As of February 9th of this year, I can happily and proudly say that I have taken 50 spins around the sun. I don’t fear saying my age out loud, nor am I embarrassed by it. I am fully aware of the alternative, and I am thankful for each day I am granted.
Shortly after my big day, I received a package in the mail from my childhood bestie, Tara. It was a whole box of surprises for me to open. Yay! But before I tell you about one of my favorites, let me tell you a little bit about Tara.
We met as first graders, at Stephanie G.’s birthday party, which was held at the McDonald’s in the Staten Island mall. Both of us a little shy, we slowly started a friendship. It wasn’t until Mr. Liozzi’s fourth grade class that our connection truly blossomed. She was the Bert to my Ernie and I the Laverne to her Shirley. I still have letters we wrote to each other the summer break between fourth and fifth grade. I like to think of these exchanges as the 1980’s version of texting.
In high school, Tara’s bedroom was adorned with palm trees and sunshines, as it was her ultimate dream to live in Florida. She wound up living that dream, and though there are miles between us for many years now, our friendship has never wavered. That in itself is one of life’s greatest gifts. How many people can say they have maintained a close, loving, supportive, FUN friendship for over four decades? Not many. I’m a lucky woman.
Anyhoo, back to my birthday package. As I was going through it, I pulled out this little gem.
Not only is the box so lovely in and of itself, but the message pertains to our friendship, as well. I can honestly say we’ve each accomplished almost every single goal we set for ourselves, always cheering each other on and holding each other up throughout all our endeavors. I guess you could say we’ve always been unstoppable.
When I opened the box, I was greeted with these beauties.
This one especially caught my eye.
I texted her right away to say how much I loved the shells, and she told me she collected them herself on her morning beach walk. “You were lucky with the brown one. That kind can only be found after a storm,” she wrote. And of course, that got me thinking.
Florida often has storms, some of them quite intense. Heck, we had two scary tornadoes touch down in New Jersey in these past few weeks. Yet in the ensuing calm after the storm, despite possible destruction and devastation, this is proof that there is beauty to be found.
Isn’t that the way life is sometimes? We face things that are difficult, overwhelming, and sometimes even soul crushing. But looking back, always, and I mean always, there has been some kind of beauty or peace left behind in the wake of despair. We just have to look for it.
Perhaps after time has passed or even in the midst of upheaval, we can pause and ask ourselves, “What is the lesson here? How have I grown? What have I gained or released?” And ultimately, “What is the gift?”
I was given so many gifts for my birthday this year, some of them tangible, and others not. I am grateful for the greatest gift, that of family and friendship which has sustained me and been a great source of love, peace, and joy for all these years. I’m looking at you, Tara, among many other amazing people I’m blessed with in my life.
I am also grateful for those tiny gifts, the simple ones that mean so much more than their appearance suggests. And of course, while I am never really happy to embrace the gift of difficult moments, I am reminded to find the the lesson or the beauty that they can bring. I simply have to look for the shell.