So, uh, this week has kind of sucked. [Sidebar: Thank you for the kind words and thoughts and emails after that last post. I consider myself very lucky to have so many kind folks out there in the Intertubes giving a damn about us, and on low days like that one, it helps more than you know.] When things sucks, I like to go full hermit. I don’t want to talk to you, I don’t want to see you, I don’t want to do anything but curl up and maybe talk to Otto a little bit and hug my kids. That’s just how I am.
Lucky for me, my dance card usually isn’t full, so if I hit a time like this when I want to hide, it’s not hard to do. (Hooray for maladaptive coping!) But this week as things started crashing down around me, I looked at my calendar and realized that one of my oldest friends was coming to town. And my first inclination, quite honestly, was to call her up and cancel. Because STUFF, man, and THINGS and HARD and WAHWAH and I am an iiiiiiiiiislaaaaaaand!
Last year, I probably would’ve canceled. I would’ve apologized, profusely, and I would’ve felt like a shitty friend, and I would’ve gone back to hiding (now with extra self-flagellation) and that would’ve been it. But I have GROWN AS A PERSON (haaaaaa) and so I didn’t cancel.
I put on my big girl panties, instead, and sent along a message letting her know that it’s been a crappy week and stuff has been challenging and I was feeling unsteady BUT that I was really looking forward to seeing her, anyway. Because I realized that I was.
This is a shift for me. I think it’s probably a good one.
My friend—let’s call her Sandi, because that’s her name—lives far away, and happens to be in the area for a conference. The last time I saw her was… the last time she was here for a conference. And the last time before that was maybe… ten years ago? Maybe more? We’ve stayed in touch, obviously, but haven’t seen each other frequently. Life has a way of getting in the way.
Sandi and I met our first week of college. I had just turned 17, she was 16. We were at Simon’s Rock, a college geared towards “advanced students ready to begin their college experience early,” which of course in practice ends up being a student population of freaks and geeks with terrible home lives and/or nightmarish high school experiences who need to escape. It’s not so much that every kid there had baggage as that, for many of us, it was the first time we were able to look around and say, “Huh. I’m not the weirdest kid in the room.”
I picked her up yesterday and we went out to lunch, then came back to the house to hang out for a while. As we sat there chatting, I thought about how 24 years ago I never could’ve pictured this scenario. We are both, by outward appearances, successful and “normal” (I have a hearty skepticism for normal, but you know what I mean). We sat on my porch and drank tea and I thought about how we used to sit in my dorm room drinking tea and arguing about our freshman composition professor and his totally unfair “system” of awarding only a single A on any given paper, then A minuses and on downward from there. (Sandi got the midterm A and I, naturally, went to his office to argue about my A minus because LISTEN, DUDE, I DON’T KNOW MUCH BUT I KNOW I AM A GOOD WRITER AND I CAN ASSURE YOU THAT THIS WAS AN A PAPER. Turns out I was an insufferable know-it-all back then, but the professor must’ve liked that because on the final I got the A and Sandi got an A minus. She probably had the good sense not to go argue with him about it, though.)
We had a mutual friend whose first semester met every cliche of the rebel “finding herself,” and as both Sandi and I were not particularly worldly—and to varying degrees, maybe even sort of scared of the big, bad world—the number of times our friend would stagger back to the dorm to tell us that, for example, she’d dropped acid and participated in an all-night orgy and IT WAS A SPIRITUAL EXPERIENCE, YOU GUYS, was a constant source of entertainment and horror. And we certainly made our own share of mistakes and bad decisions, don’t get me wrong. They just weren’t quite so… interesting… I guess.
Still, here we sat, enjoying our time together, swapping stories about our spouses and how they’re our grounding influences, marveling that anyone, really, gets out of the teen years intact.
Sandi met my kids, and they peered at her curiously when they thought we weren’t looking. The idea that this was someone who’s known me since I was only a little older than Chickadee is hard to fathom, I suppose. Otto came home and she met him, too, and I guess I’ll have to ask her later if she liked him better than my ex. (Not that it matters; as long as I like him better than my ex I’m not worried.) They talked university politics and I sat and listened and was really glad that I did not choose to go into academia.
And then it was time for her to go, and probably we won’t see each other again for a few years.
It was terrible timing, just the completely wrong time to try to get together and catch up. But it was also perfect timing, and a few hours of respite and reminiscing that helped me to remember that sometimes we survive, and thrive, in spite of everything.