unfriend

November 18, 2009

Last night at dinner, my friend Alison mentioned in passing that the powers that be made “unfriend” a real word this week by assigning it the coveted title as 2009 Word of the Year.  Tying in second was “sexting”, “intexticated” (being distracted while texting and driving), and “tramp stamp.”

does anybody else see the pattern here?!?

Alison and I were both communication majors in college.  Ironically, we both chose paths in our 2nd majors (hers theology, mine finance) but have long since agreed that our understanding of the science of communication proved invaluable during the many trials of our 20s.  In reality, it is a study of relationships and intimacy.  Sending & receiving messages and choosing/using appropriate channels pretty much decides everything in terms of how well we accomplish our most basic need to hear and be heard.

According to psychologists, a relational model consists of 4 “boxes”: Trust – Communication – Commitment – Intimacy.  They are not a recipe in as much as they are a diagnostic.  The quality or dysfunction of any box or set of boxes influences the other(s) and ultimately the relationship as a whole.  So, for example, a relationship’s level of trust will tell a lot about the level of relationship in general; or, the quality of communication will impact the corresponding stake-holders’ ability for intimacy.  And so on…

Thus, we learn it’s impossible to have healthy relationships without healthy communication.

And we have to get great at communicating, because everyone needs relationships, people, and community.

When we don’t have that, often we lash-out for attention or look for an identity, with, say, a tatoo on the small of the back…

the words we are inventing tell a lot about who we are becoming.

***********

It’s not surprising that “unfriending” came up at dinner.  If any two people had a reason to unfriend the other, it’s Alison and me.  The stories of hurt and anger and grace and joy and forgiveness and laughter and sisterhood over the past 12 years are far too many to share here – but know this, it has been messy and beautiful.  It has been difficult past words but it has been healing.  Love (selflessness), worked out in relationships on any level is transformative – and we are no exception.

Last night, as we told stories of days long gone, joking, “I so should have unfriended you after…” I couldn’t help but wonder if things would have been different had “unfriend” been part of our generation’s vernacular.  But it wasn’t and for whatever reason, we stuck it out.  We’re still shifting our friendship and approach to each other as we grow and change as individuals.  And believe me, that road demands communication and vulnerability far past a few text messages or wall posts.

While there may be a word to describe ending a story, there is not one to encapsulate the power of choosing to stay in one.  The story we tell by staying is that while it may be easy and tempting to disengage a relationship with the click of the button and less terrifying to express emotions in para-language on a 2 dimensional screen, there is nothing like, nor a substitute for, the experience of a well-rooted friendship.  There is no better feeling than a hug after a really tender conversation.  Al and I have been through hell (sometimes we put the other one there!) and yes, our friendship has cost us greatly; but, the degree to which we’ve beset each other has also been the degree to which we have allowed the other into very arcane and fragile places, to shed light and love.

This past June, Alison called while I was sitting at the base of Vail mountain eating Marble Slab.  I hadn’t yet put words to events that we both knew were significant when she asked “Are you ok?”.  I could only reply “Yes, but I probably won’t be tomorrow.”  There was a not even a breathe of a pause before I heard, “Well, I’ll still be here tomorrow.”

I hope one day there’s a word for that…

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9:18 am confessions

October 7, 2009

In high school, my friend Merrill and I would often have something to say, but never say it.  Usually it was sensitive information, or something that was too nebulous or uncool to utter out loud.  Speaking it meant trusting the other to sort through what’s real and not, what’s you and what’s a version of you that’s changing.  And since, in high school, you’re learning who and how to trust – it was usually around midnight when we were too tired to pretend everything was OK that we’d spill it.  It also typically came after a long drive and very loud music in Henry, my beloved 1st car. (sorry I forgot to put oil in you and you blew up, RIP Henry)

These aptly became named “midnight confessions”

We’ve both grown up a lot since then and a week or so ago she dropped something huge – at dinner, in a restaurant.  We’ve come so far. Then again, when you put in the kind of time and care and cost to sustain a relationship for 15 years, it gets easier.

