I had lunch yesterday with a dear friend that I hadn’t seen in a few years… she’s now living in the southern US while I’m still here in the Northeast.  She’s one of those types of friends that is definitely inner circle… that despite the physical distance between us, I know that she’d be there just a phone call away, day or night.  Despite not having seen her in years, talking with her was like it always has been. 

The people we surround ourselves with and interact with help shape the person we are or the person we hope to become.  Interactions can be entirely positive… or totally negative.  Most of the populace can pinpoint a time of peer pressure… where the people surrounding them were trying to mold them into someone else.  Or a scary moment in adolescence where we stood on a limb deciding whether we should jump… knowing that our reputation amongst our peers would depend on our decision.  Our peers and friends determine our social groups… our cliques.  High school social groups can be divided based on hobbies, athletic ability, or academic achievement.  Movies from Grease (Sandy trying to fit in) to Sixteen Candles (Sam trying to fit in) to She’s All That (Laney trying to fit in) show how hard it can be to determine your place in society and how the friends you choose influence your behavior.  In Grease, Sandy made the decision to totally change her personality to fit her friends… In Sixteen Candles and She’s All That, the popular boys were the ones to change their personalities.

It’s natural to assume that our peer struggles end once we reach adulthood… however, it is the nature of these interactions that change.  In high school our reputations and dating life (or lack thereof in my case) are completely determined based on our peer groups.  Adolescents see their whole lives wrapped up and connected to friends and relationships.  In adulthood, our peer interactions morph into different zones.  We have peer interactions that determine our living situation and roommates.  Peer interactions that influence whether we succeed or fail in employment.  Peer interactions to influence who we date and spend time with.  By the time we reach adulthood, our world has expanded exponentially and very rarely does each piece involve the same people and relationships.  In my life I have inner circle friends, co-workers, fiber arts friends, and family friends.  People that I see every day, people that I see once in a while, people that I haven’t seen since high school, but we interact on Facebook.  Each of these people creates a different type of relationship and influence on me.

One of the most amusing relational games to play is the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon game.  The idea is that everyone in the world is somehow separated from Kevin Bacon by six degrees or less.  In other words, I might know someone… who knows someone… who knows Kevin Bacon.  I believe there is even a website now that tries to determine your separation level.  Now I admit I’m not sure why Kevin Bacon was the chosen one, but the idea is clear that our relationships and peer groups connect us in many different ways.  How many times have we had interactions with people that seemed rather forgettable, but upon reflection ended up being a huge influence on us?

The friend I had lunch with and I were only able to spend an hour together talking and catching up, but because she’s an inner circle friend, the lack of time doesn’t matter.  She has an influence on my life everyday, regardless of where she or I live.  And I would never want it any other way.

Anyone that knows me in real life knows that I’m about as outdoorsy as a hole in the head.  I refuse to pee in the woods.  I’m not particularly fond of sitting in grass while wearing shorts because I swear that the ants *know* and will be hightailing it up my shorts legs in about five seconds.  I really like hiking, but have been a little squicked out this year about the exploding tick population.

When I was in college I worked as a camp counselor two years during the summer.  And I loved the camp and my kids.  But once a week we were supposed to take the kids to one of the camping sites, pitch a tent and do the pseudo camping thing.  I will honestly admit that I prayed for rain every.single.week.  We could sweep the dirt for an hour and I’d still end up with a root shooting into my back.  Or I would end up being eaten alive by mosquitos despite having a layer of bug spray an inch thick.  And the worst… getting everything all set and ready to go and then having to pee, knowing that I could either try to make it back to the main camp (15 minutes through the woods) or find a tree to squat behind.  With bugs.  And poison ivy. 

The first summer, my co-counselor was the outdoors type of girl and it wasn’t always easy to hide my stress.  And it really was stress inducing… camping went way beyond general dislike and stretched into my stomach twisting in knots.  At least once that summer my co-counselor had to help me down the path in the middle of the night with a tiny flashlight to get me back to our cabin because I had worked myself into being physically ill.

The second summer I was luckier because my co-counselor hated camping with a passion that rivaled mine, and with two of us doing the rain dance each week we only had to take the kids camping once all summer long.

