BUT, on the positive side of the ledger, there are friends. I have been reconnecting with college and high school friends this past month, which has been an extraordinary pleasure. These were people to whom I was very close at various times and for whatever reason lost touch with or haven't seen for ages.
I am happy to say that in all instances, reconnecting was a joy felt mutually by all concerned. I was also able to introduce John to this my scattered family of friends, which was great, too.
There is something about realizing you haven't lost people who witnessed you when you were a teenager or even a college student, even if - as I was - you were kind of dorky in many ways, scared shitless most of the time (even at college where you learned a little front - but it was so ridiculous that anyone with half a brain could have seen through it). Fortunately, the good side of dorkiness is that if someone was your friend then, they will probably still be your friend now, when we are all older and frankly too old to care who is dorky and who isn't anymore. When all you care about is: do I relate to this person, s/he friendly, can we connect over the long chasm of years and still find whatever we shared lo those many years ago? Can we still have interesting conversations and then make each other laugh uncontrollably? If so, hooray! You've made it! You've won the Life Lottery!
Seriously, people, this is what I believe now. These friendships that have lasted all this time are testament to a kind of thread of humanity that sometimes I forget about...and a thread of my life that runs through it, even when I feel lost, confused or full of anxiety...which I have done recently for many reasons, mostly having to do with career and finances.
There is the sweeter experience still of having John meet all these friends and find a commonality with them, it gives me the sense we've had since meeting each other that our lives, while not shared until now, were somehow parallel.
Below is a picture John took recently of my friend Bennett and me. We were close friends at Wesleyan, having met - gasp - over 30 years ago. He was visiting from LA for his 50th birthday. We both spent time up in Maine over the summers as children, on the same small island, but being shy children we never met, because I was on the back of the island and he was on the front. Unlike the tanned, athletic kids who jetted around on their bikes and dove into the freezing water, Bennett and I sat in our respective cottages reading, writing, painting and the like. When we met at university, it was like finding an old friend who you haven't met yet. (That's how it felt when I met John, too, though in a more romantic context.)
|Bennett & me in NYC - both now 50, friends since 1983 (!) - John took the photo|
We shared lots of adventures, including going to Europe for the first time - landing in Paris jet lagged, excited and terrified to be seem American (it was 1984 and not a good look - dollar was high, Reagan was president, the French were not amused, nor the Italians - we were headed in the end of art school in Florence). We stared at Notre Dame realizing that one building was older and more impressive than any we had ever seen. We couldn't figure out where to eat or how the money worked. We were 21. Bennett is gay, and like most of my gay male friends at the time, I had a terrible crush on him. For someone as totally incapable of having a romantic relationship as I was then, this was the best possible situation and is why we are still friends to this day.
We have been in and out of each other's lives since college, but I think the photo kinda says it all. There is something so entirely comforting about having people in your life that were there when you were a total idiot and still love you. That would be Bennett.
Then there is my friend, Julie (who I met in 2000 at a writer's meeting and became fast friends with after she laughed at the fact that when I was drunk in college I puked on the Artaud section of my thesis). She has seen me through two divorces, two pregnancies that did not go to term, a bi-continental life for 8 years, a PhD and two weddings, including my third at age 50. She is the kind of person who when I called her back in 2000, raw from the end of my first marriage and seeing no way out of the pain, would listen to my sadness, my craziness, my raw anger and really, really bad ideas about how to handle all of the above, with equanimity, lack of judgment and - at the same time - clarity. At that time, quite frankly, she was more valuable to me than I could possibly have been to her. She held a space for me no one else in my life at the time could have done - because of her age, the work she had done on herself and her exquisite ability to love and listen.
Because we stayed close and I started doing some of the work she had done, I was able to be there for her at times when her life went kind of wonky. I was and am so grateful to redress the balance. Now, we are there for each other at the extreme end of anything that happens in either of our lives. Neither has to worry the other thinks she is 'too much' and or about being judged. What we do for each other: hold space, listen, offer clarity based on our own experience and show humility when we can't help. But the being there, the witness, the simplicity of presence. That is the gift. That gift is priceless.
John also listens and holds space for me, more than any man I've ever been with, and he offers love unconditional, which is priceless. What Julie offers after 14 years of friendship is 'time served' - a mutuality of witness and an experience of life with 'no windshield' (aka no drugs or alcohol) for many years on this earth. This is in no way diminishes what John means to me or who he is. However, without my friendship with Julie, the whole relationship with John would be impossible. I had to learn intimacy in a friendship before I could allow myself to love and be loved the way John and I do.
So, aside from the vagaries of the Immigration system, I feel exquisitely lucky. Remind of how lucky I am when I complain next time, which of course I will...
There are many other people I could write about at length on this blog about friendship, but for today, we will stick with these folks, though seeing my friends Ellen and Carol from high school this past month was another joy. High school is a whole other territory - tundra-like in my emotional memory, so it is with a certain trepidation I ever meet with people from that period of time. However Ellen and Carol were bright spots in that ice storm and their warmth shown through. Whenever I see people like them, I remember how I got through that difficult time in my life. Friends. It's that simple.
Oh, and directing theater. There was that, too. But without the friends, I doubt I would have stumbled into the theater in the first place. Or maybe it was the other way around. Not sure. But I do know that without my friends near and far, I would be dead by now and that's no joke. So thank you, all of you, you all know who you are...