What Today Brings
“Don’t walk in front of me… I may not follow. Don’t walk behind me… I may not lead. Walk beside me… just be my friend.” Albert Camus Of the blessings life has bestowed upon me, at the top of the list are my friends. Lucky are we whose friendships span decades, indeed entire lifetimes. This morning I had the pleasure of waking to one such precious gift, Jenny Marshall, who is visiting this week from California. Jenny and I have been friends for over thirty years, and like me, she is from Kentucky and moved to Los Angeles in her early twenties. Unlike me, she never left.
Jenny has a thriving career as an educational therapist, focusing on children with special needs such as autism, ADHD, dyslexia and other learning disorders. She likes the west coast and so does her beautiful 14-year-old daughter Trying to convince her to move “home” is an ongoing theme in our discussions as of late. It won’t happen any time soon, no matter how much I preach about the joys of a small town, the comfort and ease coming from family and familiarity, and the security of gathering a support system based on people caring for other people. That kind of support and lasting kindness that I experience in our sweet Versailles village is in stark contrast to the big city friendships that were too often born of a common goal. The mentality of the movie business, the political business and so many other blindly ambitious pursuits are often, ‘You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.’ Unfortunately, when your scratcher no longer reaches their itch, the value of the friendship diminishes to less than zero. It is a hard lesson to learn but experience is a great teacher.
Still, just as the old saying goes, if you have a few good friends, you are lucky, and I consider myself very lucky. I am not the same person I was in my twenties, anxious, insecure, arrogant and wild as all get-out. I’m not the same as I was in my thirties, desperate to be a perfect wife and successful actress. I have also grown out of the most unattractive traits I held in my forties, when I tried my hand at movie producing and wasted money like a drunken sailor.
Jenny stood beside me during all of those versions of myself, as I have stood beside her as she grew and changed decade after decade. We have loved each other through whatever life has thrown us, loved the person beneath each mask we try on as we grow into hopefully the best versions of ourselves before it is all said and done. I deeply believe that we are our most true selves when we are children, before life gets ahold of us and shakes us around, and then again, when we are older and can kind of see how it’s all going to shake out. There is a calmness that comes with surrender. I still want things and so does Jenny but we now know so much more.
The last thing I want to say about lasting friendships is the power of laughter. There is nothing quite as important to survival from one stage of life to the next than having a sense of humor. There isn’t one of us who is not ridiculous from time to time and the human experience is downright absurd more often than not. To be able to laugh at our silly upsets with jobs and relationships, children and marriages is so important to each and every one of our mental health and growth. To put too much stock in missteps of the past or dreams of the future is to ignore the moment and often what the moment needs is a good old laugh… with a good old friend. Mark Twain once said, “Good friends, good books, and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life.” I agree Sir, I heartily agree.