I am just back from a visit to Santa Barbara, where I lived for eight years, where my daughter was born, where I wrote three of my seven books. Where, in many vital ways, I grew up. I had not returned in seven years, for a whole slew of reasons, many having to do with my own sorrows and how they were poked and prodded by returning.
But this visit was free of that worn thin sadness. It was an exultation of connection, a healing for the part of me that often feels she doesn’t belong. Isn’t clever or kind enough. It was the payoff for learning to let go of the past (what I’ve been writing a book about, stay tuned, long way to go).
Here is what I wrote one morning about what I was learning because of returning. I wrote it to my daughter to share with her over this Thanksgiving weekend. I offer it to you with gratitude for our connection and how you help me learn and grow.
Thank you for being with me. As I turn toward my birthday this Sunday, you are one of the many blessings I will count.
A Letter to My Daughter, Lillian
Lillian, this life goes by so slowly and so quickly. As I turn toward my birthday, and just having returned from Santa Barbara, here is one thing I must tell you – become a student of friendship. I’ve come to believe friendship is as important as developing work that you love, finding a wonderful mate, building a strong family.
Look for the people who you most want to be friends with, make memories with, and seek their friendship. Be someone who puts herself out there and invites people to play, to hang out, to connect. Biggest secret in the world: most everyone is too afraid to be the one who says, “Want to come play?” We are afraid to put ourselves out there, to be the one to say, “Please be my friend.” And it’s easier to connect via Facebook or Twitter than the far more vulnerable work of connecting in person. But these connections, my dearest girl, they are among the most precious ways you can spend your life. They are what you will treasure, far more than awards and money in the bank. They are what, along with creating and serving, make this life so precious beyond measure.
Create relationships. Step over the story that you are too tired or too busy or not _______ enough. Ask to be included; don’t hide, like I sometimes do, behind stories that you aren’t wanted, aren’t liked. It’s rarely true. And if it is, it’s a great (if painful) way to learn about your own rough edges. Reach out, reach out! Look, too, for the people others overlook – the quiet girl in the corner of the party, the awkward guy, the people with different viewpoints than you. They are often treasures who will open your world, and your heart.
And when people don’t respond to your invites or promise to meet you at the experimental dance performance or the protest against the coal trains, but forget, invite them a few more times, and then move along. Love everyone, although love some people from a distance. But fewer than you think.
Connect to create the world you want.
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My darling girl, I will take this advice, too. I have far too often complained to you about not belonging. Enough with that tired old story. This week my friends made me see that belonging is a choice. That hearts are there to be loved. Let’s choose that world together.
I love you more,