Living Outside Your Comfort Zone

I am not an incredibly social person.  If there were a picture of an introvert in the dictionary, I could easily be there.  It isn’t that I don’t like being around people, I just really struggle to start conversations and make new friends.

As the few friends I do have would tell you, once you get me going on the right subject I may never stop.  Fortunately for me, I have a wife that forces me to be social far more often than I would choose to be on my own.

Tonight she made me go to a theme Christmas party.  She forwarded me the invitation which I subconciously ignored until she started putting our costumes together.  This is totally her type of thing, and totally not mine, but it was good to get to know more people in our new home better.

We had some nice treats, and some good laughs, and just a nice time with a lot of really nice people.  It was super out of my comfort zone, but I’m glad we went because I need to expand myself, and we really do need to make some good friends since we are planning to stay here for a long time.

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Friends Waiting on the Other Side

It has been two years since a dear friend of mine finally lost his battle with cancer.  Rare is the day that I don’t think about him and the beautiful mark he left on this world.

It has been nearly 20 years since his older brother took his own life, also leaving this world far too soon.

I think the thing that sucks most about getting older is that this list, which I have shared only a small part of, keeps getting longer.  While it sucks to lose the ones we love, how blessed are we to have known them here, and to know that we will see them again.

I know with all my heart that the people we love and cherish are on the proverbial “other side” awaiting our reunions with equal excitement.  It is not that either of us hope we end this mortal journey early, simply that the love we have for each other extends beyond the bounds of phyisical life, and rests in the deepest parts of our souls.

While it is true that love can be described through Neuro chemical reactions, there is a spiritual dimension that, while we don’t understand it, has a much more lasting affect on our relationships.  The joy that we experience with those special people in our lives is something that cannot be explained with words because it is truly beyond our mortal comprehension.

I guess this is just a really long way of saying I miss my friends and family that have already left this mortal world, and I look forward to the day where we will again be reunited.

It’s Great to See an Old Friend

One of the fun things about being in the military is that you end up with friends all over the world.  Then you are occasionally lucky enough to meet up with some of them.  

That happened to me today when I got to see a friend I have had since I went to C-130 school in Little Rock and then got to serve in Japan with.  We didn’t get to chat much because he was working but it is always fun to see a familiar face that makes you smile.

It’s Hard for Me to Make Friends

Believe it or not, I’m a pretty shy person.  I know some of the people that know me are throwing the bull crap flag right now, but it is true.

I am an introvert in every sense of the word.  While I do enjoy friendships once they have been made, I find it incredibly difficult to start them unless i have something to break the ice.

That I always one of my greatest challenges when I move and something i am experiencing right now.  In the past, flying has been the ice breaker that I use to make new friendships, but I am still waiting on paperwork so I can actually fly.

What this challenging situation does for me is remind me of how grateful I am for the friends that I do have.  It is not always who I would have expected when I first get somewhere new, but I am always happy for those few friends that I do have.

What does excite me about my new adventure is that I am not planning to leave for a long time.  Hopefully that means I will be able to keep the same friends for a much longer period of time and not have to go through this process again.

It is Always Nice to Take a Walk Down Memory Lane

My mom always used to say that she liked moving every so often because it helped her to throw stuff away that she wasn’t using.  That is very effective when you move yourself because inevitably you get tired of packing and start to question how badly you need those glasses that have sat on the shelf untouched for 5 years.

It is less effective when someone else does all the packing because you forget how much crap you have.  Fortunately, we had a terrible moving company in the states that didn’t unpack much of anything so now we are going through all of our stuff.

Today I went through a box that I have had for as long as I can remember.  It had stuff from before I was even in kindergarten.  That is more than 30 years ago for those keeping score at home.

It was so much fun to dig through old letters and pictures and projects from school.  I found thank you letters from teachers for gifts I had given them including my favorite teacher Mrs. Woodson.  

There were awards from scouts and church.  A pinewood derby car, trophies, pictures from high school dances, and even a yearbook of sorts from bootcamp.

As I sorted through three decades of memories it reminded me of all the amazing people I have known.  

I wish I had been a better friend to them.  I wish I had stayed in contact with them.  I am so grateful for the impact they had on my life, and at the very least a few funny memories.  

It is amazing how much you can forget in life that you are certain will always be in the front of your mind.  Fortunately, many of those things have simply become a part of who you are and don’t have to be clearly remembered.

We are all the sum total of our experiences and the people we interact with and that is truly an amazing thing.  It was so fun to take a stroll down memory lane today.

A Patch Hanging is a Chance to Remember

Lots of units in the military have all different types of traditions when it comes to saying goodbye to people.  Because this happens so often in the military, it is an important part of building unity and cohesiveness.

