We went to dinner last week with 2 couples who have been friends of my husband for 40+ years. They raised kids, traveled and connected to celebrate the New Year together for most of their adult lives. I’m the group newbie, only 5 years into the fabric of their friendship. While making casual conversation, we began checking out the menu. As we talked, it began to feel like the table in front of us was becoming a dumping ground for complaints and negative comments. Everyone in the group was contributing to the pile… just like me. The experience was a bit surreal, as I saw myself contributing to the horrible, negative mess. I added words and smiled, laughed or nodded at the comments others were making. The bizarre part was that I noticed. I saw myself doing those things. I knew that I wasn’t contributing anything healthy to myself or the group. But, I didn’t make a choice to get out or get away from the swirl of it. I made a couple of “encouraging” comments and realized they were opinions. Then, I quietly disengaged by checking my phone a few times (so rude in a group), smiling at the waitress and scanning the room. I am happy and thankful to be assembling a tool belt that will deepen my understanding of what to do when I’m in a similar situation. It’s a bit unnerving to hear the remarks that as we move forward in life, some things just naturally fall away. I’m not sure what that means here in relation to lifelong friendships (which aren’t super important to my husband), and my increasing awareness that I’m personally responsible for the assembly and the expression of my self in life. It’s a great thing to ponder and take to a sit.