Photo by Ethan McArthur on Unsplash

Who your peeps are speaks volumes about you

This morning I received an email from a new friend. Michael is over seventy, a retired Special Forces guy, liberal thinker (yes, they exist from the Army) and serious athlete. He bikes or runs several hours a day and, until recently, skied endlessly.

The “until recently” part is his fourth knee replacement. You read that right. He’s that serious a skier. He’d moved to Incline Village near Tahoe to ski just that much. His docs, however, waved the red flag.

Like all of us who finally get the message, Michael has realized that his badass skiing days are over. He’s selling and moving east Massachusetts where he has family and he can launch himself into water sports. He’ll find something just as aggressive as his beloved Black Diamond runs.

My kind of friend. I am so very glad we found each other.

How do you know you’ve found your peeps?

First, do you really even know who you want around you?

The professional speaking industry is one of my primary lanes. I’ve worked there for years. Among our icons is Jim Rohn. He gets quoted a lot on Medium without attribution (a very bad habit among my Medium peeps). One of his most-quoted statements is

“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”

Like so many quotes, people spout this without explaining what this means, the work it takes and the results that might happen if you put this to work. If you spout it without going about it, it’s a useless life hack.

Here’s what that means in practice.

Someone close to me in his early fifties hangs out most of the time with his brothers. All of them have drug issues, some bad enough to have been jailed. The oldest is a survivalist, he and his wife hang out around the house with pistols on their hips, and 300,000 rounds of ammo in the basement. Another won the lottery but is such an angry piece of shit the only sex he has is what he pays for.

Photo by Marina Kazmirova on Unsplash

With these as family, who needs enemies, right?

This person struggles, although he’s been able to make positive changes. He exercises, eats well, is well-educated. But he struggles. Of course he does. He comes from that Jersey Boy culture where tearing those around you down to the ground looks like love.

The fam is just one reason. When he’s not with the fam he’s by himself. He needs positive peeps.

Over the past few years I have been trimming my life tree of those people who have turned out not to be who I thought they were. As time has revealed, they were a touch lacking in integrity. Worse, they were what Medium writer Rev. Sheri Heller, LCSW writes about in her stunning, difficult and powerful articles as narcissists, users and spiritual vampires (my term). I’ve cut those branches off and brand new ones have leapt into place.

This year, as we have all negotiated with the challenges of Covid, I finalized a house sale and move to Eugene. With all the issues and heartbreaks of the last many months, the spaces I created in my life have been filling out with extraordinary folks I’ve met on Medium. Men and women in their later years (and younger, of course) who live out loud, live extraordinary lives, and bravely push their boundaries.

Some like Rosenna Bakari have evolved into deep and abiding friendships. People who push at me hard to think, grow, evolve, rise and remake myself as I age towards 70. Some like Ann Litts who, as she has turned 60 and is now on the short list for retirement, spends more time writing, more time inspiring with her lyrical words and and constantly invites me to have a cuppa with my Goddess, my muse, and release the pain of past hurts.

Margaret Kruger and Terri Ducay, later in life, continue to make extraordinary choices, develop skills, find places to make a difference, learn new sports and find deep and abiding love and purpose.

I could go on. However, these people’s articles, and their time on the phone with me have a habit of pushing me to the cliff’s edge and then gently nudging me over.

That’s their job.

Photo by Stephen Leonardi on Unsplash

My wings are great and wide. As are yours. Billions of us avoid finding out just how high we can soar because we become more invested in what’s wrong with us than what’s right with us. Plenty of people, including our parents and our pastors, can be deeply invested in pointing out what’s wrong and reinforcing those messages for it serves their purpose. It made my father feel superior to emotionally beat his kids down. A pastor makes dime when you spend most of your time feeling guilt and pour money into the passing hat hoping for absolution.

If you and I want to live up to what we can do, and find out what soaring really looks and feels like, it might serve to start choosing folks who insist that we leap off the cliffs that we fear to approach. It really is the only way to find out what’s possible.

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

The people we choose to inhabit the close space around us physically and intellectually and spiritually do two things:

  1. They reinforce or challenge our internal bullshit stories that were installed by parents, priests, PR people, parochial schools and politicians over the course of our lives
  2. They reinforce or help us fundamentally rewrite that programming, allowing us to repeat our mistakes or rewire our potential, torpedo it or allow it to become what we were always meant to become.

Michael sent me an email which highlighted some quick stories from the website Growing Bolder. Here’s a sampling:

Growing Bolder
Growing bolder

There were twenty-one such images.

That will definitely jump start my day. I dunno about you, but I am far less concerned with the nature of my facial wrinkles, and I sport a road map of them, than I am with my overall vivacity, attitude, health and commitment to an extraordinary life. I need ballsy role models. We all do.