In our squadron, the tradition is to have a patch hanging when people leave.  It is an opportunity for anyone who wants to tell funny or inspiring stories about the person who is leaving, and then they take their name patch off their uniform and hang it on the wall where it will hang forever.

It is a great time to laugh and think about all of the great times you had together as a squadron family.  As someone that does not drink alcohol the stories about me were very take but greatly appreciated.

It really sucks that I am having to leave a year earlier than planned, but now that it is here I am ready for the next chapter.  As I hung my patch today it was really weird to be the one standing up there saying goodbye.  

I had some amazing experiences here, and met even more incredible people that influenced me in so many ways.  My life has changed more in these last two years than in any other two years before now, and I am so grateful for these changes.

It is definitely bitter sweet to be saying goodbye, but I will forever be grateful for the memories.

Friends Make Life Worth Living

Do you ever notice how certain days feel like they have a theme?  If not, then maybe you should stop and look at your life a little more closely, because they are there.  As you may have guessed by the title, the theme of today for me was friends.

I was watching an old episode of the wonderful show Boston Legal earlier today (side note: if you haven’t watched it, you definitely should) in which one of the characters says that we all put work before friendship.  While the word ALL is a little off the mark, far too many of us do, despite good intentions to not do so.

I would also add that it is not always work that forces friendship to the backburner but includes life, kids, marriage, hobbies.  It is easy to forget that people are the most important part of life because there is so much other great, and important, stuff out there.

The next thing that struck me related to friends was a video that I saw posted on Facebook.  I am not reposting it here as the subject matter could easily be misconstrued and possibly offend some people, and I never want to do that.  The short version though is that a comedian played a practical joke on a friend that played off of the stereotypes of the race of said friend.  The caption of the video was that only truly good friends could get away with something like this.

After listening to the story the caption was very true.  Were the same story to take place amongst people who were less friendly someone likely would be in jail for at least assault.  Instead, there were great laughs had by the friends as well as the people around them who saw the humor and got involved.

Once I realized that I needed to express my gratitude for friends today, I finally took the time to do something I had been encouraged to do months ago, but just never did because I am full of excuses.  Instead of writing this post, I first sent ten friends a message thanking them for being my friend and sharing some of the good memories we had together.

The list included an ex girlfriend, old coworkers, family members, and friends from high school.  Some of these people I still communicate with semi regularly, but others I go years in between talking to.  Yet each of them have provided value to my life that I appreciate and I wanted to clearly express that.

As I wrote each of those messages, it was an incredible walk down memory lane of the good times we had together.  There were a few sad thoughts of struggles we had faced, but otherwise I spent the last two hours really just smiling and being happy.

I am not someone that has ever really had many close friends.  High school was super hard for me socially, and it never really got better.  Being an introvert I find it hard to connect with people unless I can find common ground quickly, like a love of airplanes.  I know some of my friends laugh when I say I am shy because now that we are friends I never shut up, but it is the truth.

As I looked for a common theme amongst the friends I messaged, I think the one thing that struck me was an ability to feel at ease around them, with one amusing exception at least initially.  They are all people that I grew to feel comfortable with.  I didn’t need to sensor myself or hide how I was really feeling because we understood each other and that because of our differences we provided a more valuable relationship than if we simply agreed about everything.

I would venture to guess that almost none of us express enough gratitude to our friends for the value that they provide to our lives.  The original challenge I was given months ago was to find 5-10 people every day that you can say thank you to for something they contributed to your life.

It may be a friend or it may be an artist that wrote a song or a book that changed your life or helped you to improve.  It didn’t matter so much who it was as that you expressed your gratitude for that person and their contribution to your life.  So rather than ask what you are grateful for, I instead have a challenge for you.

Today, right now, make a list of ten people you can thank for being your friend, and then do it.  Don’t just send a note with only the words thank you, but take a minute to share a favorite memory, or express how they impacted your life for good.  Many of them will have no idea how much of an impact they actually had on you, and I guarantee you will make their day.

The best part is, that you will again be enriched as you relive the great memories you had with those people.  I would say you should then challenge them to do the same, but I think that cheapens the experience.  You shouldn’t do this because I am challenging you, or because anyone else will challenge you, but because you genuinely care about, and appreciate, that person.  If they choose to do the same then even better, but they need to do it because they feel a desire to do so, and not just because they were challenged.

Great friends are awesome, but we far too often neglect our friends expecting them to “still be on the bookshelf” when we want to pick them back up for another chapter of life.  While many times this inevitably happens, I implore you to take the time to instead maintain a close connection and you will both be enriched by the experience.

This won’t be reality with everyone, as not everyone is a “bosom friend”, to steal Anne Shirley’s favorite term,  but the places where we put forth the most effort will reap the most real benefits.  That is why today I am grateful for good friends that bring meaning to our lives.

Now go tell your friends how much they matter to you.