I was cooking when I received a message from a lovely friend. The message was recognition of the length of our friendship, and that true friendship isn’t tainted by time, geography or marital status. True friendships really do mean that there can be years apart and when you meet again it will seem like yesterday. As I continued to cook, I reflected on the saying that people come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime. I believe that people always come into your life for a reason irrespective of the timeline.
I stirred the sauce and added a pinch or two of spices, and as I did, I considered that relationships are like seasoning. Some spices you add frequently and others occasionally. This is true with some friendships. Each spice or herb adds a little something different to the meal and each friend adds something different to your relationship. The spectrum of flavours are just like the spectrum of personalities in people. You ultimately know which ones add heat, sweet or zest!
I considered this friend and the reason we were brought together and some of the values that it has instilled in me. Some of these included being a safe person for another, holding no judgement for another and finding fun in situations where I hadn’t before. Among many things, we had spent some time together in an orphanage overseas as part of a fundraising program. The experience was magical, challenging and full of diversities and tragedies. The people we met laughed and loved in the face of their own difficulties. The children were crammed into small rooms with little food, and yet they always greeted us with huge smiles and hugs. Each day I saw them find happiness in simple things. The experience was emotional, humbling and expansive. My sister came with us on a couple of the trips, and the three of us would follow the lead of the children finding laughter in the sadness. One evening we joined a family for a meal. Their home consisted of three rooms. The family bed was in the main room, and there was a kitchen and an area for the toilet. We sat crossed legged on the floor and shared a delicious meal with simple heartfelt ingredients. The family had taken time to slow cook the food taking sheer pleasure in creating the meal. Conversation and heart grew while we humbly ate. Looking at my own meal that I was preparing I thought how many of us rush everything these days including meals and eating. In this society, it is easy to forget that something so important can be so simple. Gathering ingredients and the pleasure of a few items coming together to create mouth-watering delights can be full of connection for ourselves and loved ones.
Thinking back to the children at the orphanage I see that their relationships were built on a simpler foundation without the materialistic noise of our society. The children were finding pleasure in learning about each other or being creative with items and life around them. They were genuinely connected on all levels with themselves and each other. Many of us irrespective of age are in a disconnected state looking outside of ourselves rather than within. Our society has become a quick fix society.
Ultimately looking within first and being completely at peace with yourself is the only way to be in healthy relationships. The analogy of peeling the layers of an onion in regards to self-help is very relevant. The outer skin is scrappy and protective, and then the other layers have built up through its growth to ultimately protect its sweet centre. To look within at your own sweet centre is key. The real starting point is to begin by almost dating yourself again. Take time to fall in love with who you are and if needs be to divorce yourself and then start over getting to know yourself again! It is critical to love yourself first before you can be in full healthy relationships.
To be the best that I can be for myself and others, I had to learn to be my own reason and my personal lifetime friend. That does mean saying no, removing some relationships from your life and being able to really see yourself for all that you are. Only when you are all things to yourself can you experience all things in others and see them for who they really are.
Whether it is a lifetime or a season remember that there is always a reason. The ingredients of a meal are like your life. Choose wisely what spices or flavours you add as a meal can be delicious or a disaster. There is a lesson in both. Any situation you can learn and grow from, and anyone you meet can add flavour to your life if you allow it. Whether it is the person next to you at the grocery store or a lifetime friend they all have value.
My own meal turned out simmered, spicy and rich, and I made sure that we took the time to sit and enjoy this simple yet beautiful moment.
Andrea Lines-Botell is a mental health advocate and life coach with a passion for dynamically supporting change.
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