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Martha's big adventure -
Standing room only

There is a certain question I keep asking myself lately. Does this behavior really serve me or just make me look good? Too often in the past I went with the look good answer as the more desirable choice. I did it so often I wasn't really aware of how it was affecting my life.

The other half of that conundrum was how often I stopped myself from doing something I wanted to do because I thought it might make me look bad and so I would hesitate. The definition of bad was, of course, according to some internal criteria that I had arbitrarily decided was necessary for my image to the outside world.

It's amazing how much of that stale thinking doesn't survive once it's shared with another reasonable human being and how often, in the past, I resisted saying any of it out loud. My constant fret was that I might turn out to be right and by not risking the answer I locked myself into a self-fulfilling spot.

Fortunately, I have hit a spot in life where being right all the time just isn't worth it anymore. I'm hoping that means my internal self-esteem has grown to a place where I have figured out that my own opinion of me is the one that really matters.

It's all a side benefit from the Great Recession, losing one place to live in New York City and finding out that things can actually work out even better.

Now, I'm faced with another new big American city, Chicago, where I need to reach out to others and build yet another new web of friends. For just a moment there I hesitated because of my lack of furniture. I didn't want to look like I was somehow failing at being a grown-up because I didn't have a collection of matching furniture and other possessions that signal, I've made all the right decisions.

The truth is, there are four chairs in the entirety of my new living space in Chicago. One of them is a small wooden chair from my late father's church in Longport, N.J. Upon his retirement he made sure each of his children received one as a memento of those summers at the shore. That leaves three grown-up chairs and no other kind of seating.

Fortunately, some new neighbors, Sheila and Andrew Love, dropped by my back porch with a bottle of wine and grapes and kept inviting every other neighbor that walked past. Before I knew it, the porch was full of people, more food, and even candles from Patrick with Andrew playing the banjo and Mimi leading a tour of the apartment. I pointed out the lack of furniture out of my own awkwardness and suddenly neighbors were offering up furniture they had been thinking of giving away. It was all so easy.

A computer desk and a rug from the Loves, and a possible love seat from Lorena and Dave, and suddenly I had not only made new friends but found a few more seats. There's even a possibility of a purple wooden chair with some history behind it.

This is the magic behind finally being just who you are and letting the rest of the world in on the secret. Often, those who are destined to be your friends will meet you where you are and help you with that next step. Suddenly, I'm not trying to do it all on my own anymore and I have created that new network of family and friends and realize, I'm once again at home. More adventures to follow.

Martha's column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc., newspaper syndicate. E-mail her at Martha@caglecartoons.com.