I just spent almost a week celebrating my 80th birthday and it was wonderful. There were cards and letters from many lovely people and some dear old friends showed up for the party. What good fortune to live long enough to really enjoy life!
Whoever it was that said, “Youth is wasted on the young”, wasn’t looking at the whole picture. It seems to me that every decade brings great joy and great adventures. I loved being 18 in some ways and I love being 80 in other ways. It truly is all good.
One important difference this year was that my church, my family, my friends, and I, all made a big deal out of this birthday. I don’t usually pay much attention but this one impressed me. I even spoke on the topic, “What I Have Learned”. You can find it on the CSL Carlsbad website.
The co-pastors of the Center, Rev. Debby ODonnell and Rev. Mattie Dobbs let some of my old friends know about the day and I was surprised and grateful to hear from so many. It made me feel very loved.
Some of my favorite people showed up from far away places. I received wonderful letters from old friends – some who moved far away and also from people who are relatively new to the church. You have no idea how great it is to get missives telling you how your teaching of Science of Mind has changed someone’s life.
I started the church almost 25 years ago with only one idea. I wanted to teach Science of Mind and, according to my notes, cards and letters, I did it! It took several hours to read everyone’s messages. They nearly all told me how much they had learned Science of Mind from the church and my books and how it helped them. I believe their kind words and today I feel as though I have achieved my dream.
The letters and notes were one high point. The former students who visited were another. So were the many volunteers in the church who helped organize a spectacular church event. It was all perfect.
Funny thing about birthdays. We change a lot as we go along the years but we are still the same person. I sometimes forget I’m not still that young girl with her nose buried in the book or that young mother caring for an infant. It feels like a very short time since I started the Center For Spiritual Living in Carlsbad. I am eternally young.
On the other hand, the mirror tells a different story. I have changed physically and emotionally. No roller skating anytime soon but I have mellowed a lot. I am not nearly as unhappy as I was when I was younger. I like life more. I like people better.
Science of Mind gave me a sense of self-worth that I really needed. It has also gave me the courage to reach out and connect with people. I didn’t do that as well as a younger person. Strangers seemed threatening.
Some people seem to be born friendly and to enjoy people, even as teenagers and younger adults. I tended to be all tied up in myself, in my problems and my work. I have met many more good friends in my second half of life – mostly through my church.
I started going to church to heal emotionally and to succeed at my writing work. I wasn’t thinking about friendships. When I became a leader in church, it surprised me that so many people joined a church to make friends. I think I may have even disapproved.
The idea of a spiritual community grew on me rather quickly because I met so many great people who were students and leaders of Science of Mind. At some point, I realized that whatever brought the people together was good. We are One in God. Now, although I still believe the purpose of church should be to teach how to use spiritual law, I no longer cringe when I hear “spiritual community.” I have reconsidered as I wised up.
It now seems to me that my dear friends – old and new – are one of my greatest gifts from this teaching. Of course, I know spiritual law well enough to understand my ability to create solid friendships has developed because I’ve learned to love and accept myself more. I now can also love and accept others easier.
As I have learned to make good friends, I have had to release the expectations about my friends agreeing with me. I no longer need someone to reinforce my beliefs to accept him or her into my life. When I was younger, I was more insecure so I only wanted friendships with people like me. I needed agreement! Unfortunately, in those days, I couldn’t always agree with myself.
I’ve matured. I’ve learned that my grandmother was right when she said there is more than one way to skin a cat. I still don’t know why anyone would want to skin a cat but I do know that people go about life differently and if it works for them, it works from me.
The joy of having an active spiritual community is that it is a place to meet people with similarities who are willing to let you be in their lives without being in your back pocket. Some people only want one best friend but that isn’t enough for me. I am too complicated for just one best friend. I agree with Walt Whitman who said, “I contain multitudes.”
One at a time, amazing people have gathered in my life and each one has opened up a new view of how life can be lived. I learned to be alike them in some ways and skipped the rest. This friend is interested in art and so am I. This one loves to chat about old movies and so do I. We touch but we do not flatten each other.
I especially treasure those friends who make me laugh. Laughter is such a gift in anyone’s life. I can be just as close to the serious ones if I feel they are honest and true. The only thing I watch for is that the friendship is balanced and not just one person trying to cheer the other up all the time. There is more to friendship than nurturing although that can be very important.
Mostly, I believe friends should cherish each other for who they are. None of us is alike but we are all blooming in God’s garden, delighting each other with our differences as well as with our likenesses and agreements.
Here’s one thing I’ve learned I want to share. When we widen our viewpoint and appreciate life for what it is, we can open up to more people’s friendship. When we accept that we are all Love in action (or God in action), then we can widen each other’s scope of life. We will find friends easily.
I had a happy birthday and I thank you. If you are reading this blog, you are my friend and that means we are a gift to each other.
Do I want more friends?
What kinds of people would I like to know better?
Am I a good friend to myself?