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Walking in the park every Tuesday and Thursday has become a ritual I look forward to. My friend sets out at a brisk pace and is soon waylaid by her pup as it tears off into the brush- squirrel hunting. This surprises us every time but we stand and wait until the dog has finished her sniffing and then we march on. Summer mornings are a delight in the park. Early sunlight hits low and cuts across the wide paths as small white blossoms give up their long show and quietly scatter to the park floor. It is still cool and a perfect time for ladies to get their walking therapy in for the day.

“Hey, so how are things?”  she asks the open ended question that has me racing ahead, dragging her with me as I chase squirrels of my own.

“Oh well… “I begin with my children and affirm that they are doing well and that the little quirks and huge issues of last week are moving in new directions. Then comes the work that has slowed down to a few odd jobs and has me so anxious I can barely breathe. My hands are flying as I pick up the pace and push my point home with a stifled sob. Oh, and the hormones are doing their thing too and just for good measure the ex-husband needs reminding yet again that the car insurance payment comes every month. We wave to ladies we know as we stride by.

“And the house? Do you have somewhere to live?” she prompts.

“Good grief, the house? Oh well…no, not really…” and I step to the left and avoid the leash as it comes close to wrapping my legs together as the pup zigs and zags. She pulls pup closer to her. My pace slows down. We are at the dog watering hole and can take a moment to just watch the pup bounce in and out of the stream.

For a spare moment we simply watch the joy of splashing in the water and it rustles some leaves for us. Something about simple pleasures. Perhaps that taking time to see life and to walk in the park and to talk with friends is as much a part of our success as what we will take on for the rest of the day.

Pup shakes the cold water in big, fat drops all over our bare legs. We march on.

I turn the conversation to her and we lightly touch on small issues with the kids, larger school problems and plans for the vacation coming up. Her mum is planning a family vacation and it will mean days aboard a boat…with no escape. All the years of being grown up will be challenged until shore leave. She will endure the trip and smile. She will breathe in the sights of Alaska and its jagged edges and she will return to land softly upon the hills with a sigh. It will be good to be home and back to a life where one does not have to smile when one is being reminded that they don’t quite measure up.

My friend reminds me that it is perfectly acceptable to refuse to be OK with another person’s actions.

“You have so many people to choose from to be in your life, why would you put up with people who drag you down?” And so, it has become quite acceptable to unfriend people without the couple of weeks of Catholic Guilt that usually ensues.

My friend has pushed through life with all her might. She has more than measured up and, on first meeting her I assumed she was the most assured person on the planet. Her job necessitates candidness, her belief about the direction of life makes choices simply about what is right and good…if you fall down and scrape your knee…it will hurt…and then you take care of the wound and continue on your path. Except…that a good dog has to be put down because the hurt can’t be cured, there’s an empty spot that a daughter’s laughter filled now she is away at college and the path is filling in from behind…and as she comes into her own, my friend plays more and that is a good thing.