****

No one I know reads this blog, and if they do, it’s not because I ever told them about it.  I’m not a writer, I’m not trying to be one.  The people that know me probably hear or have heard all of this stuff at some point over margaritas or fried egg sandwiches (i create a lot of odd traditions w/ my brood).  So this is more for me.  Putting thoughts in prose helps tie the clouds together – and who knows, maybe an unknown surfer will one day ride onto this wave and connect w/ the seemingly immense and perpetual struggles that come from navigating value and purpose in our culture.

I think we all desperately want to be part of a great story – and to do so we have to change.  Too bad the tools to learn how to become a healthy, fully-alive human being are almost non-existent in American culture.

****

It’s 9:29 am now, and I have a confession.

I was too immature to love the first boy I loved.  I didn’t know how to navigate the obligations of intimacy nor did he.  I didn’t know it was unwise to hold nothing back when there wasn’t a commitment to bind it, so I didn’t.  We were the best of friends so sex wasn’t a question, but relationally, we went far past the line.  When he ditched me and the heart I had handed him for the hottest girl he knew – it naturally translated into “boys want bodies, not hearts.”  And I wanted boys, so I got sexy.

I spent years believing that lie. Well, in all fairness, some guys do just want bodies, but they’re cowards: afraid they don’t have what it takes to love and die for a woman.  I let guys be a lesser version of a man. I  bartered my sexuality for attention.  I’m different now, I’ve learned.  I’ve been invited into great, legend marriages and families to see how communication, trust, commitment, and intimacy work together to create the kind of home where love thrives. “What’s more freeing than being loved well?” I once asked my friend Don Miller – to which he replied, “loving well.”

Selah.

I don’t know many men like him and even though I now know better, I still don’t get a lot of attention from guys outside of my sexuality.  I’m remarkably uncool around good guys.  I had a lot of practice on the other side, so non-sexual conversations still feel a little awkward.  Maybe I guard the sex-vibe too much and then instinctively play the sex card, so the poor fellows aren’t sure which category of girl to put me in.  Who knows, all I know is that, I wonder…

I wonder if a guy will ever want to hold my naked heart as much as he does my naked body.

I wonder how many people wonder the same…

how many hugs?

September 27, 2009

Bob is brilliant, intimidatingly so.  Janet is magnetic; her essence spills a disarming peace.  They love God.  They adore each other.  They look at and fall into the other like no two people I’ve ever seen.

Janet is Bob’s 3rd wife.  He left 2 marriages and 5 children in the wake of a version of himself that I never knew.  Bob is Janet’s 2nd husband.  She is dutiful, responsible, and sharp – the hard-working type you’d expect out of an eldest child raised on a farm.  For Bob, where caustic wit once was, there is now overwhelming compassion.  For Janet, obligation has been replaced by a freedom to love and give herself away.

To me, they represent trophies of grace, and were I only able to stand at a distance and watch, I could glean wisdom for a lifetime.

For some reason, they allow me access.  I have no idea why, which is a little unsettling.  I’m a master at manipulating people into loving me – but it’s never worked with them.  In the oddest of ways, at the oddest of times, they will generously open their life to me – and 10 times out of 10, I did nothing to earn it or make it happen.  It feels weird to be loved just because

I think that is grace.  And grace is disconcerting, as it should be.

They live in Wyoming.  Today they were in Florida.

I hugged Janet.  She doesn’t hug actually, she embraces.  Her tiny arms and slight frame somehow take you in.  She holds on longer than she has to.  I think she prays over people when they are in her fold.

It’s been a hard season for me.  She knows it.  I know it.  While I’d normally rely on her for advice and comfort, this time she’s rightly allowed me to weather the storm alone, with God.  Like all good mothers; she knows that this is where a lot of growing up happens – and it has.  It’s undoubtedly been rough. But in her embrace, I feel the nurture, the safety, and the warmth of a heart cheering me on, ready to bandage the wounds – so I can head back into a decisive battle.

