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  • Writer's picturestephanieraffelock

A Kayak, A Birthday and Women Friends

I try to stay on a schedule and post a new blog every Thursday or Friday. But this week, I feel like a little kid about to be let out of school. I’m having trouble finding my focus and doing my work. Part of it is that yesterday was my birthday, and I had a really fun day, replete with tons of good wishes from friends and family. And today, I have a little birthday celebration with four women that I’ve come to know since moving to Texas. It’s not a Zoom event, either. We’re going kayaking. Masks on until we get into our boats and then masks off. Glorious connection under the sun and on the water, seeing a group of faces that mean a lot to me – I haven’t been in a group for over a year. I'm going to have some fun today and the greatest part of that is that it's shared fun.

But these are just my personal reasons for a giddiness that tugs at me to leave my desk and go play. The whole country is experiencing a kind of excitement and awakening about the new possibilities before us: eating in restaurants again, going to a library, shopping live and in person in someplace other than just a grocery store. I guess that there are those who never gave up those kinds of things during the pandemic, but I was cautious. Like grandparents and grandkids separated for the sake of safety, I acknowledged that the virus wasn’t kind to older people, and adhered to the recommended health and safety practices. Being apart from the people that I love has often felt like a dark deprivation.

So today is an exciting day. I get to be with friends. And, yes, I know we have to still be careful. Yes, wear that mask when you go out. Continue to social distance. Don’t celebrate in the end zone just yet. Still, even six months ago, I wouldn’t have thought I could celebrate my birthday with a group of friends without much risk or worry. My small group have all had the vaccine and that fact is liberating.

Spring marks the slow opening of blossoms, and I think that we are all feeling an opening, an unfolding to reconnect with people, and with the world. What that tells me is that innate in us is a desire to be with others, to share our lives, our thoughts, dreams and hearts. It tells me that what is essential and truly important has to do with the celebration of life and love.

The past year has been fraught with loss. I lost a friend to COVID early on. Another has become a long hauler, still struggling with the virus’s cruel effects. I feel the deep rumble of mourning in a nation that has endured hundreds of thousands of deaths. It’s an odd and welcome juxtaposition that with such loss comes new beginnings. A metaphorical spring begins to emerge, revealing hope. Will we use the reflections caused by the pandemic to more cherish those around us? Will we realize that life can turn on a dime in the most unexpected ways? Will we let love lead us?

I’m grateful and giddy to be meeting up with friends today. I’ve missed being in a circle of women. So, off to the kayaks I go with a thankful heart and the inspiration that I always get from women, that at the end of the day, it’s all about the collective sharing of love and goodwill.

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