On a map it’s the Northern Pacific Bridge Number 9 in Minneapolis, but I just call it My Bridge; a favorite place for contemplating life. I’ve spent a bit of time there watching the Mississippi rush and swirl below me, cried a few tears over this and that, and just stood in the sunshine as the cyclists and pedestrians pass, never knowing they are on My Bridge 🙂 .
Yesterday at school (I’m a Master’s student) a friend came into the room where a few of us were sitting and offered to us some homemade pickles. Being a huge pickle fan, I immediately took up the offer. Of course I asked who made the pickles. She said, “My dad. He packs me some everyday, but I’m not in the mood for them today.” I said, “Wait, your dad packs your lunch?” “Yup, ” she responded.
Sigh. There’s something quite nice about the thought of being taken care of, of someone packing my lunch for me, someone acting as the grown-up in my life so I wouldn’t always have to fill that role. I’m older than most of my grad-school friends by about five to ten years; Add to that the fact that I was thrust into adulthood when my mom passed away when I was 20, and I realize, I’ve been taking care of myself and other people for a really long time.
It’s different for most of my friends. They are mostly still intimately connected to their parents. They are in this different sort of in-between stage where they are not quite grown-ups, but not quite kids. They are independent, but still being cared for in little ways that make a difference.
That in-between phase was never part of my existence. I got married young, just after turning 21, and started having babies shortly thereafter. By the time I was 29 I was the mother of 4 children. I’ve never had any regrets, but every now and again I long for the feeling of not having to captain the ship, not having to make the decisions. My husband and I have a really egalitarian marriage and, given my fiercely independent and fiery personality, it probably wouldn’t work any other way, but sometimes I long for someone to take the reins so that I can stop feeling like I have to take care of everyone else for a minute. Sometimes I’d like to call up my parents, particularly my mom, and just lay it all on her and let her tell me what to do.
Some days I wish someone would pack me pickles and send me off to my day and I could, for just a minute, breathe a sigh of relief knowing that if I flub the day someone will come to my rescue and be the grown-up. While I’m sure I wouldn’t want it that way all the time, and please understand that I know it isn’t like that in every situation for my friend, I think for a day or two every now and again it might be nice.
I love people. People are one of my favorite elements of our planet. Well, people and flowers. I love going to the State Fair every year, not for everything fried on a stick, but to watch the sea of people move, almost as one, in a wave-like fashion down the packed streets of the fairgrounds. I love to sit in crowded places and listen to the hum of human voices. It soothes me.
Working a crowd is not my scene, but I thoroughly enjoy getting to know people one on one. I love to sit with a person in a coffee shop and listen to their story. I want to know where they are from, what makes them tick, what makes them laugh, and the sorrows they’ve known. I don’t forget those stories either. I try to remember the details and the stories become a part of the quilt of humanity I am sewing together in my head.
When I meet someone unpleasant, I always try to remind myself that they too have a story. There’s a reason why people act the way they do. When I forget this detail, I am happy to have friends around me who will remind me.
I once had someone tell me, “Don’t invest so much energy in people, invest more in your life and your work.” What??? That’s like telling a bunny not to eat carrots or a child not to laugh. It’s my nature. People are my life. That sounds like a dramatic statement and it isn’t that I overextend myself, but I love to invest in others, as much I can. Why not add to other’s lives if you are able and when you have the opportunity? It’s part of the journey we are on together.
The people I meet along my way in this world are like treasures. Each highly valued for one reason or another, with something to teach me about myself or about life; Something they do or say that makes me laugh; An alternative viewpoint or experience with which to challenge me. I keep them close to my heart, even when time and distance separate, the memories of the people I have known and the things I learned from them remain a treasure.
It’s probably because of my love for people that I get so attached to friends and struggle with so much sorrow when they move away because my friends are never just an accessory to my life, they are a part of me.
And I am faithful, especially with my closest friends. I stick around and work when things get hard. I wait, hoping and believing things will improve and they often do. Relationships with people ebb and flow. I am quite aware of this. My husband says I stick around a lot longer in a relationship than most others would. That might be true. I think I do it because I have faith in humans that most times they come back around and things can be good again. I always seem to retain hope.
Sometimes friendships gradually end over time. I’m ok with that. But sometimes they end because of neglect or hurt. Those are the endings with which I struggle. The hardest thing I ever have to do is to watch a close friendship of mine end. I’m really bad at giving up on someone. For me it’s like extracting part of my soul, the part that they occupied. It’s a painful process and leaves a hole in my heart. However, I know that sometimes turning away and letting go is the bravest thing to do, even if everything in me cries out, “No!”
