Saturday, March 11, 2006

Friends

For more than four years, I've been in a stalemate with someone I love. And I guess for good reason. I felt very hurt by something she did. I imagine that she felt very disappointed in me for some decisions I made about my life.

There we were--stuck, out of touch, in disharmony. It felt awful. I think of her almost every day and wish her the very best.

Today I had some time for myself and I asked my Friend what would be good to do. Then I got in the car and sat there. I began driving and found myself driving north toward the town where she lived. As I drove, I made up my mind to go see her. I thought to myself that enough is enough. The absolute worst thing that could happen is that she could tell me that I am not welcome and that I am a pain in her ass. But I have already survived my brother telling me that, word for word, and I'm still in one piece. I've got plenty of loving people in my life. If she had rejected me, I could just tell someone who loves me about it. And besides, what is all of this spiritual journey about if it isn't about loving those who need my love the most. Without any doubt, I, myself, have had compassion and love extended to me at the worst times of my life. If I truly love this person, and I do, then the least I can do is extend that love towards her no matter how she chooses to behave. I decided I could just go to her house and knock on her door and see what happened.

I allowed myself to be embraced by love and assurance as I drove into the hills.

I got lost about three times getting there. I was lost for more than an hour. For a moment I thought to myself, "Maybe it wasn't meant to be." Then I said to myself, "That is magical thinking. I've got a relationship on the line and the fact that I cannot remember how to get there after four years doesn't have any meaning at all. I'm just lost."

Eventually I ended up at a familiar landmark and from there I found my way. I parked my car and stood once again in the place where I had found so much love and joy. As I walked up to her house, she pulled up in her car. I could feel my heart pounding as she got out.

I've changed a lot in appearance since she saw me (now 30 lbs heavier, a radical haircut, and accompanied by my trusty cane). I told her who I was right away and stated I just wanted her to know that I am wishing her well and that I care about her. She invited me in for tea.

So there we were in her kitchen, ground-zero of our friendship, once again. Her husband came in, now 84, and he is having definite memory loss. The three of us sat there over tea and connected. It was good to be with her and it was good that I had taken a chance.

I noticed as we sat talking that she really didn't like what I had chosen to do with my life. Her disapproval of me was one of the factors that led to the split in the first place.

Now we come to the point of this post. Tonight, reflecting on this experience, I am filled with joy. And, with and being a key word here, I am also wondering what does it really mean to be someone's friend? I mean, here we are together again and I can tell she has a very negative idea, an opinion really, about what I am doing with my life. What does it mean to be friends with someone who doesn't like what you're doing.

Here are my reflections on this.

First of all, I can really tell how much I have deepened in four years. I actually don't even care that she doesn't like my choice of lifestyle (I don't care what anyone thinks about what I'm doing, for that matter). It's like the container of my heart has expanded and it can hold both my love for her and her dislike for my decisions. In fact, there's room enough for a whole bunch of stuff. She can even yell at me, as she has done in the past. All I feel is happiness that I'm not a prisoner to hatred any longer.

Second, the fact that she disapproves of my decision is just one way out of a myriad ways that people hurt and disappoint each other. I might as well not get puffed up about that particular way of acting. Some people tell lies or are nosy. Some are cloying, jealous, dishonest. Some are chronically late. And some friends are no-shows. People act in all manner of ways and are a mix of motivations, experiences, needs, strengths and mindsets. This particular friend has the pattern of being disapproving of my decisions. Ok, so what? I have the pattern of being changeable (I guess) or maybe she sees me as unstable.

What keeps coming to me, and let me write it down before I forget it, is that being someone's friend may mean accepting some particular aspect about them that is very difficult. How easy it is, it was, to give up on a friend because she hurt me. Maybe a true friendship is worth the effort it takes to sort things out.

On one had, I have been in abusive relationships. I've made a deep commitment to myself to always do anything I can do to prevent anyone from abusing me again. Fair enough.

But she did not abuse me. She acted from ignorance, opinion and anger and said hurtful things at a time when I was at my lowest. As I think about this honestly, because of what she has been through and the things she tells herself every day, she is likely to continue acting like that in specific areas of our friendship. But a lot of our friendship is wonderful and helpful.

In the end, friendships can be bittersweet. Being a friend can be complex, it can demand we extend ourselves and be gracious to our friend when they act in an unkind way. Friendship can ask us to be willing to love those who are being unkind because we see their beauty, their purity of heart burning in the midst of the smoke.

I'm glad I listened to my Friend today. I am grateful for all my friends.

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