Last month, my best friend Lynne got married.
She was beaming, glowing…magnificent.
I cried tears of joy, then tears of gratitude for the tears of joy. I was grateful because in the months following her engagement, I wasn’t 100% joyful.
I know. This makes me sounds like an awesome friend. Believe me, my inner-critic had a field day with my mixed emotions: “What the hell is the matter with you? This is a great thing. Lynne loves Jon. Jon loves Lynne. So what is the problem?”
I remembered leaving my parents’ house the day after my own wedding. As Phil and I drove away, my mom and sister stood in the middle of the street, crying. Sobbing, I watched them get smaller and smaller in the rearview mirror. I made Phil stop the car so I could run down the street and hug them.
Now I was the one standing in the street.
When we lived in Pennsylvania, Lynne -“Aunt Lynnie” to my kids- brought light and energy into our home. With Lynne, there’s just….more. More wine, more food, more laughs – everything gets turned up a notch. She danced in the kitchen and sang One Direction with my kids. She ate wings and watched football with Phil. And Lynne and I – before drinking obscene amounts of wine – we walked.
We walked and talked -about men, kids, food issues, the Godfather trilogy -whatever. I could say anything to her, no judgement. And that felt safe and grounding.
Then everything changed. We put our house on the market and Lynne got a new job. She got engaged a few weeks before we moved to Massachusetts. Our walks were replaced with text messages, which I decoded like a CIA agent looking for encrypted enemy telecommunication.
“What do you think she means by ‘things are good’?” I said to Phil over dinner. “Like, really good or just kinda good?”
“Look,” he said. “Lynne is half-dude and is in Dude Mode with the new job. Just give it some space.”
I’m not good with space. I fill space with crap. You know that person at the airport whose suitcase is over 50 pounds because she crammed in a last-minute bottle of prune juice? Yeah, that’s me. I don’t want space, I want details. I want to know what you had for dinner and the results of your grandmother’s colonoscopy.
With all space and no details, I fill in the gaps in my head. And my head is where the crazy happens: Is she happy? Is she stressed? Does she know not to put Hershey Kisses in the wedding guest hotel bags because they will melt all over the Advil?
I prayed. I meditated. I read self-help books. Post-it affirmations covered my bathroom mirror: “I am willing to release patterns that create discord in my relationships.” Nope. Still crazy.
But God speaks to us through unlikely sources – like the movie Bridesmaids.
It was the scene where one bridesmaid (Megan) gives the maladjusted maid of honor (Annie) a little tough love regarding her best-friend-getting-married issues.
Megan: You’re your problem, and you’re also your solution. You get that?
Annie: Yeah. I guess I just miss her.
Megan: I know you do. I know you do.
I started bawling. At Bridesmaids. Because suddenly it was so clear. I just missed her.
I missed the way she would fall asleep on my couch and I would find her bra between the cushions. I missed her doing the Roger Rabbit after a
bottle glass of wine. I missed her voice calling me “J.” I missed watching her order the nastiest appetizer on the menu, like cheesesteak egg rolls. I missed our walks. I missed Lynne.
You’re your own problem, but you’re also your solution.
On my next visit to PA, I sent her a text: “I’m here. Wanna walk?”
We met on Kelly Drive in Philly, and within minutes we were crying on the bank of the Schuylkill River. Ok, I was crying. Lynne alternated between reflective listening and cursing. She is a lawyer, after all.
“You are such a (expletive). I can’t believe you felt this way and didn’t tell me.”
“But it’s your special time and I didn’t want to be needy.”
“That is (expletive) ridiculous.”
“Yeah, well, you text like a dude.”
“Your texts. They are too abrupt: ‘Yeah’ or ‘Not sure.’ I get nervous that something is wrong.”
“Ok. That’s legit. How about we do a phone call once a week?”
“That sounds good.”
“I miss you, too. I know I don’t always say it…but I miss you more than you know.”
In The Prophet, Kahlil Gibran writes: “The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.” The problem was not that I was sad. The problem was that I tried to suppress being sad, which is kind of like trying not to puke. You know you hate to puke so you pretend you don’t have to, even though trying not to puke is more torturous than actually doing it. Then you finally surrender to the puke and say, “Oh my God, I feel so much better now.” Then you get to have toast and ginger ale.
Sadness = Puke, Happiness & Joy = Toast & Ginger Ale. Is anyone still with me? Bueller?
At my best friend’s wedding, I was all toast and ginger ale.
I didn’t see Lynne before she left for her honeymoon. She said upon her return, “You know J, it’s probably better that I didn’t see you that morning, because I would have totally lost it.”
Maybe it doesn’t matter if you are the one standing in the street or the one driving away. Perhaps there is equanimity in the humanness of it all. While we might move in different directions, we find connection in the jumble of emotion that comes with change and growth. That’s the place where we stop the car, run to each other, and hug.