Who’s Coming to Dinner?

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“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.

“Strange.”

“Very.”

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.”  Scott Stabile

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.” Tennessee Williams

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.” E.B. White

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?”

“Maybe?”

“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.”

“Fear estranges.”

“Very much.”

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.

Anecdotes:

  • “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.” Edna St. Vincent Millay
  • “Success and failure, ultimately, have little to do with living the gospel. Jesus just stood with the outcasts until they were welcomed or until he was crucified — whichever came first.” Gregory Boyle
  • “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there.” Rumi

 

18 Comments

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    1. Wow! Thank you Dupwe, I appreciate your kind words and engaging with you in the comments. Thanks for the follow and I hope you enjoy this ever so complicated journey through life. Welcome!

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  1. It’s so heartwarming to look back on our lives and the people who were part of it, whether they are still actively in our lives today or not. Each and every person who touched us has impacted our lives in some way and it would be different without them…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for the lovely comment! I totally agree that most of the people who have passed through my life have been heartwarming, but regardless of the impact, they have all changed me in some way! Here’s to many more lively encounters!

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  2. Very thoughtful piece! I often think about friendships too and how people come in and out of our lives, usually leaving their mark. I love the story about Marilyn Monroe and how her presence alone helped get a friend noticed. Such a small gesture of kindness.

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    1. Thank you, I agree people definitely leave there mark on us, some are cherished, others not so much! It’s crazy to think how easily we can help each other, stories like Ella and Marilyn make me want to do more for others, imagine if your presence could establish someone’s career? Wow! Thanks for the comment.

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  3. I love Lisa Kleypas and that quote really stood out to me! It reflects a friendship that is currently on the mend! Also learned something new about Ella and Marilyn’s friendship!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. So glad that quote spoke to you, I too have relationships in need of mending! I think the people we surround ourselves with are so important, worthy of our consideration, and discernment! Thanks for the comment!

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  4. There is so much good here, and true. Love the Rumi quote especially. It’s really hard to be a writer and keep up friendships. Just like any career that takes so much of your time and attention. My best friends are people who know that I have work that takes me away from being social sometimes. Just that they understand and accept that makes me love them more and makes me more loyal and more determined to find the time for friendship.

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    1. Thank you Cynthia, I appreciate your comment, especially about the struggles and isolation associated with careers that involve writing. I’m comfortable being alone, maybe too comfortable, the choice to be social is intentional. I try and spend time with those I love, often that ends up being family, but also beloved friends. The older I get the more I realize the value of time and I try to spend it wisely.

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  5. Cheryl!, Cheryl!, Cheryl!
    I was a little behind on reading your blog ( I like to devote a lot of thought to each one,) and I thought I might let this one slide. Then I saw the Black Uhuru song link, and it triggered memories of listening to the songs Sponji Reggae and the Youth of Eglington. Sweet times. So I had to drop everything and dive in.
    This entry hits so many good themes. Rekindling lost friendships, preserving current ones. What is a friend. What shouldn’t be a friend. So many great meaningful quotes. Love the Thoreau, Love the Tennessee Williams.
    This blog and these crazy times made me remember a quote from one of this country’s founders. “I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend.” – Thomas Jefferson to William Hamilton, April 22, 18001
    Words to live by.
    A friend who has since passed, once told me…”You should vote for the same person as me.” And who might that be? ‘”Whoever I damn well please.”
    More recently I have met up with some long lost friends, and I have to say, it was worth it. If I only spend time with those who I agree with on every issue, then life would surely be boring. On top of that, I would never learn anything new. I might be stuck in “Plato’s Cave” so to speak.
    Thank you for so eloquently clearing up and stating the fuzzy thoughts that were rolling around in my mind.
    Now I have to get busy mending fences. After all, life is hard enough as it is. We all need someone to lean on.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Mike! So glad you didn’t let this one slide! The minute you post a comment I get notes from followers who enjoy your thoughts and insights, in fact I think you might be the best part of this blog.
      I relied on many wonderful thinkers for this post and the feedback from family was “lay off the quotes, we want to know what you think.” Ugg, but I like the way others express what I believe or at least was trying to convey! Anyway, I tried using more of my own voice on the following post, hopefully I was able to appease the roommates.
      Love how you pulled the perfect quote from our countries history to say explain exactly what I was thinking, in these difficult and polarizing times we need more people who can agree to disagree amicably. Sometimes it’s not easy to get defensive when someone disagrees with our opinion but as you and I have discussed sometimes it’s best to sit back and just listen to a different perspective. And as you say we might learn something new.
      Mending fences – not sure if you intended – but so beautifully metaphoric!
      Love the song…

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Love your comments. Yesterday I spent some time replying to your memory post, but somehow, despite trying to post for about an hour, successfully managed to think my reply had posted when it had not. That’s when I glanced at this post again and got sucked in.
    I have mixed feelings about the quotes. I love them because they promote thinking and it is easier for me to get sucked into the rich world we live in. They also tie your thoughts to both history and the current world, stimulate research, and open my eyes to other sources of interesting info. On the other hand, I like reading your words more. Also, I doubt if I am your typical reader. If I get a vote, I would continue to use them. Makes it more fun to reply and I like them. Also, I would keep being you. Use them when you feel they add, and don’t if you don’t want. However, don’t ever let the quotes drown out your voice. And of course, avoid them if they are nugatory (ha!) 😉
    “I have always been a learner because I new nothing.” Sydney Poitier ( and I guess that’s who’s coming to dinner.)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh my goodness, you are hysterical! Your closing line had me spewing coffee through my nose! The might be TMI? I appreciate your feedback (and yes you always get a vote) on the quote controversy currently popular in my household and I agree with your adage, “use them when you feel they add, and don’t if you don’t want.” My sentiments exactly.

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