Since I met my husband, I’ve been asked multiple times to go camping either with other couples or other families.  And I always get that look like I’ve suddenly sprouted six heads when I explain that to me, camping is on par with juggling porcupines.  Or swimming in a kiddie pool with a school of Man-o-War jellyfish.  Or dancing naked down the middle of the street with my hair on fire.

So it came as a slight shock to me when I saw the new Coleman camping equipment commercial and felt a bit of want.  The commercial itself is brilliant… declaring Coleman to be the original networking site and showing video and pictures of camping families back in the 1960s and 1970s.  People are smiling and happy and whole families are spending time together out in the wild.  None of them look as though they are being tortured, and I admit I want a bit of that syrupy joy.  I’m never going to be the outdoors, camping in the middle of nowhere, type of girl.  It’s just not going to happen.  Too much wilderness and bugs in places they shouldn’t be and poison ivy and roots in my back.

But if y’all will excuse me, I’m going to plan where I’m going to pitch a tent in my backyard.

The other day I overheard the kids arguing about something that one declared was the absolute truth.  My first reaction was to want to step in and rule one way or another…  but it got me thinking about what we consider truths, and how we personally determine something to be true.

When we’re kids, truth is a fluid concept.  My 8 year old certainly does not find it a truth that my sanity depends on him cleaning his bedroom, despite how I perceive it.  My ten year old knows that vegetables are the most vile things on the planet and that she will shrivel up and die if she’s asked to eat them.  My twelve year old knows that she will live in New York City and be famous someday.  A friend’s daughter knows that fairies live in the garden and only come out at night.

What about adult truths?  We know that gravity exists… but we are able to bend and manipulate it.  Is it really a truth that “what goes up must come down?”    Not that long ago it was a truth that the moon was made of cheese and white people were more intelligent than other cultures.

So what really creates a truth?  Our perception?  Feelings?  Scientific evidence?  And what happens to that truth when it is challenged?  Agent Mulder was always searching for the truth on the X-Files, but what kind of truth did he hope to find?  In court we’re asked to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth, but again, what truth?  My truth?  Your truth?  The dude next door who is always singing to his plants truth?

Dictionary dot com defines “truth” with the following:

–noun

1. the true or actual state of a matter: He tried to find out the truth.

2. conformity with fact or reality; verity: the truth of a statement.

3. a verified or indisputable fact, proposition, principle, or the like: mathematical truths.

4. the state or character of being true.

5. actuality or actual existence.

6. an obvious or accepted fact; truism; platitude.

7. honesty; integrity; truthfulness.

8. ( often initial capital letter ) ideal or fundamental reality apart from and transcending perceived experience: the basic truths of life.

9. agreement with a standard or original.

10. accuracy, as of position or adjustment.

11. Archaic . fidelity or constancy.

Maybe the truth is that there is no real truth.

It’s June 23th… we’re three days into summer… and I’ve come to the sad realization that I’m just not excited about summer anymore.  That it comes in like any other season… sticks around for a while, and then leaves just as swiftly as it came.  Time is now dictated by bill payment due dates and grocery needs.  By doctor’s appointments and work deadlines and performance reviews.  The seasons really only affect the view out my office window and my commute to and from work.

It’s amazing how time can change when you’re not paying attention.  I remember when summer meant relaxing and no school and staying up late.  The summers I went to camp and spent a week in a cabin gossiping with other girls about the cute boys from the boys’ camp.  Or the summer that my brother insisted watching Ghostbusters every single morning all summer long… so I can now recite the movie in my sleep.  Or the summer we drove across country to visit my family in Kansas City… stopping at McDonald’s for lunch every day because they were giving out legos with each Happy Meal.

I watch my kids and see how excited they are about summer… how the word brings images of magic and excitement that just isn’t possible with any other season.  Lightning bugs and sleepovers and sitting by a fire in the backyard.

I envy the ability to see each new day as a chance for something different… to really see the potential in each day.

Bon Jovi’s “Never Say Goodbye” is playing on my radio… I wish we all knew how fast things change… how precious time and the seasons are.  How much we’d miss them someday.

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