Rise Above It

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“Rise above it, Jayne. Rise above it.” That’s what my friend Murph used to say whenever the two of us would get upset over a work-related issue, especially the ones involving people. She was right, of course. There’s no point in getting bent out of shape because someone is being irresponsible, smart-alecky, bull-headed, or downright belligerent.

There are at least half a dozen other phrases that convey similar messages, and I’ve been thinking about them quite a bit lately. We’re told to turn the other cheek in Matthew 5:39, and in Matthew 18:22, there’s that seventy times seven thing. You know what I’m talking about, the reminder of how often you’re supposed to forgive. Sometimes forgiving is easier said than done, and yet I know that being unforgiving can be especially poisonous to the one holding a grudge.

The Bible isn’t the only source of reminders to let things go. “Don’t take anything personally,” reminds Don Miguel Ruiz in his book The Four Agreements. According to Ruiz, if someone hurts you verbally, physically, or emotionally, it says more about the other person than it does about you. If someone tells you to stop that caterwauling when you’re singing your heart out, don’t take it personally. Maybe the other person doesn’t know good singing when she hears it. Or maybe she doesn’t appreciate that particular type of singing. Then again, she could just be tired and in need of some peace and quiet.

Then there are quotes from famous people that often ring true. Regardless of what you’re going though, there’s a perfect quote from someone you admire who’s “been there, done that” that can make you feel okay again. Eleanor Roosevelt said “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Thanks Mrs. Roosevelt. I will not, will not, will not give my consent.

Even among the best of friends and the closest of family ties, there are occasional comments, oversights, or slurs that can break one’s wings. At those times, you just have to rise above it, be forgiving, refuse to take things personally, and decline to give your consent.

Widen the Circle, Part II

Amanda, are you reading this? I hope so because you’re the one who’s prompted much of my recent thinking about the importance of friends. In a recent blog entitled “Widen the Circle,” I mentioned that Amanda and I had talked about the adjustments we both had to make in moving to new areas. Both of us realized the importance of making new friends, and both of us stepped out of our comfort zones to do so.

How did we do it? For one thing, we both became involved in book clubs. Before I moved back home, I asked DH what I would do with my time when not working or hanging out with him or cleaning my house…er, make that “homecaring.” I told him I thought I might start a book club. “Surely there’s someone like me in good old historic Southern Town USA,” I said. He looked at me and declared that no, there was no one like me anywhere. Gotta love the guy!

He was wrong. After being “home” for three months, I started a book club at the two-year college where I’m employed. That was nearly seven years, and it’s still going strong. There are months when only three of us have attended, but for the most part, it’s an active group of about seven or eight. We usually meet in a restaurant of the facilitator’s choice, and it seems to be working well. In response to the LDS Church’s focus on literacy, some friends and I started a book club, a.k.a. reading group, which grew out of our association in Relief Society. That was five years ago, and we’re still meeting regularly in a different member’s home each month.

Because of these associations, I’ve read books that I probably wouldn’t have otherwise, AND I’ve met some phenomenal people. Quick case in point: Kristi is quiet and demure at church, but I discovered quickly that she and Michelle LOVE Pride and Prejudice, the book and the movie. I’m thinking of one night when the two of them, with great passion, shared a movie clip of that misty morning on the moor with the rest of us. Speaking of people, Amanda too is part of a reading group in Atlanta. Since Paul has Tuesday and Thursday night classes, she decided to “widen her circle” by joining a reading group, and I’m extremely interested in a book she was telling me about, something to do with women and geography.

About the books themselves, we have some guidelines that we go by. Basically, we stick to novels, and in the church related group, we don’t read what one member referred to as “trash.” Of course, we all have different definitions of that so if someone is offended by a selection, then she doesn’t have to read it. What a wonderful way to get to know others better. We exchange ideas, socialize for a bit, and go away feeling a bit more knowledgeable.

A couple of months ago, I began attending a Bible study on Esther at First Baptist, and I enjoyed it immensely. It’s over now, and the facilitator has begun another one for the Wednesday night crowd called “Wising Up,” a study of Proverbs just for women. I’m loving it. I’ve always enjoyed learning, and this is great because there are no tests and no papers to write. Plus, I enjoy the camaraderie and exchange of ideas with the other women there. I discovered last week that I’m probably the oldest gal there, but that doesn’t matter. I enjoy being with young and old and all ages in-between.