If you read my post, Circumstantial Erosion, you’ll understand when I say, sometimes there just isn’t enough beach left on which to rebuild.
Fortunately, time heals wounds and I comfort myself knowing there will be new people to meet and to know. I’m mindful that no two beautiful people are exactly alike. There is no replacing someone whom you have lost, no filling the hole they left completely. But there will be new friends in which to invest and love; new stories to hear and patches to sew into the quilt. After all, it’s a great big, wonderful world. 🙂
Damn you, Journey.
I was in the dance studio with my kids yesterday and those four repeated piano notes sounded out across the studio. As soon as I heard them I ran to the room from whence they played. As I watched the young dancers move unknowingly to this, a favorite days-gone-by relationship song, I felt my throat tighten and tears well up in my eyes. I watched a few moments letting the music move me to a different time and place in my mind, when I was a teen and love was young and passionate.
I turned around to see another middle-thirties mom choking back tears, wiping them from the corners of her eyes with her pinky fingers in an attempted clandestine manner while her face reddened. I left my moment and walked back to the lobby where a thirties-something dad belted out the chorus, “I’m Forevaaaahh Yo-oooours….Faithfully (air guitar…)” The rest of the studio, the kids and the younger parents, were unmoved by what was happening and remained safely planted in 2014 where some old Journey song, “really old music” as my thirteen year old called it, played in the distant background.
Thanks for outing me, Journey. It seems I’ve become one of those parents, who gets emotional about unknown bits of music that transport me back to my youth. S’okay. It was bound to happen sometime.
I sat in a coffee shop today waiting for my friend at a high-top table, the bright, warm sun hitting my back, and I was captivated by the gathering of older gentlemen sitting and reading newspapers, undisturbed by laptops and tablets and phones. There was not much movement on that side of the coffee shop. No quick gestures to answer phone calls, no incessant scrolling on smartphones, no sounds of typing on keyboards. The only repeated movement was that of the newspaper pages being turned slowly and folded back. I envied the tranquility on that side of the shop.
The area where I was sitting was abuzz with group meetings, gatherings of friends texting as they talked to each other, businesspeople figuring out their Facebook advertising strategy. As I sipped my coffee I thought to myself, when was the last time I just sat, with no device, and took in the world?
Those men reading the newspapers have grown up without the distraction of multiple devices. They prefer their news to come to them the old-fashioned way, on newsprint in ink that turns your fingers black; With words that, once printed, can’t be updated until the evening edition, or tomorrow’s paper. Those men are able to sit and read and reflect and be present. Present. How often are many of us just not fully present anymore? How many of us have lost the ability to just sit and be?
The building where I work has a large atrium. My office is on the second floor, so if I go out the door I have a neat perspective of all the tables below. I often stand at the railing and people watch. There are very few times when I look over the railing at the folks below and see anyone sitting without a device of some kind in front of them. Rarely do people sit and read without having their phones at the ready.
I am guilty of the same thing. My phone is like another appendage. I am always quick to answer, quick to respond. My phone serves as my alarm clock and is generally the first thing I touch in the morning upon waking. I look at Facebook, read emails, go on the internet. Rare is the morning when I wake and lie in bed and listen to the birds or enjoy the shadow play on the wall as the sunlight streams in the window.
Our phones and tablets take us from the moment. They rob those around us of the pleasure of our conversation. I cannot tell you how many times I have sat with friends and they pull out their phones. It always makes me wonder, “Is my company not enough?” So, I pull out my phone and we sit alone together.
By constantly being on devices we also send the message to everyone around us, “Don’t talk to me. Don’t disturb me. I am busy.” I often wonder how many fewer connections are made overall, how much more disconnected are we as a society simply because we are all so often “too busy” to sit and talk to someone new?
I’m not sure of the solution. It isn’t likely I will break up with my phone, I love it so. Maybe we can all challenge ourselves to take an opportunity or two to just sit, without a device, and see what happens. Try enjoying the tranquility and the forced languor of reading the newspaper. Strike up a conversation while waiting at the bus stop, if you can catch anyone before they pull out their phone. Sit with a friend and make a pact to be entertained by only one another and the stories you have to share. Sit somewhere without your device and just be present and enjoy all that the moment, right where you are, has to offer.