“What the hell happened to so and so,” I ask my sister during one of our early morning coffee chats.
“I don’t know, haven’t heard from her in years,” she said.
Autumn makes me nostalgic, not in a celebratory way like New Year’s, but in a sow what you reap sort of way, as if harvesting my life. There are specific markers that are reflective of our personal history and the way in which our presence in this world has been hopefully fruitful, possibly nugatory, or God-forbid damaging in some way.
I’ll admit to you, I have left behind sprinklings of each at one point or another in this life, sometimes to the same person, and I wonder why my phone book keeps getting smaller?
So as therapy I’m going to be grateful for the ones who have stayed the course – right through the heated summers, the placid falls, the darkness of winter, only to blossom with me in the spring. I am in awe of you, I thank you for traveling this life with me, and staying by my side when I needed you most. You know who you are and I love us.
“Find people who can handle your darkest truths, who don’t change the subject when you share your pain, or try to make you feel bad for feeling bad. Find people who understand we all struggle, some of us more than others, and that there’s no weakness in admitting it. Find people who want to be real, however that looks and feels, and who want you to be real, too. Find people who get that life is hard, and who get that life is also beautiful, and who aren’t afraid to honor both of those realities. Find people who help you feel more at home in your heart, mind and body, and who take joy in your joy. Find people who love you, for real, and who accept you, for real. Just as you are. They’re out there, these people. Your tribe is waiting for you. Don’t stop searching until you find them.”
Did you know Marilyn Monroe was a good friend of Ella Fitzgerald? I didn’t either. Monroe said that if Fitzgerald performed at the Mocambo, she would attend and sit in the front row, Monroe’s promise landed Fitzgerald the gig, and drew a ton of press to her performance. Fitzgerald said she owed Monroe a huge debt for that favor. After she performed at the Mocambo, she never had to play a small jazz club again, and the fondness between the two women remained strong.
When I glance over my life, and consider all the relationships that have come and gone, it makes me question why some are seasonal, periodic, temporary, and others are in for the long haul. Is there more to friendship than meets the eye?
“Time doesn’t take away from friendship, nor does separation.”
I like the way Lisa Kleypas describes relationships, she said, “it’s not because one was perfect, or not, but because your combined flaws were arranged in a way that allowed two separate beings to hinge together.” I love that. But as we all know hinges get rusty, doors close, some lock, and those phantom keys have a way of getting lost.
There are people who pass through your life and you don’t give them a second thought, while others linger with you, haunting your dreams, longing for resolution. Our relationships change and transform us in ways that can take years to fully understand, as if putting salt into water, it’s impossible to remove (well not impossible but it requires a lengthy process and therapy for sure), not to mention the more you drink the more thirsty you become. What satisfies this unquenchable thirst?
Fr. Greg Boyle says, “There is no force in the world better able to alter anything from its course than love.”
In my opinion friendship is one of the most important aspects of life. Laurie Buchanan says, “one of the hallmarks of social wellness is being inclusive, not exclusive, with our friendship.” It’s strange because friendships don’t happen because we are perfectly in sink with one another in terms of politics, religions, sexual orientation, ideologies, temperaments, or occupations. Toni Morrison says, “she is a friend of my mind. She gathers me. The pieces I am, she gathers them, and gives them back to me in all the right order.” Amen to good friends who beautifully order our lives.
Before I know what someone is really all about, I’ll know if they’re going to be important to me, it’s as if I’m hit with a powerful electrical current, it only happens at the first meeting, but it’s shockingly undeniable. I think we’re highly intuitive creatures, especially children, who naturally flock to those who are good hearted.
Fr. Greg Boyle refers to this as kinship, he says we are inching ourselves closer to creating a community of kinship, such that God might recognize it. Booyah! The truth is we can’t survive without loving relationships, in fact the soul dies when starved for love, and we don’t function as we were meant to. Brene Brown says, we break. We fall apart. We numb. We ache. We hurt others. We get sick. Maybe home is ultimately not about a place to live but about the people with whom you are most fully alive?
In my classes I teach that sin is simply the absence of good, but Fr. Boyle adds the absence of self-love is shame, just as cool is the absence of warmth. Sometimes my students remind me that the absence of good can be disguised as ignorance and they’re so right. Brene Brown claims, “those who have a strong sense of love and belonging have the courage to be imperfect.”
“Why did you do all this for me?’ he asked. ‘I don’t deserve it. I’ve never done anything for you.’ ‘You have been my friend,’ replied Charlotte. ‘That in itself is a tremendous thing.”
There have been times when I’ve been surprised, and thought I might have to retreat from a relationship because of irreconcilable differences, but I’ve learned people with opposing convictions can still be friends, it’s delicate, but it can be done.
I had my students listen to a podcast by Krista Tippett with Derek Black and Matthew Stevenson this semester. While attending college Matthew Stevenson (a devout Jew) invites Derek Black (a devout white nationalist) to Shabbat dinner every Friday evening in his dorm, they become friends, and slowly over time Derek’s ideology changes. At the dinners they never discuss white nationalism but through the sharing of stories Derek starts to realize his actions/beliefs hurt others, this knowledge unsettles his deeply rooted convictions, and slowly they are replaced with more compassionate and loving tenets.
I was legitimately — felt like I was — especially, over time, counted him amongst my closest friends, even when I frankly didn’t know exactly where he stood. Matthew Stevenson
I used to think it was easy to tell if someone liked you are not, but not so quick grasshopper, some people behave in ways that support their inner beliefs, while others are masters at disguising their true feelings. It’s disorienting to be around inauthenticity, as if landing in quick sand, the environment is unstable, and as you’re being sucked into this abhorrent situation, you realize the more you struggle the deeper you sink. I say keep a rope and a cowboy handy.
“I don’t care about whose DNA has recombined with whose. When everything goes to hell, the people who stand by you without flinching–they are your family.” Jim Butcher
Kindness is one of the most important attributes one can cultivate, being inclusive, noticing when someone is feeling isolated, or left out. These are intentional behaviors driven by the knowledge that no one is disposable. Divisive behavior is lazy, often ignorantly reactive, and unreflective. “Close both eyes see with the other one. Then we are no longer saddled by the burden of our persistent judgments our ceaseless withholding our constant exclusion. Our sphere has widened and we find ourselves quite unexpectedly in a new expansive location in a place of endless acceptance and infinite love,” says Fr. Greg Boyle #IHaveYou
“The greatest compliment that was ever paid me was when one asked me what I thought, and attended to my answer.” Henry David Thoreau
I lean towards my sister, “you think she’d come to dinner if we invited her?”
“What does one serve at a reconcilable dinner?”
“Jesus served fish.”
“I remember the story.”
“I’m surprised Peter didn’t choke on a bone when Jesus asked, ‘do you love me?'”
“I think Peter always loved him.”
“He was afraid.”
Is there someone from your past who has fallen out of your life? Who should you invite to dinner?
I’m Living in the Gap, drop by anytime, we’ll fry up some fish.
- “It’s no good pretending that any relationship has a future if our record collections disagree violently or if your favorite films wouldn’t even speak to each other if they met at a party,” says Nick Hornby.
- “I know I am but summer to your heart, and not the full four seasons of the year.”