Monday, October 1, 2012

I had lunch with an old friend the other day ...

We hadn’t seen or talked to each other in quite some time.  But, all of a sudden, there she was, the voice on the other end of an unrecognizable number appearing on my phone.  I don’t know why I even answered the call. Usually when a number appears on my phone that I don’t recognize I let it first go to voice mail.  

I answered with my usual “This is Lisa” response when I don’t know who is on the other end.   “Hey friend!  How are you?  How about lunch?”  It took me a moment to register who it was I was talking to but then, the smile began to grow across my face.   I am not particularly sure when, or how, we even stopped talking to each other.   All I knew at that moment was how happy I was to hear her voice.  We didn’t chat long that first time but rather just got down to the business of scheduling lunch together.  I knew I couldn’t wait to see her so I suggested we meet that very day.  She seemed hesitant, like I had caught her off guard, but she agreed just the same. 

After hanging up the phone and coming down from my giddiness over having just spoken to my friend, my head began to fill with all sorts of thoughts.  Why had it been so long?  Why did we stop talking?  I don’t remember any sort of fight or disagreement but as I sat contemplating it for a few moments, my stomach began to not feel so good.  There was something I was forgetting that I was now desperately trying to remember before meeting my friend for the first time in a very long time.

Reflecting on my life over these past few years, I came to the realization that a great deal of life had gone by that I didn’t even take notice of, my missing friend being one of them.  We used to talk, laugh, cry, dream and scheme all the time, pretty much every day.  What happened to me, I began to wonder.  Why did I let that part of my life go away?  How is it that I didn’t even notice it until my phone rang with that unfamiliar phone number showing up?

So off to lunch I went.  Our conversations started out something like this…

Me…How is your mom?
Her…She’s doing terrific.  I was talking to her yesterday and she was telling me about your visits with her while she was sick.  She said they were the highlights of her days.  I wish it had been me that could have been there for her but I am thankful she had you.  I am able to see her on a more regular basis these days and we have a ton of fun together but she always asks about you and wonders why you don’t come by anymore.  Now that she is feeling better and can get out of the house and experience life she says it would be nice to share the good times with you.


I ask…How are the kids?  I love reading their facebook pages and seeing how much they have grown.  I think it is funny how times have changed.  Their world is so much different than ours was.  Remember when the latest technology allowed us to “click over” to an incoming call instead of getting a busy signal?  That feature saved me countless times when it was my dad on “the other line” wondering what I was up to as he and my mom were busy at work.

From the look on her face, I sensed the “They are doing great, all things considered.” was going to be her answer.  It was always her answer.  I felt bad that so much time had passed and the realization that my involvement in her children’s lives wasn’t as involved as it used to be.  I took their outward appearance of happiness, “my life is great” pictures on facebook as “They are OK.”  They probably are OK, but wow, how much more “OK” could they be if the adults in their life that they counted on and trusted were always there, never letting them down, letting them know they mattered, that their feelings, whether expressed or not, mattered?

It soon became apparent to me that this lunch wasn’t about old friends connecting and getting back in touch as much as it was about old friends getting together to say:  Hey…where did you go when I needed you?  Or, more like her telling me, I had let her down.

I was thankful for the sudden appearance of our server.  It gave me the moment I needed to mentally re-group.  Seriously, who did she think she was??  Did she not notice how busy I have been?

While her mouth was full of the bread that was just delivered to our table I thought I would take my shot at letting her know how she had let me down. 

Me … Sooooo….we missed you at the last Girl-a-Palooza.  You said you had so much to burn and give up to God.  Sending an email with your list of things to burn for you wasn’t the same as having you there with us.  Did you ever let of go all that was bothering you?
Her … I was there in spirit.  I just didn’t feel like unloading all my problems and I was tired.  Everyone has so much they are dealing with in their own life, adding my problems to the mix seemed selfish.  I couldn’t imagine going through what some of our friends are going through.  I am thankful to be carrying my own cross.

Me … Yes, I get that but, really?  Friends are friends.  While they can’t carry our cross, they are still there with us every step of the way.  They may not be able to take away our pain or burdens but having them there to wipe our brow or take our hand to help us up the hill is immeasurable.  They can’t do that if you don’t share your life with them.

Her … I know.  I am sorry I wasn’t there for you.
Me … And, I am sorry I wasn’t there for you.  I was so caught up in my own life that little time was left over for helping anyone else but myself.  The funny thing is, as I am sitting here looking you straight in the face, the one thing that could have made all the hardships in the last few years more understandable and tolerable would have been to take time to sit quietly and just be with you.

Her…I don’t have the answers to your worry’s or problems.  I have enough of my own to deal with.

Me…I know.   

Her … I miss you.
Me … I miss you too.

After our lunch and the several meetings that took place afterward, I am happy to report that my friend and I get together on a more regular basis, if to do nothing else but “check-in” and remind each other that we are indeed our own best friends.  Quiet meditation is our favorite means of communication followed by a daily Mass or two.  Once a week on Sunday just doesn’t cut it for us.   We need all the help we can get.

We also realized that we got so caught up in trying to “live in the moment” that we neglected and spent little time figuring out how to make our tomorrows better than our todays when those “live in the moment” times weren’t exactly what we had hoped for.  It is so easy to be present in your life when the life around you is all lollipops and glitter.  My friend and I, however, NAILED the art of being present in life when things, for lack of better words, sucked.  So much so that what we failed to see was that much of the turmoil we were living in and the conflicts and challenges we were facing where, in large part, due to the fact that we had become paralyzed by “the moment,” forgetting that in order to get through something, you had to go through it, one step at a time, one foot in front of the other, until you reach the other side.  

Together we discovered and realized that yes, by all means, when life is a grand county fair full of glitter, lollipops and cotton candy … live in the moment, savor the moment.  Thankfully we have had many of those days these past few years.  However, when life seems overwhelming, unfair, dark, scary and sad, by all means, BE PRESENT but certainly don’t waste your time “living in the moment.”  Walk, one step at a time, one foot in front of the other, right through it until you get to the other side.  Which by all means is NOT the same as running from it.  The only way to get through something is to go through it.  Running from it or going around it are only going to lead you back to square one.  And from my experience, when I run from something or avoid something, I don't realize I put myself back into square one until it hits me up-side-the-head, right smack in the middle of one of my cotton candy- filled days.

So it has been said, “The journey of a lifetime starts with just one step.” Or, something like that.

The first step is having lunch with an old friend.  And, the friend is you, looking right at you every time you look in the mirror, just waiting patiently for your invitation.