One cold evening, I got off the subway and had a message from my friend, Zach. We have been friends since he was born. I say this, because he is 5 weeks younger than I. So, I had to wait on him to show up before our friendship could begin. We grew up together. It was like having a brother my same age. We went to daycare, elementary school, junior high, and high school together. We camped out in his back yard, rode bikes through his neighborhood, built forts, and bossed around our little sisters. In kindergarten our mats for nap time were beside each other, in junior high he typed my research paper, and in high school he was the first person I called when my boyfriend and I broke up. I was in his wedding, he was in my wedding, I even make his kids call me Aunt Kat…we had remained friends through each twist and turn life had thrown at us, but I hadn’t told him about my marriage falling apart. In fairness, I hadn’t told a lot of people. This information was on a need to know basis, as far as I was concerned.
Zach was in town for work, was headed to see his little sister who was in the city for med school, and wanted to know if I had time for a visit that evening. Questions began to cloud my head. Would my husband let me go? Should I continue to keep this major life event from my friend? Should I pretend to be busy so I didn’t rock the boat at home? But how many times does your childhood friend make it to your own backyard? I cautiously entered my apartment and went about the business of making dinner. My husband was home this particular evening and as we ate, I brought up the idea of me heading over to the east side for a mini-reunion. To my delight, he complied. I text Zach back, and was out the door in no time flat.
Full disclosure: I don’t truly remember when this evening occurred. It’s a little blurry in my New York timeline, which is a good thing. It means I’m healing. It means I’m not focusing on the bad times as much. It means I’m living more and more in the present. It also doesn’t really matter. The “when” doesn’t matter, what matters is that it happened and it was important to me and taught me something.
Life in New York is funny. Zach’s sister and I lived in the same city and never saw each other. Between her classes and studying and my job and life crisis, there wasn’t much time to travel across the park for a low key catch up session. I was excited to see them both. I couldn’t wait to ask about Zach’s kids. I hadn’t even met his daughter yet, and his son was a delight to me. His wife is my idea of Wonder Woman. I love them all and couldn’t wait to hear about the adventures that come with life as a family of four.
For me, it was a lovely evening. It’s a special thing, to sit as adults, with someone you have known your entire life, and hear about their life. I have many wonderful friends, but only one who has known me from the very beginning. Only one whose mother helped raise me from the time I was in diapers. Only one who knew where I came from and where I wanted to go. The evening went by too quickly. I side-stepped any questions involving my husband, his absence, and any future plans we were or were not making. I was surprised how easy it was for me at this point, the pretending. It wasn’t lying, but it was. It was lying by omission.
I started to get a panicky feeling that had become normal for me. It meant I was staying too long. I needed to go home. My husband would be upset. I didn’t want to walk into a fight. Tearing myself away was agony. This felt safe. These people knew me. These were MY people. But I left anyway. I left without saying what I should have said. I left without being completely honest. I left without asking for a lifeline. I politely said my goodbyes, hugging everyone extra hard, walked out into the New York winter, got on the subway, and went back to my home.
There was a feeling of relief that would wash over me when I realized my husband was home and not angry with me. On this particular evening, I had the pleasure of feeling this relief. He seemed genuinely happy that I had enjoyed myself. I’d done ok. These were the good nights. The rare gifts. We could watch TV and get ready for bed in silence and I had done well. Tonight, that would be enough. And then I got the text. The text that only Zach could send. I don’t remember the exact wording, but he was concerned. He said he felt like something was wrong. Something I hadn’t talked about. He was checking to make sure I was ok.
You can lie to yourself. You can make yourself believe the lies. You can lie to your co-workers, your acquaintances, everyone who follows you on Facebook…but your poker face is no good with the person who got potty trained next to you.
And, as time goes on, the blessing is that the person who stood for you when you got in trouble in math class in the 7th grade, will also be the person who stands for you as an adult. The little boy who convinced you as a child that you could fly, will help build your grown up wings. The child who held your hand through the death of your cat, will hold your hand through the loss of a marriage. He will share his children with you. He will marry a woman who you wish was your sister. She will graciously allow you into their family. He will let his people be your people, because, from the beginning, they always were. These are God’s forever gifts. This is the best part of the divine plan. This is one of the many reasons why I am still grateful. This is why I go on.
Philippians 1:3-4 “I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy.”