Having and Being a Beautiful Friend

To have a friend is a beautiful thing. To be a friend is as beautiful, if not more so, as it makes the rest of life, no matter how difficult, pretty beautiful, too.

Years ago when I taught second grade we spent the month of February celebrating friendship. It was an obvious choice for February with Valentine’s Day right in the middle of the month, but also by this time of the year, after a winter’s worth of indoor recesses, we were all ready to learn to appreciate each other once again.

One of my favorite books to read with the class in February was Judith Viorst’s Rosie and Michael, the story of two friends who take turns narrating what makes their friendship so special. What they describe are the characteristics of any beautiful relationship, whether it is between two friends, two loves, a parent and a child, or siblings. Here, illustrated by the words of Rosie and Michael, are the characteristics of any beautiful relationship:

* Friends accept each other as they are. “She likes me when I’m dopey and not just when I’m smart.” “I worry a lot about werewolves, and he understands.”
* They rely on each other in times of trouble. “When my parakeet died, I called Rosie.” “When my bike got swiped, I called Michael.”
* Friends are loyal to one another. “It wouldn’t matter if two billion people said she robbed a bank, if Rosie told me she didn’t, I’d believe her.”
* They are trustworthy, too. “If Michael told me a secret and people clonked me and bopped me, I wouldn’t tell what Michael’s secret was.”
* And if necessary, friends are forgiving. “And then if people said ‘Speak up or we’ll throw you in this quicksand,’ Rosie would forgive me for telling her secret.”
* Even if they disagree, friends can still stay friends. “Just because I call him a banana head, doesn’t mean that Michael’s not my friend.”
* Friends support each other, too. “Sometimes I get on the diving board and deicde that I’ve changed my mind. but Rosie wouldn’t laugh. She’s my friend.”
* Friends are honest with each other. “Michael is my friend. When he honest and truly wanted to know if his feet were smelling stinky, I honestly told him.”
* And they always have your back. “She’d hunt for me if kidnappers stole me away. And if I was never found again, she could have my Instamatic. She is my friend.”
* Special friends are the ones we think of first, last and all the times in between. “I’d never move to China without Michael.” ” I’d give her my last piece of chalk.”

To have a friend, to be a friend is one of the best gifts life has to offer. And now is a wonderful time to celebrate and thank those special friends that make our lives beautiful. Thank you…you know who you are.

Smile, You Are Beautiful

I have numerous exercise DVDs, and on one of them, the yoga instructor talks about the connection between actions and feelings, and he says “You get to act how you want to feel.” In other words, you can act your way out of unhappy or destructive feelings, simply by behaving as if you feel in a more positive way. A smile, for instance, triggers something in the brain that instantly improves mood and so even if you have to fake it, that smile works to transform you in a positive way, which can have wonderful repercussions on your day.

I was reminded yesterday that the same is true of appearance. When you feel beautiful, you are, regardless of what you are wearing, whether or not your hair is done, or makeup applied. And one of the most beautiful, and beautifying, things that you can do is smile.

“Because of your smile, you make life more beautiful,” says Zen master and Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh. I think with a smile, you also make yourself more beautiful.

Too many of us, weighed down with worry and responsibility, wonder why we look so tired and old. We look in the mirror each morning and catalog all the ways in which we have aged and deteriorated overnight. Focusing on the negative, we fail to truly see ourselves at all.

Yesterday my daughter reminded me how she actively and consciously tries to be nice to herself. It sounded a little strange at first, but what she says and does makes sense. For one thing, she looks at herself with appreciation, like she would a friend. The more time I spend with her, the more I see in myself the tendency to do just the opposite. One way I plan to grow this year is to appreciate myself more for who I am now. If I can learn to see myself as beautiful, I become more beautiful, inside and out.

Yoko Ono once said, “Smile in the mirror. Do that every morning and you’ll start to see a big difference in your life.” That is a simple enough practice that I plan to try this year.