Last updated on 11th January 2009
On the train to Glasgow. It's a Saturday afternoon in early July and I'm heading over to meet up with my old friend Larry to spend 24 hours or so together looking at how our lives are going. We've been getting together to do this three or four times a year for the last 10 to 15 years. Typically it's over a Saturday to Sunday afternoon. Ideally we try not to make it in one of our houses. We've found we get more of a perspective on how our lives are going when we're away from desks, emails, and a thousand other demands. We alternate meeting up in the West or East of Scotland. Today it's my turn to head West. I bring my bike over on the train and will use it to cycle up the towpath of the Forth & Clyde canal and then on to Larry's. Probably we'll then buy food and head out by bus and foot to an out-of-the-way shack owned by one of Larry's friends. There isn't any running water or electricity, but it's quiet, dry and surrounded by countryside - a great place to breathe and take stock.
I've known Larry since our boys were babies over 25 years ago. He's one of my oldest, dearest friends and we're very familiar with each other, our history, our difficulties, and our dreams. I remember those Yeats quotes again: "A friend is someone who sees the potential in you and helps you to live it" and "A friend is someone who knows the song in your heart and can sing it back to you when you have forgotten the words". I remember years ago, early on in our relationship, Larry told me about a friend he'd had when he was young. They'd go out on early dates with girls, and before leaving they would smell each other's breath. Sometimes you don't know if you have bad breath. You're a bit of a pain to be around, but you don't notice it yourself. Larry said he was looking for a friend now, as an adult, who would be able to do that for him and who he could do that for - a metaphor for checking and challenging how we are in the world, in our relationships, in how we're living our lives.
Typically our three or four times a year check-in's follow a fairly similar pattern. Meet up, chat, begin to catch up on how we each are. We walk a bit, but not a lot, at these check-in's. We've found that what suits us best for this 'inner work' is time to settle down, quieten, meditate, talk, write, eat, plan, celebrate. I'll post again tomorrow to say more about how this check-in goes.