One of the things I love most about this enlightening journey of my personal growth is the reconnection with friends from my past. Who knew that my blog and my social media posts about my experiences would be the spark that rekindled old friendships?
It turns out that parts of my stories resonated at a time when my friends found themselves in a similar place, contemplating what wasn’t really working in their lives, struggling with relationship issues, or trying to find their way forward after a major adversity or loss. We often discover common ground when another’s story reflects parts of our own life back to us. There are elements of our experiences that are so relatable, we feel safe to reach out for connection and support.
That is exactly what unfolded as my friends were processing their own lives and happened upon my blog or social media posts. I am so grateful for these reconnections because these are friends that I have shared so much of my earlier life with and it feels so good to reminisce, to laugh and to discover all that has transpired since we last saw each other. What we valued in each other way back then is what we still value in each other today. Often, we help each other blow the dust away to see the hidden treasures deep inside of us that we may be having difficulty finding in the present chapter of our lives.
I marvel at the very different paths that each of our lives have taken and yet there are so many common threads that run between our stories of careers, marriages, parenthood, family dynamics, major life events and choices we have made over the decades. There have been a great variety of reasons for each of us to take a step back from our lives and give serious consideration to things we wish to change.
When we take in another’s story and recognize that we have had similar experiences, we feel a sense of relief. We feel less alone. It reminds me of Brene Brown’s book, “I Thought It Was Just Me” where she emphasizes that our imperfections are what connects us to one another and to our humanity. Our vulnerabilities are powerful reminders to keep our hearts and minds open to the reality that we are all in this together.
In the case of these rekindled friendships, there was also a reminder of our shared values and the comfort we found in each other when we first forged our friendships years ago. All these things combine to create a bridge from the past to the present and a knowing that it is safe to share our full stories.
I was both humbled and deeply touched that my friends would reach out to me because something in my blog resonated with them. While I had always hoped that what I was learning myself would in turn help others, it was an unexpected gift to discover it was meaningful to my friends — women that I knew, loved and respected; women who in turn knew me so well.
One of those rekindled friendships has evolved into a deeper, more encompassing relationship than either of us could have ever imagined.
My dear friend, Judy Chesters, and I met when we were just 18 years old and starting our first job right out of high school. We worked for a small law firm in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. At that time, we bonded over our Lancaster roots, humble beginnings and hopes for our future. We were two peas in a pod. Eventually our lives took different paths – though in a small town like Lancaster, we’d run into each other and pick up right where we left off. Some friendships are just like that — no matter how much time and life fills the spaces in between seeing each other, it is easy to catch up and reconnect. As often happens however, we fell out of touch as we both got so busy with growing families, juggling jobs, health issues, and life. I had also moved to West Chester, PA and then later to Florida. I did see Judy once in Lancaster before I moved to Florida when we ran into each other at the Park City Mall. We exchanged mobile phone numbers and friended each other on Facebook. That chance meeting turned out to be very fortuitous.
Just a few years later, Judy was reading my newly launched blog and decided it was time to call me rather than just hit “like” or offer a supportive comment on Facebook. Not surprisingly, we picked up right where we left off, chatting with ease to each other. However, this call took a sharp right turn and a deep dive — turns out we both were doing some soul searching and personal development work. It was one of my blog posts that really hit home with Judy and prompted her to call me.
Looking back, I can still picture where I was sitting that day, the Arizona sunshine warming me — but not as much as the heartfelt conversation that Judy and I shared. While our lives had taken completely different paths, so much of what we experienced over the past few decades had remarkable similarities. Even though our circumstances were polar opposites, the personal development discoveries we were making were nearly identical. Judy and I became trust buddies committed to helping each other on our inner work/personal growth journey. Two peas in a pod once again.
I recently asked Judy if she’d be willing to be a guest writer on my blog. I wanted her to share from her own perspective what it was that prompted her to do some re-evaluation of her life five or six years ago. Her insights are so impactful and I am so grateful that she agreed to share them here.:
“I have known for a very long time I am an individual who thinks and feels differently than most people — many people would say that I am just “too sensitive” as if I have control over how I am wired. I feel deeply, I love deeply, I care deeply and I feel others’ pain deeply. I have a strong intuition and a result of these, I can hurt deeply.
I have a tendency to put others’ needs ahead of my own, often times not realizing that I too have needs. Emotionally, I became worn down by others who would embrace that part of me for my sensitivity and how it served them, but criticized me when my “sensitivity” did not serve them. As a result of this pattern of behavior and feeling exhausted and defeated, I had to accept the fact that I needed to embrace who I was to survive — and I had to find the balance to stay true to myself while protecting the heart that was given to me.