One motive for writing this blog was to encourage people who are reluctant to move outside of their comfort zone to do so. Look in the newspaper for local events or happenings and GO. If someone asks you to join a book club, and you like books and people, say yes. Amanda did, and so did I.

Another motive was to write something that would fit Eleanor Roosevelt’s quote about people being interesting. Here it is: “If you approach each new person you meet in a spirit of adventure you will find that you become increasingly interested in them and endlessly fascinated by the new channels of thought and experience that you encounter. I do not mean simply the famous people of the world but people from every walk and condition of life. You will find them a source of inexhaustible surprise because of the unexpected qualities and interests which you will unearth in your search for treasure.”

Widen the Circle

Last weekend Amanda, my sweet daughter-in-law, and I were talking about changes in life, and she mentioned how much she missed Myrtle Beach and expressed the hope that they’d move back there someday. Since she and Paul both grew up in the area, I’m sure it was hard to leave family and friends for Atlanta. When Amanda mentioned that the main friends they now have are from church and work, it got me to thinking about friends and the importance of keeping the old and of making new ones. Plus, it reminded me of a quote I read by Eleanor Roosevelt last week: “The narrower you make the circle of your friends, the narrower will be your experience of people and the narrower will your interests become. It is an important part of one’s personal choices to decide to widen the circle of one’s acquaintances whenever one can.”

Being back in my hometown has occasionally thrown me into the company of friends and acquaintances from the past. It’s enjoyable to rub shoulders with those with whom I share a history, people who know my “back story.” Being around Patty and Joan Ella this past weekend reminded me of the importance of roots, memories, and a collective past.

At the same time, new friends are wonderful too. Sitting with Connie at church Sunday reinforced that. We share the same faith, ups and downs with our children and grandchildren, a love of books, an appreciation of terms like feng shui and wabi sabi, excitement over terms like Namaste, and an appreciation for the several ways one can accessorize black. A couple of other “C” friends, Carol and Cindy from Church, have also added to my enjoyment of life back in good old Camden. So have dozens of other Relief Society members. Our shared sisterhood in the gospel of Jesus Christ centers our lives and provides a sense of community and belongingness like no other…unless it’s with family.

Then there are work friends, people I’d never even laid eyes on this time seven years ago but who are now people whose conversation and company I’ve come to enjoy. Four of us are heading to New York City the day after graduation, and almost daily we discuss some little detail of our trip. Martha ordered the tickets for West Side Story and gave me mine today. Lisa and I had planned to look at the times of the ferry rides to Ellis Island, but we were interrupted by a student who needed a listening ear. Again, these people were complete strangers to me seven years ago.

On Thursday of last week my sister Ann and I went to MUSC to sit with my sister-in-law while my brother was in surgery, and while we were sitting in the fourth floor surgical waiting room, I heard someone say, “Jayne” in a soft, almost inaudible voice. I turned to see Ellen, a woman with whom I worked when I lived at the coast. Talking to her conjured up all sorts of recollections of dear friends with whom I shared so many good times during our “trying twenties” and “catch thirties.” Er, I guess we shared much of our forties too. We went through marriages, children, divorces, remarriages, disappointments, promotions, and a host of other vicissitudes of adult life. June, if you’re out there reading this, I miss you…and Ella, Elaine, Mary, Gail, Millie, Judy, Linda, Murph, and Teresa.

Last but far from least, there are my blog friends, most of whom I’ve never seen eye-to-eye but whose voices have become familiar and important to me. They’ve stimulated my thinking and broadened my horizons. At odd times, I find myself thinking about one or another of them (of you!) and wondering how a certain situation is evolving. Right now, NoSurfGirl’s little girls are on my mind.

I’ve gone on longer than I intended. Sorry about that. My purpose was to stress the importance of friends and to let Amanda know what a feast she has in store for her as she travels through her adult years. Reading E. Roosevelt’s quote and thinking about friends has encouraged me to continue widening my circle of acquaintances and friends.