I hugged Bob.  He laughs.  He always laughs at me.  I’m not really sure why he always laughs at me, but I guess I’m funny.  He says what he always says, “Saaaaaarah” then stands quietly, hands on hips, staring at me.  He made his name and fortune in litigation – he knows the ropes.  He knows by doing this I will tell him exponentially more about what’s on my mind than were he to ask a straight question.  And I do.  And he laughs.

With Bob, when your almost not paying attention (usually in between the laughing) he will say the most incredible things that come straight from a father’s heart.  You know by his words that he has been listening, watching, taking note, and making sense of what the real issue is.  Like many before, his words today were the boundaries I needed.  I am as capable and intelligent as I have always been; and I will find a way through this.  I don’t think he knows how many lies have been silenced because of conversations like this with him.

I would have loved to sit over blueberry pancakes on their patio and listen and talk. I would have loved to tell the full stories of how God is growing me up and showing up in ways I never knew possible.  But on this day, the busyness of our schedules and commitments gave us only a few moments – so in half-sentences and hugs – we celebrated the God in whose story we live and trust.

As I was leaving, I said good-bye and stole another hug from Janet, then from Bob, then from Janet again, and another from Bob.  Clamped safely around Bob’s ribcage, he chuckled and said, “How many hugs are we going to have?”  “As many as I need” I quipped with a grin.

Then I let go.  I told them I love them.  I got in my car and drove away.

Their hugs give me what every great embrace, what every great relationship should – an arrow pointing the way to Christ.  After weeks of trying to pray, trying to talk to God and with God about what the hurt and fear and magnificence of this season was doing to my heart – I got in my car and prayed.  Suddenly, I knew what to ask and thank God for.

Somehow the way I am held and loved by them makes the heart of my heavenly Father so much clearer and my need for Him, and Him alone, so plain.

so how many hugs?

As many as I need  – to see, feel, know, and seek the only one that matters.

a driving kind of beautiful…

September 19, 2009

My dad and I were driving one day. Well, he was driving; I was 7. Maybe 8. Down Roosevelt Blvd we went, past Yerkes Park; I’d seen it 10,000 times.

Seemingly out of nowhere – breaking the discomfort of the silence – he said “you’re beautiful.”

Um….ok

I had never thought or worried about being beautiful. I don’t think I even realized people were judged on things like that.  Who knows why it stuck.

All I knew was that now, this thing called beautiful was important and whatever it was, it apparently made me remarkable.  This intangible quality was the grounds upon which I was worth engaging.

He had never said how easily I mastered any sport I tried.  He never spoke of how my abstract mind was a unique gift that gave me a special kind of intelligence and wit.  He never brought up that I was funny or made known how I could light up a room.  He never broke the silence by saying I had an uncanny ability to make people feel welcomed and included.

No, I’d learn all of those things later, in relationships with friends, boyfriends, pseudo-fathers, and pastors.  It would be all of those men who noticed, revealed, protected, and encouraged those things in me.

But on that day, the distance was bridged with ‘beautiful’ – and then the silence set in again.

Fast-forward 20 years.

That scene flashed across my mind today as my dad sat in the passenger seat of my quintessential white BMW.  A short strapless linen dress, designer of course,  hung delicately on my thin frame.  My perfectly straight short blonde hair outlined painted eyes, white, straight teeth and flawless skin.

We chatted awkwardly.  He doesn’t know me.  He never did.  He never wanted to.  He asks about work. He asks about school. I graciously answer.  Conversations are as they have always been – more a polite dialog than an endearing exchange.

But today, I was driving because he is now blind…

I wonder what he sees.

an ordered chaos

August 27, 2009

There is a beautiful, visceral, painful tension in the space between where deep emotions are not ripe enough to become words…and I’m there

London has been incredible – in some ways incredibly uncomfortable, in others incredibly eye-opening, and yet still others incredibly wonderful.