I worked tirelessly, reading and practicing some behavioral changes and it was a very difficult journey.
I was blessed to have my dear friend, Amy, and a few very close friends who were going through similar personal growth to help me stay on track.
I had to look deep inside of me and accept the fact that some of my own behavior patterns were keeping me trapped and getting in my way of moving forward. One of the biggest things I had to do was set some healthy boundaries to protect my heart. When boundaries were set, some embraced it while others did not. I realized that I did not have control over how others accepted my “change” and I could respect that.
I had the ability to live my life in a way that kept me true to myself for my intended “purpose” in life, using my God-given gifts to help others and I was no longer tethered to those who felt I needed to become “less sensitive” because it somehow made then feel “less than”. I have learned to respect myself and embrace the number of people who are in my life that understand my heart – they know my “core values.” I am far from perfect and I remind myself daily that I am ok with keeping distance from those that don’t understand my heart — and quite honestly, if others feel that way, why would they want to be a part of my life anyway? This has nothing to do with my love or caring for others. It is just a healthy boundary for self-care — and sometimes means loving “from a distance”.
I am so energized by living a life that aligns with who I am and not being burdened by anyone that doesn’t understand me. I am OK with that. I encourage others to look inside of themselves to align with who they are.
We are all different and have different purposes in. life. We all need to be the healthiest version of who we were meant to be — and discover that for ourselves. No one else can do it for us.
I love having women over for coffee just to chat and encourage each other to keep growing and to share resources for that growth. It is then, when we are able to have peace and contentment of knowing who we are, that we are able to “serve” others in a way that aligns with our individuality. ” —- Judy Chesters
My dear friend Judy is a born empath. I have known this about her since I first met her and it was likely the very reason I was drawn to her. As she shares, being an empath meant that she often took on others’ pain as though it were her own. There is no doubt in my mind that Judy’s young life experiences influenced her as a deeply compassionate, intuitive empath. She is one of those very rare people who can sit with others in their darkest hours without flinching. She has even done this for total strangers and somehow seems to find the words of comfort they so urgently need. I often tell her that she is God’s airbags for others when life is crashing all around them.
Perhaps the most noteworthy transformation that I have seen in Judy through all the personal growth work she has done, is that she is no longer overwhelmed physically and emotionally because of her gift of deep empathy. She has discovered a rare ability to stay grounded while also being a source of great comfort, support and healing for others. The people who come into Judy’s life are often in need of the most intensive care. It is not all surprising to me that Judy frequently forges meaningful, long term friendships with people she has supported through some of their hardest trials.
What Judy and I have both learned is that having a “study buddy” for personal growth work is truly invaluable. We are sounding boards for each other; we share resources and tools that we find helpful. We are honest and open about the patterns and responses we are working on. We cheer for each other when we make real progress and we support each other when the work gets challenging.
It is so gratifying today when we have our long conversations and witness the positive changes that have occurred in each of us. We are discovering that as we have shifted into the healthier, better versions of ourselves, we have more energy, more joy and a broader scope of awareness. We both feel more in alignment with our values and our life purpose.
We do have a few good laughs about how the old versions of ourselves might have shown up and the repercussions of that. Without a doubt, this is better!
When Judy shared with me that she was setting up a little library in her home for the books and resources that we have found helpful – and would regularly be inviting small groups of women over for coffee, I was overjoyed. I can just imagine the friendships that will be created, the stories that will be shared and the personal growth that will emerge.
In our wildest dreams, I don’t believe either of us thought our personal growth journey would be so rewarding. Over the past few years, we have both grown our circle of marble jar friends — and we are delighting in seeing each of them tap into their potential and share their unique gifts with the world.
I will close this post with a giant thank you to my lifelong friend, Judy, for being so genuine and so supportive.
Judy and I found the enneagram very useful. We both read The Road Back to You by Ian Morgan Cron. We discovered we are both dominant enneagram type 2 – and I told her she would laugh and cry when she read about us in this book. The enneagram puts a spotlight on behavioral patterns that hinder us. The best part of the enneagram is that it helps you move toward the healthy end of your spectrum. Check out The Enneagram Institute online for an introduction to this worthwhile tool.
Brene Brown’s books, both her podcasts (Dare to Lead and Unlocking Us) and her Ted Talk all served as great resources. The Gifts of Imperfection is a personal favorite.
Both of us have journaled most of our lives. Judy and I find journaling one of the best way to process our emotions, do deep reflective work and get to know ourselves better.
I’ll be updating this post with Judy’s recommendations for books on being an Empath; and on her favorite Daily Devotionals.
Broken Open by Elizabeth Lesser is another remarkable book – and is great for discussion with a good friend.