pieces

As I sat around the table, the people around me held out pieces of me. Pieces I had not seen in a while. And it felt so good.

Those pieces are always with me, living inside of me. Sometimes I just forget about them. I live disconnected from them.

My life has moved on from when we were together, these friends and I. Marriage, babies, therapy, life. And it’s good. Moving forward, growth, change. All of those things are good.

And at the same time, sometimes I can forget that the college student me is still in there too. Along with the mom me and the wife me and the almost 40 year old me (ugh, really?).

But I am fortunate enough to still have friends from way back when. We were all on staff at camp together. And camp bonds people in a mysterious way. I have yet to experience it elsewhere. It could be the dirt, the camp food, or any number of the only-appropriate-at-camp conversations surrounding bodily functions.

I think it is all those things plus a whole lot more.

There is a sacredness about it, about the fact that we hold pieces of one another’s history. These people know a side of me that my friends today have only caught glimpses of, if that.

For a while, a few years ago, I felt in between. My friends where I live didn’t know my history but my friends from my past didn’t know the richness of my present. And I had this weird, awkward urge to prove myself to all of them.

But something must have settled in me. Made peace with the fact that the only one who knows me my whole life is me. I am the only one who holds all the pieces.

And occasionally that can feel like too much to hold. Sometimes I forget about the pieces that aren’t necessary right now. But they are still in there. They are who I was which is a part of who I am.

And it was whole-making, to have these people who are dear to me stir some of those piece to the foreground. To the surface.

They had not forgotten those pieces. They loved them. They kept them safe. They saw beauty in them. They remembered them. And being together reminded me of them too.

And it was…..settling, calming, restoring…..for me to be reminded that all of those me’s are really just parts of the same whole.

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my revivers

Sometimes when I get to them, I am barely breathing. Life has a choke hold around my throat and the air hardly whispers through me. I am moments away from running out. Of air. Of patience. Of endurance. Of me.

I collapse in their arms. Their hearts enfold me. They cover me with themselves. They listen. They wipe my tears. They let me be a mess. They love me. And I think for the first time in what feels like forever that I just might make it.

My friends are mighty warriors who go to bat for me against the demons I fight. They remind me of truth. They cheer me on. They let me rest my dry and weary bones in their arms and they hold me.

They may do this over the phone or through an email. Maybe on the playground at school. They may do it in one of our homes in between kid squabbles and snack making. Or maybe on the steps of their porch in the one and only moment we have which will be over before we want it to be, but we take what we can get.

And I love them. Each and every one. I know I could not make it through this life without them. Because I have had some fierce battles to fight. Battles that would have done me in if I did not have them in my corner.

Surely I would have lost myself along the way if they were not there to find me. They forever remind me who I am and that I am worth fighting for. I owe them everything and yet indebtedness doesn’t compute in friendship.

When I walk away I know they have just breathed life back into me. They haven’t solve my problems or fixed me, but they have kept me alive. They have heard me and understood me and loved me – whether we talked at length or just a hello – and my airway is clear once again.

unappologetics

Life can change in an instant. Most of the time it changes gradually, which is why I think we find the instant changes that come up so incredibly jarring. My friend’s mom died yesterday. She was sick, but still……jarring.

I love my friend dearly. There is a group of us that have found one another over the years our kids have gone to school together. They probably don’t know how special they are to me. What they don’t really know is that I spent years of my life only letting people become close to me if I thought we shared the same belief system. So years ago I might not have let myself love them the way I do, which is part of why they are so incredibly precious to me.

We are a pretty motley crew, honestly. All with different backgrounds and belief systems and personalities and preferences. When we spend time together having dessert or bringing our kids to the Wild Animal Park or just saying hello at drop off, I always walk away feeling refreshed and encouraged and cared for…..and fortunate to have such people willing to be my friends.

My friend whose mom died is one of my heroes. When I finally finish the book about my motherhood story and then I write the one about my journey with trauma, I want to write a book about all of my heroes. I am fortunate enough to have had some truly amazing women share enough of their stories with me that they have become heroes in my eyes. And this friend is one of them.

If I could only choose one reason for her to be in my hero club, it would be that she is unapologetically herself. Perhaps I find this heroic because I have spent much of my life apologizing for myself. And even though she is one of my heroes, she is – as all of us are – still human. And today was the first day of a year of firsts stretched out in front of her. It was the first day she woke up without her mom.

My friend has been taking care of her mom for a few years now as her mom has been slowly slipping away into Alzheimer’s. So her mom has been figuratively gone for a while but this is a whole new ball game.

When someone dies, everyone wants to help but no one really knows how. One person’s grieving doesn’t look like another’s. For those we have watched suffer, our grief may be initially mixed with relief that they are now out of pain. Some of us point to Heaven and experience a taste of comfort from the finality of it all. But eventually we are left with a reality that we have to walk the rest of our lives without this person we loved. And thus we grieve.

This is part of the reality of life I have previously tried to avoid or deny or cover up. I would like to make it easier or make it all go away. I don’t have that power. In less than a year I have had three different friends lose a husband, a father, and now a mother. I think of them all today and the weight of their grief.

I picture carrying a casket. Ridiculously heavy, many hands are needed. I know our motley crew wants to be there to help our friend carry her casket of grief, which doesn’t make it easier for her, it just makes her less alone. So we will give her hugs. We will let her cry. We will tell her we love her. And it seems only meager for the enormity of what she is dealing with, but we offer it to her anyway. Grief is an impossible process.

And admitting this truth is part of me not having all the answers anymore – not always trying to make things small enough that I can understand. I question. I ask God. I sit in the impossibility and let it be. Unapologetically.