I don’t know if he will feel it, and I don’t plan on telling him about it, but I feel it.  I woke up this morning and as I look at my reflection, I see someone I haven’t seen in a long time.  In the act of forgiveness, I have reclaimed a piece of myself that I lost when I embraced the hurt from my divorce and planted it in my center.  My journey is far from over, but I think I am on the right path now, and I’m excited to see where it leads.

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The Moments That Change Us

This past Labor Day weekend, I went to a retreat near the Rocky Mountains in Estes Park that has changed me from the ground up.   I was there to work and be of service, but as is often the case, I was not immune to the energy of great minds and hearts, powerful speakers, healing services, ancient ceremonies and early morning hikes and sunrises.

I was able to experience a Puja Blessing and Kirtan, an early morning Silent Zen Bell Walking Meditation,  a pre-dawn Harmonizing Nature Hike which included a full sage clearing and sunrise grounding and a Thunder Drum Circle in the lineage of the Plains Indians.  Aside from the stellar cast of speakers, writers and musicians, I was introduced to over 30 men and women involved in Sound Healing using Tibetan Singing Bowls, some of whom were also Reiki masters, therapists, doctors, fellow rock and crystal hounds and of course, loads and loads of yoga teachers.

With that many different healers under one roof; positive and gut-wrenching change is guaranteed.  It was like we all took turns having an emotional meltdown including unstoppable tears that came out of nowhere, stream of conscious journaling, the healing balm of nature and lots of support and hugs.

After a particularly emotional day, I connected with a woman who specializes in past-life regression, and I was all over that one.  We did a mini-session that took me back to a life that showed me the “mask” I’ve been hiding behind out of fear of revealing my True Self. I was surrounded with love and support from my deceased loved oneIMG_2032s during this process and I can still feel them near me.

The following day found me awake before dawn, hiking up a mountain in the dark with a small group of new friends.  I had been given two pieces of beautiful pyrite and told to keep one and give one back to Mother Earth.  As I stumbled up, tripping over roots and rocks, I was on a silent mission to be led to the place where I could plant my gift.

After the sun finished its rise, our small group wondered off to explore and connect in our own way.  I saw a hidden area with lots of little birds hopping around and chirping, so I went to investigate.  I was admiring the intimate relationship between the sun and the mountains when I glanced down and saw a feather on the ground.  I knelt down, picked it up and held it to the sun.  Just then, I knew this was the perfect place to plant my stone.  A silent bond was formed in that moment, with the sun, mountains and my ancestors showing me the way without saying a word.

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