Remember that old Michael W. Smith song? I remember it with a humongous CRINGE…I sang it in my senior talent show in high school with my best friend Ari accompanying me on piano. At the time it seemed so poignant and meaningful…now it seems totally trite and I can’t believe I thought I could sing it! Honestly, I have no idea how I sounded, and perhaps I should be proud of myself for having the nerve to get up in front of God and everyone and sing for crying out loud, but now I look back on my 17 year old self and think “What a doofus!”
As we’ve been getting ready to move from Laramie, I’ve been thinking a lot about friendship and the friends I have made here. We’ve been here for 7 years, which is the longest I’ve been in one place besides my hometown. That’s kind of crazy, actually, now that I see that in writing. And yet, in thinking about it and looking back on these 7 years, I have been much more careless and thoughtless with my friendships here than any other time in my life.
There’s probably a lot of potential “reasons” for that…one, we didn’t think we’d be here that long. Perhaps I was just arming myself against the inevitable departure. After all, since leaving for college I’d had to say goodbye to LOTS of very, very close friends. It was always hard, and in spite of the “we’ll keep in touch” business, you know it’s just never the same after you leave. Of course now we have Facebook, so it is easier to keep up with people’s lives, but it’s never the same once you go. At least, it hasn’t been for me. I do know some people who have stayed very close with people from their childhood or other times in their lives. Honestly I don’t know how they do it. But it’s emotionally exhausting to constantly be letting go of people who mean something to you. Maybe I was subconsciously trying to avoid that.
Part of it could also be just having 3 kids and the busyness that comes from that. It’s hard to make time for your friends when you’re raising young kids, there’s just so many hours in the day. It is really hard to try and be a good mom, wife, mother, daughter, employee…friendships kind of get tossed to the bottom of the pile. Oh, sure, you hang out with moms at the park or the library, but getting to just go out for coffee or sit and talk without the distraction of your life and family is damned near impossible. There’s always something or someone else clamoring for your attention at this stage of our lives, and friendship seems like an indulgence. Again, there are some people who do this really well (probably those same people who are so jazzed about “dating” their husbands…) but I am not one of them. Maybe it’s just a shortcoming (one of many) on my part.
Of course my own “issues” play a part in it too. I’m insecure, about myself as a woman, a mother, a wife. I feel like I never measure up and I feel like this stage of motherhood…well, it’s again nearly impossible to not compare yourself in some way to the other mothers in your life, close friends or mere acquaintances. You pat yourself on the back when you see another mom screw up, you berate yourself mercilessly when you see another mom do something amazing while you are the one screwing it all up. It’s like a knee-jerk reaction. And it’s terribly damaging to our relationships with other women, and yet we ALL do it. I also definitely struggle with depression at times, especially during the winter months…those long, dreary days when everything seems unbearable anyway. My typical reaction during those times is to clam up, shut down, avoid, and just stew in the blackness of my heart. I don’t want to talk to anyone, don’t want to see anyone, don’t want to DO anything. That’s not exactly a plan for being besties with someone.
And yet, in spite of all this, I have a handful of friends here that it is going to be very hard to leave. Somehow even in spite of me being me, they haven’t abandoned me altogether, so there must be some redeeming qualities about me. They’ve been with me and seen me through some of my ugliest moments (they may not even be aware of it, but believe me, there’s plenty of ugliness to go around). They watched my son be born–literally!! They’ve seen me do the ugly cry face. Listened while I bitched about Laramie and how much I couldn’t wait to get out of Wyoming (yeah, there’s a recipe for making friends.). Heard my struggles with some of the deepest things in my heart. They’ve also listened to the quiet when I avoided them because was in one of those dark, damning places where I didn’t want to be around anyone, didn’t feel worthy of being around anyone. There are a lot of things they don’t know…things I wallowed in during those black times, terrible, nasty thoughts that I hope no one ever knows about, but I’m sure they felt it as I built up those rickety walls around myself that would fall repeatedly in spite of all my continued efforts to build them up.
So I find myself on the verge of leaving, again. It doesn’t feel like I’m “starting over” necessarily, I’m moving to a place where I know a lot of people. There is some excitement about that, but I also know that all those people in Maryland have had their own lives these past 7 years. Sure, I spend time there in the summers and at Christmas, but the other 11 months of the year they have their own activities, their own friends. It’s going to be weird. I’m going to have to meet new moms, deal with all those insecurities on a whole other level. My kids are going to have new friends with new moms and dads that I may love or hate. And presumably, all those new moms and dads already have their group of pals, and my big fear is that there’s not room for one more. I sometimes feel like that even now, because I know my friends here all have friendships that don’t include me in the slightest. (You think you really have outgrown high school?? Not quite.) It’s a daunting task to face, although I know that life will be so busy most of the time that I won’t think about it, but it is something I worry about.
So friends, you know who you are…I’m sorry I’ve been so wretched with handling you these past 7 years or so, or however long I’ve known you. But thanks for putting up with me anyway. We all say we’ll keep in touch, we all say we’ll visit but of course we’re going to say that, it’s not like we’re going to admit that in all likelihood we will send Christmas cards for several years and see pictures of the kids’ on Facebook and one day we’ll all be Grandmas on FB and that’ll be just bizarre. But maybe not…and maybe as I get older and wiser (hasn’t happened yet…) I’ll get better at figuring out this friendship thing. A friend of mine just posted a blog about how much we need community, how we weren’t created to be in isolation (HELLO, that is like the theme of my friends in Laramie…). I know that’s true, I just wish God had made me a little better at fostering it.
P.S…this is not a post to get lots of re-affirming, “Oh you’re so wonderful!” pats on the backs and comments. I’m just fleshing some things out here. I’d rather you not comment at all about ME in particular. Themes that resonate with you or similar experiences or whatever, sure, but I’m really not fishing for compliments.