Wednesday, February 20, 2008

friends in low places

Here in the bog of depression maintaining friendships requires an act of God.

Today I woke up to the phone ringing at 10 a.m. Of course it was in the living room, where I had left it at 4:40 a.m. when I finally made my way to bed, so I had to get up to get it. I figured it would be Justin but it was one of my friends whose plans for the day had been scrambled and was able to make time to hang out with me.

Also he needed a ride home. Sure, he could have taken the bus, but carrying his guitar and all... it was good that he called me.

If it weren't for these people who intrude on my desolation, I would stay in bed all day. Today was my day without appointments and I was perfectly prepared to pass the time in flannel pajamas under flannel sheets and a down duvet. The the phone rang and I had a destination that required a shower before I left the house.

I, the girl who used to shower twice a day, propelled myself into the water in my attempt to maintain whatever shreds of dignitiy people still perceive me to maintain. Sadly, while I was bathing I thought, "well, I'd better wash my hair, God knows when I'll next be bothered with doing this."

So my friend was blessed with a clean and friendly chauffer (and I know he wasn't just calling me for a ride, we share a loving artistic bond).

Despite having vowed not to talk to friends about being clinically depressed again because I know that friendships require 5 parts joy and one part difficulty (a therapist said so), I talked to the musician about it. I knew he understood it. I'd seen him there. I also knew that talking at all about my own needs risked sending another buddy running for the hills, but I needed him to know.

Depression cruelly saps all things--including good judgement in interacting with people.

I pray that I did not make the wrong choice, that I spent my hours with him constructively instead of destructively, that my heart was not too bloody to be invited back.

On the other hand, I have this odd propensity for having friends whose partners are far less social than we are. So, when his boyfriend got home I was greeted by door jarring, furniture moving, grumpy "Oh! Paint! I don't even paint in my own house." (A new phenomenon, to which I said, "Where do you paint then?" Apparently he hasn't "painted since we bought the furniture and put the carpet down.")

It's important to note that I did not spill, that my work was contained on my giant clipboard, and that I was purposely not on the carpet or furniture but on the already paint stained hardwood floor of their one bedroom cottage.

I retreated quickly, my friend apologizing for it all ending on a bad note--though he knew I was planning to paint and he could have told me we'd have to go to our place instead.

Yesterday, my art teacher asked how my "friend, the one who had the baby is." He met her during the first art class either of us ever took; back when we knew about each other's lives and talked to each other weekly and had dinner or took walks or played with her dog or painted together.

I had to tell him I didn't know. That her baby is eight months old and I have yet to meet her or hear from her.

"Have you tried to contact her?"

"I've called, I sent e-mails and cards, I brought gifts to the house... Her husband didn't even let me see her then."

"Well, sometimes those kinds of friendships give us something to paint about."

I was happier painting with her than about her. We flew for hours to go to her wedding. She and I knew each other.

Her husband was also always grouchy when he came home and discovered that his wife had visitors.

Note to self: be nice when I find Justin's friends in my house unexpectedly. Jesus teaches us about radical hospitality, but I'm just talking about plain common courtesy and kindness. When people live with their partners (or even roommates), they share the space and shouldn't have to be afraid to have friends there. As Christians, we're supposed to treat all people as if they might be Jesus and we are to act as "little Christs," according to Martin Luther. As I always say and need to always remember, Jesus said, "Love one another." No exceptions.

So, despite the sting of severed ties and awkward exits, I must act with love (even though I'd rather just expect to be treated lovingly). Yeah, I miss my friend and I wish I knew her child. I thought I would be a big part of her life and promised to help her, but for whatever reason she has not accepted my overtures. Therefore, I have to play this incredibly complicated trick with my heart: I have to love her and let her go at once. I can't keep sending her tokens of my friendship because the time has come when constantly reaching out without reaching her is too painful for me. This woman who was once so generous and loving toward me, with whom I shared years of my life, has gone. I used to say she fell off the face of the Earth, but another friend who suffered a similar loss said, "Nah. She just found another planet to live on." Planet Mommyhood, where friendships go to die, apparently.

As for the neighbors--that's just how they are. People don't change. I gather from the other scenario that sometimes people do win (ie. the husband and child won my friend's entire company and attention), and so someone else has to lose. I guess some friends have to be kept almost like affairs--they have to sneak around and not let their other relationships intertwine with their life as a couple.

If it didn't seem like stalking and if her husband hadn't told me flatly that I couldn't just stop by, I might actually visit on a weekday afternoon to say hello.

But the truth must be accepted: In my low places, I have friends. They are good people and whether they know it or not they are helping me keep my head above water. Maybe if I remember to keep these relationships infused with the love of Christ in my heart I will be able to keep them alive. In the same manner, I must learn to love myself as my neighbor... More love for me, from me.

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