wisps of hope float around, but they’re hard to latch onto, harder still to hold onto once latched. i am anxious today. nervous. looking for the redbird as confirmation of today as a happy day. trying hard to be hopeful and optimistic, trying hard not to invest too much in hopeful and optimistic . . .
i sent a friend a book and a l-o-n-g letter, and she gets home today to open the package. this is not just any friend, mind you, it’s one of my precious few soul friends. a woman i grew up with – not in terms of chronological progression through the years, but as women growing into ourselves. this is the woman i called in the middle of my darkest night.
this is also the woman who broke up with me over a year ago. she sent me a dear jeanne email, and i have not talked to her since.
i didn’t reply to the email, didn’t call her, didn’t write her letters because the ball was in my court, and honestly, i wanted to keep it there. i didn’t even dribble the damn ball for fear it would get away from me because you see, as long as it was my turn to write, i still could. and as long as i still could, the friendship wasn’t totally, absolutely over.
we went to graduate school together (that’s where we met). she waited outside the office as we checked out of the residency, saying she wanted to walk back to the dorm with me, and that’s when i knew she was crazy enough to be my friend. while in graduate school, we shared research, ideas, and even feedback from our faculty advisers, asking each other to read the emails from faculty lest we missed something important.
in our togetherness, we built our own cathedrals.
we once spent a week in a cabin in the woods, writing, talking, laughing, walking, eating. she was working on her thesis, i was her sounding board, her editor, her questioner. the day we emerged from our week in the woods was the day sue monk kidd’s book the mermaid chair came out. before we left, i called the local bookstore and asked them to reserve 2 books – 1 in each name. we picked the books up on our way back into civilization.
a year or so later, we attended a weekend writer’s conference in charleston led by – you guess it: sue monk kidd. it was, as all our togethers were, a special time. hot like you wouldn’t believe, but oh the laughs, the tears, the places we did go in that one town on that one weekend.
she’s from the north; i’m from the south, so we decided early on (another of her good ideas) that instead of sharing physical presents on special days, we would meet twice a year and spend a week together. longer, if we could manage it. the world fell completely away when we were together, leaving us free to explore our overlapping interests without having to justify or explain. we were free to create our own little rituals, doing things that held meaning and marked significance for us, even if it looked downright silly to the outside world. for several days of our togetherness, for example, we’d put a banana out in a certain spot, and upon awakening each morning, neither of us spoke a single word until the banana was moved twice, indicating we’d both journaled our way to the surface.
we created collages as outlines for books we would write. we peeled back the bandages on old wounds and trusted that the light and salt from shared tears would help heal. we laughed till we peed and kidded each other as though a shared secret language that only the two of us spoke.
you get the picture . . . but only part of it because i haven’t the bandwidth to paint this picture of friendship in its true colorful and magnificent breadth and depth.
early in september, sue monk kidd’s new book came out. i was there, at the same local store, first in line to purchase 2 copies of the book. i brought them home and began to read mine, underlining things, making notes in the margin of things i longed to talk to my friend about.
her copy of the book lay on my desk, waiting for me to take the next step.
one saturday morning i woke up knowing it was time to write The Letter. i couldn’t've picked a worse time. daughter was here, recovering from pleurisy. husband was here doing his saturday things (which means i’m on call), and to top it all off: my Self chose to write not tucked away in my studio, but at the dining room table (a.k.a. the fishbowl).
i didn’t ask, i just found paper and pen, took the book and sat down to write. i have no idea what i wrote. i remember writing “i miss you” several times, but beyond that, i just don’t know. did i even tell her why i was sending the book? will she remember if i forgot to tell her? did i come close to telling her how much she means to me? did i beg? did i say anything, anything that will spark a fire of reconciliation? i wrote for years, but it only took about an hour, and when i came to the end, i found myself rambling. though i can’t remember the words i wrote, i remember the feeling of not wanting to close the letter because signing the letter just might mean closing, ending the friendship. i was tossing the ball back, and the possible finality of that was not lost on me.
the package sat on my desk for several days before i took a deep breath and mailed it. somehow i managed to not think about it every single minute of every single day, then came an email from her last monday that she was out of town and would be home to open the package today.
though i’ve tried to keep myself busy (read: distracted) this past week, i have also spent inordinate amounts of time creating an emotional scenario, giving words and feelings to my biggest hopes. feeling the absolute full body tingle of excitement when i get an email from her that opens the door to possible reconnection. imagining the talks we’ll eventually have about this time apart and our coming together again – how we’ll explore it with symbols and myths and personal archetypes. how we’ll find ways to fit it into our personal theories of resiliency and female development. i’ve tried to actually read over our imagined shoulders as we write about this whole chapter in our togetherness. i have tried to write the script then will it to happen. it is an exercise of relinquishing control.
i have also thought of all the things i wish i’d've said. for example, there’s the upcoming 6-week online session with clarissa pinkola estes – the kind of thing we would enjoy doing together, the value of the session hugely enriched by the discussions we’d have aftewards. i’ve signed up already, but i forgot to mention it to her. do i send her an email or is that too much? there is a deadline because of the beginning date of the session, but do i need to give my friend space? it is an exercise of patience.
who will i share these deep interests of the soul with, these explorations and forays into the unknown? who will hold the space for me to cry without clucking over me and trying to stop the tears? who will be bold enough, willing enough to step in when needed, even if not beckoned? it is an exercise of trust.
have i made a fool of myself? it is an exercise in risk.
in her book, i will not die an unlived life, dawna markova writes of learning to open herself to fear instead of numbing it out. she then asks the question, “what do i love more than i fear?” it is an exercise in confronting the bully called fear and moving past it towards something – or in this case someone – i love.