Nine hundred and ninety eight miles. That’s the number of miles to get from Kansas City, MO to Oklahoma City, OK and then to Weatherford, OK and then to Duncan, OK and then to Norman, OK and then back to Kansas City, MO. And it was miles worth traveled. So much of my drive took me down two-lane highways with little signs of civilization for miles and miles. There was very little traffic and often, it seemed like it was just me, the prairie and the cows. If I felt like pulling off the road to take a picture, I just did it. I didn’t let myself worry about the delay it might cause and since I was all alone, I didn’t think about inconveniencing the driver with my request to stop. When I wasn’t stopping to take pictures of the vast landscape of nothing, I was building stories in my head. At one point I even thought up my own stand-up comedy act.
I met Stephanie for breakfast one morning and got all caught up on her life. I got to squeeze Robin’s new grand baby. I soaked in a hot tub. I ate hipster street tacos with Traci, Chris and Quinn (who is more obnoxious now than ever) and we laughed and laughed. I attended a college graduation at a small rural Oklahoma College where I listened to a speech that both surprised me and gave me hope. The young man spoke about his white male privilege and how he intends to use that privilege for social justice. He told his fellow graduates that it was not enough to have conversations on race, but to be active in the fight against racism. No one booed him off the stage, but applauded and cheered and I thought “maybe we’re going to be okay.” Maybe. I sat on the couch in Amy’s library office while she spilled her guts on the last few months of her crazy busy stressful life. I drank too much wine while sitting on Misti’s porch talking about ways to help college graduates prepare for all the possibilities available to them after undergrad. I told Mark something that I have not told anyone. He’s the only person right now who can hold me accountable.
As I made the long drive home on Sunday, I caught the tale end of the TED Radio Hour on NPR. Dr. Robert Waldinger was talking about what makes a meaningful life. Dr. Waldinger is the director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development. His team and his predecessors have been tracking the health and lives of 724 men for 75 years. Actually the study has now moved on to the children of these men. It is the longest running study of its kind. One thing that has been made very clear from this study is the answer to the question of what makes a meaningful life and the answer is simple: “good relationships keep us happy and healthy.” Those relationships are not confined to marital relationships. Just having people in your life who you could count on in times of need, laugh with, cry with, is enough. These relationships keep us happy and healthy. It’s been proven by science that we need each other.
Yet, relationships for me can be difficult. I have always spent so much time alone, as a child, as a teen, in my adult life. I have to push myself to be in the presence of people, but I have never once regretted that push. Mostly because I feel like I’ve nurtured the best relationships with the best people. I am happier and healthier today for the weekend spent listening and laughing and commiserating and just being present in the company of all of them. Maybe Michael’s right about me and his prediction that I’m going to live to well past 100. Those good relationships will hopefully out weigh the bad genes and I’ll be the 90something old lady, doing yoga and zipping around town on a Vespa.