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.
Truer words were never spoken ~ sometimes we survive, and thrive, in spite of everything. And sometimes reflecting with a friend on how far we’ve come and all we’ve gone through to get where we are is just what we need.
There is something about choosing to step outside of our comfort zone, especially when usually we’re all “bright light! bright light!” You took this opportunity, knowing it might not be the best time, but that another time might not offer itself anytime soon, and you fit it in. Survive and thrive.
I love those moments of reconnecting with people from the past like that. I just spent a week in Boston (what a strange complicated week to be in Boston) with a friend I hadn’t seen in about ten years and it was amazing to me how instantly we could click back into our old conversational patterns. Glad you had some time like that, too!
Good friends, old friends, have a way of making things okay for a little bit, if for no other reason than the joy their presence brings.
virtual hugs coming your way…
Yup, old friends are the best. And we have to keep them because they know too much about us! Heh.
p.s. “(Hooray for maladaptive coping!) ” made me snlaugh (snort/laugh)
lol… maladaptive coping for the win!!!
I agree, old friends are the awesomest. They know all your secrets and they love you anyway. You know you’ve got a good one when you can go that long without seeing each other, and then sit down and enjoy each other’s company with no awkwardness. Good for you for de-hermiting (it is TOO A word) and spending time with your friend.
See – oxygen mask! I love friends that I can do that with, they are worth their weight in gold. So glad that you got to spend some time on a friendship – however much we love family, we need other people too!
HA! That’s *exactly* what I was going to say! Deciding to see friend anyway = making an oxygen mask and then using it. Can’t use this one every time, but still….
For such a hermit, you do an amazing job of gathering really neat people around you, y’know. Just a thought :)
And I’d say that was perfect timing, even if it didn’t feel like it at the time.
“My friendâ€”letâ€™s call her Sandi, because thatâ€™s her name” made me chuckle. Sometimes a short escape can do a world of good.
sometimes you have to look for the oxygen mask, sometimes the oxygen mask comes into town for a conference.
OMG! I went to Simon’s Rock toooooooo! I had no idea you went there.
1. Good for you for putting on those big girl panties–sometimes it is so worth it to do that.
2. “I am an iiiiiiiiiislaaaaaaand!” cracked me up!
3. The older you get, the more you need people who knew you when you were young.
Well, my name is Jim, but people call me…….Jim.
What a terrific coincidence, your friend coming to town just when you needed something a little extra. Sometime life hands you just what you need when you need it, only there are times when it takes a bit of courage to take it.
(but, to be an island, you have to be a rock)
Just keep swimming, just keep swimming. The waters you are swimming in are way better than tampon lemonade and you cannot drown. So glad you allowed yourself a short chance to recharge.
What everyone else is saying . . though part of me can’t help wondering where that mutual friend/rebel is NOW. I can’t help picturing her as now and ultra-uptight, conservative mom who won’t let her kids do anything and denies that she ever did. ;-)
well, depending on how times that friend dropped acid, it COULD be Heidi T up there and she just has no memory of ever knowing Mir. which is not to imply in any way that Heidi ever dropped acid or anything else. it would just be terribly interesting and highly ironic, is all i’m saying.
Funny I was curious about where the rebel is now as well. I am glad you went out – I have found that going to some of those things ends up being just what I needed even though the getting out of the house can seem amazingly difficult.
I think a college photo would be very cheery to share with your favorite internets!
When I get the rare opportunity to be with my bestie (she lives up North), it feeds my soul. Literally. That visit with Sandi was the best thing for you. Hang tough, sweetie.
1). I remember getting the mail for Simon’s Rock, and I was sososososo tempted. Met DH at the college I eventually went to, so I guess it worked out okay though.
2). Good on you for grabbing that oxygen mask.
3). Remember this is the through. The through sucks. It also ends.
Keep breathing my friend.
I can’t believe you went to Simon’s Rock! Oh my god!
I’m so glad for you that you go that. I tend to go hermit too when shit is falling down around my ears. I’m not quite ready to not do that yet. This week was a bad one for us too, but yesterday was a good day for me and for my Z. That good day, and your visit with your friend, will give us some of what we need to face the days and weeks that aren’t so good.
Our friends who knew us then and still love us now … They are the best! My Audrey and I joke that it takes both our memories to have one recollection of high school! I’m so happy for you that you didn’t play the hermit card and made his connection! Well done!
This post reminds me that the older we get the less we meet up with our friends. Life just gets in the way. I enjoyed this. Thanks Mir
Sometimes it’s that break from the crazy life that reminds us we can handle the world after all.
Is Simon’s Rock the same as Simon of Bard’s Rock College? In Northampton or somewhere around there? B/c I once met the ODDEST guy on a train from Providence to Buffalo (actually going all the way to Chicago) who came onto the train carrying a small wooden chair he had made. He put it under his seat, then started talking so animatedly he kicked the shit out of his wooden chair until it was in several pieces. He then invited me to his sleeper car to do drugs. I politely declined.
So, for all those years, he was the only person I had ever known to have gone there. And now I know you did too! This makes me smile. And wonder if you ever made a small wooden chair in class?
Sometimes the worst timing social events are the ones that are the most needed. I’ll never forget getting on a plane to go to my best friends house (for a pre-planned weekend trip), hours after my then husband told me he wanted a divorce. Life man, it’s crazy.
I get the same way, that I want to shut down but social time with good, trusted friends ends up being the exactly perfect thing.
Hunh. I think the universe calls that timing very much On Purpose. Sometimes reminiscing is good for the soul.