Personal commandment #1: Be me.

Do you believe, as I do, that a wonderful gift of age is the ability to embrace—and celebrate—the things that make us different? It’s something that’s on my mind as I watch my own daughter, now 19, move beyond that overwhelming teenage need to blend and belong. She is a little more Eliza each time she comes home from college.

I think back to a gathering of my lifelong friends, the Wise Women, when we met last Spring at Primland. There was a moment late Saturday night when I looked around the room and into those familiar faces and I thought: How I love these women. How I admire them. How surprised I am we are here, all these years later, such an eclectic group.

Amy, Julie, Lisa, Suzann, Vickie, Cathy, Sharon

You see, we seven have been friends for 50 years. We share a unique history, growing up together in the 60s and 70s in the rugged mountains of Southwest Virginia, remote, isolated even. It was quite a time.

We were quite a group.

You might expect that we Wise Women would, today, have a great deal in common. And we do. Time together reconnects those links and offers a powerful, centering force. But we have also grown into ourselves, each of us, and have become a rather diverse collection. These annual gatherings are a celebration of those differences; they are the moments in which I feel the most transparent, loved not in spite of but because of the ways I have Become Cathy in my South Carolina life.

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Be Gretchen is the first commandment author Gretchen Rubin wrote for herself in her year-long quest for greater happiness. I found it to be such a profound concept I, too, put it at the top of my list. In doing so, I vowed to let go of some long-held (and constantly nagging) intentions in exchange for an honoring of those abilities and interests that come to me more naturally.

What a wildly liberating thought. How wonderful to release the burden of eternal expectation and to instead, simply acknowledge what is.

I will get organized; clean off my desk. I will launch a thousand good ideas into the world.

I will learn to love to run, dammit! I will stretch and strengthen with Pilates.

I will start less and finish more. I will have a little bit of everything, thank you.

When it comes to our Wise Women weekends—making reservations, planning meals, coordinating travel—I am not the friend tasked with “details,” you can be sure. But there’s no doubt I will drive up in a car loaded down with bag after bag of unsanctioned snacks, several knitting projects, a sketchbook or two, a stack of magazines, the last 10 books I’ve loved, a ridiculous assortment of outfits. And shoes. Always way too many shoes.

After all. How can a girl possibly know on Thursday what she is going to feel like wearing on Sunday?

Actually, we all take too many shoes. (We counted.)