Even better, we need role models in our immediate circles. People we talk to, whose articles we read, who remind us of what’s best and possible rather than reinforce ain’t it awful and scarcity thinking and poke their hot pokers in our fears to reinforce them. The best of my friends force me to jerk my foolish fears out by the roots and face off with them. Most of the time what I thought was a lethal triffid was a dandelion, good for bees, salads and generally righteously cheerful.

Look, I can’t speak for you. But as I inch towards 70, like all of us facing an uncertain and timorous future, I have no interest in buying into the media-driven notion that the day after you and I turn fifty (or forty or sixty) we instantly wear diapers and descend into dementia.

Growing bolder

I don’t buy the notion that “age is just a number” in that rather mindless way that people bandy the phrase around. Age is real, and it extracts payment, particularly if you and I don’t do what it takes to prepare for the very real demands that an aging body place upon us.

I launched into the site with gusto, enthusiasm and joy. Here are my peeps. Here is the growing community of get-it-done, live huge, no-apologies types who have carved out their own versions of aging. I am by no means that much of an outlier, not matter how much my delicate ego would love to believe such a thing. If anything, the advances in health, fitness and nutrition have allowed many, many more of us to make better choices, redirect our lives at nearly any pivot point and experience all manner of adventures even in the face of great difficulty. To that I share this story:

Remembering Wendy Chioji - Growing Bolder
If you’ve watched Growing Bolder over the years you know that one of most talented and inspirational team members was Wendy Chioji. Wendy was not only a regular on our programs, she was a good friend and colleague for over 35 years. On the one-year anniversary of her death, we share some of her most…

We all die. How we get to that pivot point is very much up to us. This is no-excuse living at its best.

The Outdoor Industry a few years back, pushed largely by REI, had a celebratory year about women in the outdoors. It was a yearlong campaign:

Force of Nature | REI Co-op
A woman’s place is in the wild. In 2017, REI is putting women front and center. We’re telling stories of adventurers, makers and rule-breakers. Be a #ForceOfNature. Learn more.

If you go to that website you will see women, women of color, large women of color, women of all kinds and shapes and sizes and a few of age. REI asked, and heard, how so very many women today claimed that they “had no role models.

Honey, if you ain’t got no role models you ain’t lookin’ hard enough.

I have found it effortless to track down supergeezer women doing amazing things. Supergeezer men, oldsters who may not believe they are supergeezers but who are training like supergeezers like Warren Nelson and Joseph Geary.

In fact, you actually have to both ignore and avoid those stories, those people. If you can’t see them, it’s because you can’t see.

It may well be that the fact that all of us have wrinkles, sag, bag and look old that your search stops the second you see proof of age.

To wit:

The Indomitable Dottie Gray - Growing Bolder
If you think someone 90 or older can’t bounce back from a broken hip, prepare to have your mind changed. Meet Dottie Gray, the 94-year-old who had her hip replaced less than a year ago and still showed up to compete at the National Senior Games.

My world is full of these people. Some are very close friends. Some are far-flung friends. All of them are folks whose stories motivate my Lycra leggings off.

These are my peeps, these and additional folks from Medium of all ages whose stories and words about evolving, love, and life invite me to rise rather than wallow in the inevitable sewage that accompanies life. It’s always going to be there. You eat, you shit.

You read shit, you think shit, you talk shit, you create sewage. You wallow in it and your world reflects the shit you consume and then spread out on to others.

That is the whole point. There will be shit.

What you choose to look at, who you listen to and whose truths sculpt the walls and halls of your life determine whether you fall into that sewage, as do we all, and we use it to fertilize our magnificence or suffocate our potential.

Deposit photos

I can only speak for myself. This life is the only one I have that I absolutely know about for now. It’s shifting into its later gears. I have continually oiled this machine, given it better maintenance as it’s aged.

Perhaps the most essential maintenance are the mechanics I allow to tinker with my inner workings. Those are my peeps. Your peeps. The people who populate your inner circle, whose words shape and touch your life, whose speech guides you. Who help shape your truth.

Your tribe, your peeps, who are they? What do they reflect about you? Who is your echo chamber? Who benefits from your pain? Alternatively, who benefits from when you rise, live with grace and courage, and contribute in that sacred way that ONLY you can contribute?

If your peeps are happiest when you are in pain, for that reinforces their version of how the world is shit, well, then.

Maybe that works for you. For me an’ my peeps, we have way too much living to do. For my part, I genuinely hope that you find the folks who invite your best. You deserve to live it. Out loud, proud, wrinkles and all.

Growing bolder