Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Some Gratitude

I want to take a slight departure from the usual foray into politics and philosophy and dip into something less ethereal. A couple of weeks ago I received a call from an old friend - a friend who I really haven't been close to (or really spoken to, for that matter) in about thirteen years. She's been having some marital problems that have resulted in a (possibly temporary) split. Needless to say she's been pretty broken up about it. And, for a variety of reasons, she hasn't felt like there are many people she can really reach out to. So, for whatever reason, she eventually decided to call me up and talk a little bit.

I've talked to her every day now since then. And I've happily watched her demeanor turn, gradually, from a place of distress, anger, and hopelessness towards a place of stillness, reason, and ultimately control. I'm not even sure if she's even really noticed it yet, but in all the right ways she's simply not the same person I talked to a couple of weeks ago. And, after watching her go through all of this, and seeing the person that she is all over again, at a different point in her life no less, I'm really optimistic about what lies ahead of her at this point.

But what I've found strangely endearing about all of this, even though it has very little to do with me, is how it's continually given me pause over the last several days, and subtly reminded me about parts of the human condition that I simply have not had much appreciation for in recent years. Here is a well-educated, funny, and devastatingly beautiful young woman in the prime of her life with two children (that she loves so much!), a home, and a supposedly loving husband. Let's not even try to take a passive tact here; this is quite literally THE dream for a good deal of people, and most women in particular. She had mostly done the right things in her life and had set the tiles in all the right places. And yet, almost out of nowhere, the linchpin in that dream was suddenly taken from her. It was through no fault of her own. And there was little she could do stop it. Her life became a slow-motion car-crash in just a couple of days.

Granted, talking to me isn't going to help all that much in terms of fixing a problem like that. But I know, especially in times of despair and distrust, exactly how important it can be to have someone to talk to; if for no other reason than to have a sounding board, somewhere to echo your thoughts and feelings. I was very happy to be that person if she needed it. And hopefully I haven't made things worse along the way. She knows I'm trying to be that person at any rate. What I'm fairly certain she doesn't realize, however, is how, even in her darker hours, she's facilitated some of the same comfort and resolve to me.

For a long time I've felt that there are parts of me I've just shut off to the world. For various reasons, which I won't delve into here, it's just seemed to me that there were certain parts of my life, well, not worth living (for lack of a better phrase) because I'd been let down before, and there was simply too much to lose. I'm just one of those people who doesn't deal with those kinds of things well. Distrust, cynicism, negativity - these are the things I've clung to.

And while the events seem small, there are two things about this last two weeks that have impacted me enough to shake my grip on those things. One is the obvious - seeing this woman, who really is a pretty fantastic person in my book, have her world collapse on her...and then watching her have the dignity and pride to begin to brace and pull herself up from the rubble of it all; a refusal to let this ruin the one life she has, or the happiness of her and her children. At the end of the day there are just some things out of our control. Sometimes we deserve what we get, and sometimes we don't - but we only get it once. Refusing to accept your situation will not make it go away.

The second thing, albeit interconnected with the first, seems even more subtle but it's perhaps even more important. I've literally lived half of my life not talking to this woman...and yet, once we started talking, it was like we'd never spent a day apart. Think for a second about how amazing that is - seriously. Think about how strong and yet evasive such a connection with other people can be. Here is a time in her life that is spinning out of control in a bad direction. And yet that seemingly random misfortune brought a longtime friend back to me...and subtly reminded me of how change rules the human condition in the end. It's the connections we make with the people we know and love while we're here that's lasting.

So, to my long-lost friend, thanks for bringing something important back into my life.

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