I took a mini-vacation for posting the last few days because SK came home for a quick visit, surprising Beve and me Thursday afternoon. I won't say I sat around staring at her every minute because not only would that be just plain creepy, but I didn't. But I also didn't feel much like posting. We're all back in the normal swing of things this morning, however. Beve and E at work, dogs down for their morning naps. I'm firmly ensconced in my favorite chair, nursing tea and a cough that I picked up somewhere last week, and I'm ready to return to the blogging world.
The end of May is cluttered with birthdays of people important to me. There are several parts of the year with such a clutch of birthdays, actually. July...like the entire month. March...again, most of the month. And this end of May. Today is BB's 39th birthday. Wow, he's such a baby still (though I'm pretty sure he feels like an old man)! And yesterday was the birthday of one of my closest friends in college. SKC (yes, she was the original SK) and I lived in the same hall together my first year down in Oregon, then shared an apartment with one other friend the next year. We shared a love of literature and poetry, of beauty that made us want to dance, especially her, who was a dancer, but also me who could just barely remember the five feet positions from ballet. And beauty that made us weep. The pain of it, the joy of it, we felt it all. We wrote in similar blue-covered journals of that beauty, but also of the pain. SKC's pages were full of jagged images that made me envious of their brillance, written as poetry as she worked out her past and how it sliced against her present. My own pages were prosaic in comparison, though also laced with pain. I knew then--I know better now--that I was not a poet, no matter how much it appealed to the dark hurt in me.
Mostly, SKC and I were friends for a season. It was a long season, with several cycles, but once we settled into full adulthood, with children and husbands and jobs and houses, her Montana mountain valley life has been far from my Northwest Washington one. But it doesn't take much for us to know each other. I know that. I saw her again just a couple of years ago, and there we were, the same us, still looking for beauty and feeling pain, and chewing up we experience until we are ready to let it go.
Thinking about her makes me think of all those I still call friend whom I haven't seen, or had a conversation with, in years. I think of this one man who was one of my first guy friends. How much I learned from him, learned about how to simply around guys. The way they are different than girls, the way they tease, the way they don't talk. I learned that from EE. EE, who I haven't seen in--wow, maybe almost 30 years, though I've seen his wife, also a good friend. I know--I KNOW--that EE and I could find the conversation we were having the last time we saw each other and pick it up as though we'd just put it down to take a drink of lemonade. I know I'd get him, that he'd get me.
I hope there are plenty of people like this in my life. I think there are. The old crush, the other college roommates, those who have impacted me, the ones who are written in the Book of Life because they moved me closer to the Kingdom, these are folks I'd consider friends if I never saw them again. And some of them I won't.
But there are others. Others whose lives intersected with mine who I feel less certain of. The childhood friend who first ran away from home our freshman year in high school, who ran away for good our senior year, and between got involved in things of which I don't even want to know. When we were in eighth grade, and still friends, Janet wanted me to go with her to one of her new friend's house. Let's say his name was Ray (because it was!). Ray lived in a trailer with his brother, on a hill above the bowling alley. There were more than a couple kids in that trailer that afternoon, none of whom I felt comfortable with. They made me squirm without really knowing why. Ray sat down on a broken down plaid couch and pulled an oxegen tank from the corner, a tank like you'd use if you were skin-diving. He unscrewed the top and pulled out a bag of dried weeds. That's exactly what it looked like to me. And that's all it took. I was out the door and running before even verifying that those weeds were what I thought they were. I ran and ran and ran. As if someone would catch me and know where I'd been, would know I'd been in the same room, yes, merely in the same room, with that stuff.
All the way home, I ran. At least that's how I remember it. The old lady self in me thinks it probably wasn't so. That trailer was just about as far from our house as one could have run and still be in town back then. But my fear tells me I ran. And I ran out of my friendship with Janet that day. For good.
Sometimes I've felt badly about this. Sometimes I've felt badly that I didn't try harder once I became a Christian, to pray for Janet, and others like her, who had been my friends. Now don't get me wrong. I don't for one minute feel anything but glad that that thirteen-year-old me had such a healthy dose of fear that she ran for her life that day. "Bad company corrupts good character," Paul says, and I've seen it. In the life of my childhood friend, Janet, for one. And that alone tells me that though it was right to leave, it was also important that I pray, if I'd been a pray-er then, which I wasn't. But when I started praying, she should have been among those I did pray for...and I can't for that very life of me, remember that I did.
And what about those in college who hurt me profoundly? I just let them go. Even if I didn't hold the pain against them, I didn't hold them up to God. Like Adele, who wasn't out to hurt me, but hurt me she did, though I just as surely hurt her in return. Over the boy we both wanted, both thought we loved. And what about that boy, Andy himself, who ripped out my heart and gave it back to me dead. Once I got past trying to pray him into my life, did I ever simply pray for his? I don't think so.
Along the years there have been people who I've struggled with. And sometimes it's been just easier to let them go than to continue to be friends. Today I'm wondering what my responsibility is to those people. And, how much smaller my life is, perhaps, because I haven't allowed myself to be stretched by those different than myself. Difficult to love, or with opposing views. When I really stop to think about it, I know that even the Pharisees held on to those who agreed with them, who liked them, approved of them. What if I'm only friends with people who can do something for me? Only friends with those who think like me, believe like me, are like me? How am I any different than the Pharisees?
I am grateful for those who live all over the world who I still consider friends, though we don't speak or write (even the ones I'm now Facebook friends with, of all crazy things). But the more important truth is that we're touched by all we rub shoulders with, and, as His holy, chosen ones, we have a responsibility to live, act, pray, accordingly.
Even when it's hard. Especially when it's hard. I've said it before, but it's true, I believe. We are judged in part by how we love those hardest for us to love. I take a big gulp when I realize that. I know how I'm doing...how are you?