I’m really not sure where I am going with this. All I know is that it means something and I’ll figure it out as I go. 10 days ago I drove my little self to Kirksville, MO to visit 2 friends that I went to college with. We met in 1989 (Yes. I am old) when we were 18 and moved on with our lives in 1992. We didn’t see each other again until last weekend. The anticipation of that is hard to wrap your brain around. I wasn’t nervous. I was excited but also curious as to house this was going to all pan out.
24 years is a long time. Would we even have anything to talk about? Would we share the common chemistry that drew us together when we were practically children? Well, after our initial reunion, after we hugged and hugged and hugged some more, we didn’t stop talking for the next 16 hours. Then we took a small nap, woke up and started again until we had to depart that morning. It was beautiful. It was like we had been sleeping across the hall from each other last week. There was an intimacy that has been hard to find since that time. It was like coming home to my family who knows me at my core, even when life has battered and bruised many parts of me.
I have many, many good friends today. But here’s why I think it has taken me 24 years to develop those friendships and it took me only 4 to establish relationships that are solid enough to survive a 24 year gap—FORCED COMMUNITY. Today, for example, I don’t feel well and am kind of emotional about some things, but guess what I am doing (besides writing—which is not that normal)? I am sitting on my couch, by myself. I am not calling my friend, who can’t answer because she is at work or another friend who has little kids she is picking up at school.
It’s no one’s fault. Life is busy and crazy. Neediness never comes at convenient moments. I am “handling” it on my own. I have had nights when I cried silently and privately so as not to upset my kids. I dried the tears and sucked it up. Occasionally I will call a friend and tell her what a hard night I had the night before or how angry or hurt I was a few days ago. But there’s something less vulnerable and binding about doing it after the fact. It’s entirely different to be melting down and have your roommate walk in from a date to find you in this pathetic state. You can’t cover it up or act tough. You are busted. You talk. You vent. You share. You are real and open in a way that comes naturally when someone arrives on the scene of your breaking point.
Maybe you are different—more mature or humble than me. But being vulnerable at that level is very far out of my personal comfort zone. And when I don’t live on a floor with a bunch of girls who might happen to “catch” me being broken, I don’t usually feel the urge to announce it to anyone. This keeps me isolated and lonelier than I need to be (this very topic is causing me to practically break out in hives). It’s not that I don’t have friends I can share with, I just have to choose to be open enough to do it.
And then there is the reputation thing. Image management. I want people to think I am together and mature and spiritual and productive. If I don’t tell them about the ugly parts, they don’t have to know them. It’s much easier to pretend everything is “fine” when they only see you at lunch once or twice a month. There’s also the identity thing. Somewhere between being adventurous and open-minded and in search of who I really was during college, I landed my identity in being a good mom and a good wife.
Those are good things to be but they don’t define me. I forgot to search out music I liked besides kid’s songs and movies I loved outside of Veggie Tales and Disney movies.
It’s much easier to lose sight of who I am when I isolate. I forget that I am responsible to continue to not only take care of my kids and my husband, but to take care of me. To know what I like and don’t like. It’s hard to connect with others intimately if you are unsure of who you are.
I’m really not intending to sound whiney or that I don’t like myself or my life today. I absolutely do. But last weekend I was reminded that if I want the kind of relationships that stand the test of time, I am going to have to put myself out there a bit more than I do. We can never replicate the intensity that comes from living across the hall from our friends like we did in college, but an effort to let others in to our pain, our crisis, our chaos as it is happening is bound to expedite the process of securing the kind of friendships we long to have as adults.
Sigh…I hate it when I give myself a good butt-kicking…(gonna go phone a friend)