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Initiation

Flowers from the hospital, because I have friends committed to cheering me up.

Flowers from the hospital, because I have friends committed to cheering me up.

There are a lot of ways to look at initiation.   The Online Merriam-Webster defines:

ini·ti·a·tion

noun \i-ˌni-shē-ˈā-shən\

: the process of being formally accepted as a member of a group or organization : the process of being initiated

: a ceremony or series of actions that makes a person a member of a group or organization

: the act of starting something : the beginning of something

This doesn’t really cover the sense of the experience, or even the basis of an initiation ritual.  In most cases, an initiation provides a shared experience.  Members of the group have it, non-members don’t.  In that sense sex can be looked on as a form of initiation, or childbirth, or Harry Potter’s Thesteral which you can only see if you have seen death.   It is something that all the “information” about doesn’t come close to having the actual experience.

Experiences don't have to be identical to be shared.  I had quite the visitors in the hospital.

Experiences don’t have to be identical to be shared. I had quite the visitors in the hospital.

Another thing the dictionary doesn’t give us is that sense that once you’ve been through an initiation you can never go back.  Innocence is lost forever and a new perspective is gained.  This is why magicians are so unwilling (as a “club”) to share their secrets.  We all think we want to know how the trick is done, but once we know we no longer experience the same joy and awe as when we are being entertained.  It stops being fun, unless you are “the right sort” that is challenged by learning new and better tricks and performing them yourself.  Then you belong “in the club”.

That piece: Who “should” be initiated?  Who “belongs”?,  is another factor in the initiatory experience.  For most intentional initiations there is a training and testing period to see how badly you really want this.  It also allows the initiators to get a sense of “fit” for the group.  During this period there are often teasing hints about the initiation itself.   “We haven’t lost anyone yet.”  “Are you sure you’re not afraid of blood?”  “How much pain do you think you can tolerate?” These are the kinds of things commonly heard prior to an initiatory experience.

What is being hinted at is that initiation is meant to be transformational.  Rituals of initiation are designed to shift consciousness and point of view.  Initiatory experiences naturally do the same.  There is a reason that surrogate mothers, teens giving their children up for adoption, and people who experience trauma’s along with pregnancy change their minds after the child is born.  They no longer feel the way they thought they would because in a real way, having gone through the experience, they are no longer the same people.   You can argue that this is a small change in the drama of the moment, but I would suggest that there is still a real and permanent change in how the event is viewed, in perspective.

I truly feel like I have just been through an initiatory experience.  I was tested prior to my surgery, challenged with dietary restrictions and pre-surgery preparation.   I was given horror stories about the experiences other people have had and about what I was most likely to go through.  I was questioned, challenged, in pre-op, about how badly I really wanted this.  Was I willing to let whatever might happen happen?  I was reminded that this was an elective surgery and I could back out – even at that last-minute.  Now I find myself welcomed by others who’ve been through this process.  I am adjusting to the “new perspective” as I begin to heal from the surgery.

Bee balm from my garden.  I couldn't get close enough to the honey bee to get him in the photo.  Healing takes lots of forms.

Bee balm from my garden. I couldn’t get close enough to the honey bee to get him in the photo. Healing takes lots of forms.

It is, as the dictionary suggests, a new beginning.  As I am only at the beginning there is still much to learn and a long way to go.  But there is no going back, only forward on this journey.   I take my small steps filled with gratitude.  I’m grateful for the overwhelming support I have had.  I am grateful for the skill of my surgeon who against all odds managed to do this in the least invasive manner possible.  I am grateful for my own history and preparation which makes the first steps of this journey easier.  I am grateful for all those who’ve been here before me and who continue to light my way.

Old Friends

I grew up hearing “We only seem to get together at weddings and funerals.”  Now I’m at an age where I truly appreciate how weddings, funerals and this last weekend christenings do provide an opportunity to bring people together.

Karina and two of her "old friends"

Karina and two of her “old friends”

The grandparents of one of my daughters best friends from childhood died in a fire Thanksgiving weekend.  They were also neighbors and the kids spent many summers playing in their pool.  The funeral provided many glimpses into they dynamics of “old friends.”

The girls are at an age where they are just starting to move away from the people they’ve grown up with.  They are off at school or starting their careers.   They’re no longer spending the day together and then rushing to text or talk again on the phone as soon as they are apart.  They make a point to check in over holiday weekends, “When are you coming home for winter break?”

Several of their close childhood friends took different roads.  They’ve already lost touch or “stopped speaking” to each other, which often means unfriending on Facebook.  It’s not that the gossip ring isn’t still active.  We still hear that this girl has gotten engaged or that one has a new college boyfriend.

The Mom of one of the girls my daughter is “no longer speaking to” said, “I miss having the girls over.  At my new apartment I have never found rock hard marshmallows under the cushions.”  My daughter said it was really nice to see her friend’s Mom and that she would have been happy to just smile and wave at the friend.  But she also noted that having her friend come over and chat was almost like when they were kids.  “She was nice to me again.  (Probably because her boyfriend wasn’t there.)”

The grandparents who died had lived in the neighborhood over 50 years.  So has my neighbor across the street.  She was very sad.  For her this is the end of an era.  They weren’t necessarily close friends but they lived in a time when everyone knew their neighbors and counted on them.  They have been old friends.  I suppose I am too.  I’ve lived across the street for 20 years. We talk at the mailbox.  Maybe I should stop in and invite her to go for a walk.

Me with the proud parents.

Me with the proud parents.

The christening was for the son of one of the boys I used to babysit for when I was a teen.  I did ‘summer in-home day care’ along with almost every other Friday night.  My sister would sub for me when I was busy.  The Mom was one of my mother’s best friends.  They grew up and I went off to college but would occasionally find an excuse to spend the day together.  Lost track of them when I started having kids and they went away for college.

I’ve kept in touch with the older brother over the years, although it’s definitely a long distance relationship.  I’ve reconnected fairly recently with the younger brother and his wife.  Picking up right where we left off.  Haven’t seen the Mom and her new husband in at least 20 years.

I used to watch this woman's kids.  Now we're old friends.

I used to watch this woman’s kids. Now we’re old friends.

With the new baby my Mom and their Mom had an excuse to reconnect.  A congratulatory phone call was made.  Photos were sent with a letter in the mail.  There’s a lot of water under the bridge, but they’re still old friends.  Me too.  I sat with the family at the christening.  Grandma handing me her camera to take a picture introduced me as an old friend of the family and a newly published author.  We’re old friends.

The boys embrace me into the family as well.  Their partners treat me like the favorite auntie. They all brag on our old friendship and tell me they are  ever so grateful that I could attend.  I’m the one who’s grateful.  I’m lucky to have so many old friends.  I just wish I’d get to see them more often than at weddings and funerals and christenings and reunions.  🙂

I babysat two of these boys, would like to babysit the third.  The fourth is a new friend who I hope will become an old friend.

I babysat two of these boys, would like to babysit the third. The fourth is a new friend who I hope will become an old friend.

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