I’ve heard “change of place + change of pace = change of perspective” and it’s true. I knew this first trip would change my perspective on things directly related to my MBA life (education, institutions, markets, diversity, etc) but I did not know how much it would shift my perspective on things that represent my life back at home…

friends, guys, money, geography, leisure, how i spend my time, what i read, what i watch, and on and on and on…

so there is a lot going through my head – mostly about relationships and people; because relationships are deep and complex and important. people are irreplaceable and i think how we treat them is a window into our soul.

and there’s a long way between who I am and who i want to be. i also happen to believe God is the one who moves us that distance…and i trust Him. I want Him to.

so i don’t know how much i have to say right now – and it’s why i’ve been quiet…all i can do is keep going back to this idea i managed to utter on my twitter the other day,

“There is a beautiful, visceral, painful tension in the space between where deep emotions are not ripe enough to become words…and I’m there”

may God do what only He can do with and in that…amen and amen.

A Twitter friend once posted, “Just once, I’d like to learn something the easy way.” 

Amen. 

Some people have a gift for it – my best friend is one of them – she just observes other people, takes it in, then makes the right decisions part of her ethos.  How? I have no idea. 

Recently, in the wake of one of my learning opportunities (read: bad decisions), I found myself on a much needed ‘drive and think.’   Nestled in my shiny white BMW, left knee bent up to my chest, right arm steering my gorgeous machine, winding down A1A music blaring – i felt free.  Free to face the truth and the demons; wanting a familiar lyric or tune to embrace my chaos and reassure me that everything works out OK in spite of it all. 

That’s one thing I’ve never gotten a clear answer on from the church – does it work out or doesn’t it?  Are my “hot mess” tendencies going to derail me or not? I mean, they are pretty clear about the “ultimate” resolution – but i’m not bent toward easily imagining dragons buried under the ocean and Messiahs riding out of the sky – let alone how any of that impacts my drive on A1A.  I live in the short-term.  I live where people are impacted by my decisions, not the least of which is me! I understand the condition of my heart determines my behavior but my behavior(s) also shape the condition of my heart.  

I’m fighting this war on two battlefields – and frankly, i’m not so great at defending my heart against the wounds of bad behaviors. 

It occurred to me, in the sanctity of my precious beamer, that i could actually ask God – did i mess this all up?  Does this work out for me, in spite of me, or not? Can God still do IN me and THROUGH me what He longs to do, or am i just hopeless?

So i asked.  I asked the God of the universe, the guy who put the sky together – i just asked him.  I talk to Him often, but even with the closest of friends, sometimes you grab their shoulders, look them in the eye and really ask.  This was one of those.

In all of the honesty that I’ve always hoped God was big enough to hold, I told him I like it, I love feeling the things I feel and I know better: i know they aren’t right or good.  I know they are dangerous.  I know He put them off-limits b/c He loves me perfectly – better than I love myself.  I told God that I wished I could claim to be a bug flying toward the light…incapable of resisting. But I believed him when He says He’ll provide a way out and to claim to be that proverbial mosquito, if i were to say I’m incapable of resisting, I’m calling Him a liar.  And I can’t do that. 

The ability to choose is what makes me most human.  If i abdicate responsibility for my choices, I become a little less human.  I won’t do that. 

I did what I did. I made a series of decisions that led to a consequence.  

There’s blood on my hands.

In a sense, I am the one, in Herod’s courtyard saying “He’s not what I want. I think I can do it better.  This doesn’t look like what i want it to look like…so I’m taking it into my own hands.”

and the blood of an innocent man is on my hands.

And I wonder if God’s big enough, good enough to hold me when i’m covered in His blood. 

I wonder – GOD how i wonder – if I messed it all up – if i disqualified myself somehow b/c I can’t get it right.

I want Him. I want to love Him well. I want Him to lead me b/c I like that way SO MUCH BETTER.  But time and time and time again, I’ve proved that I can’t muster enough strength or discipline or resolve to just do what I know God’s asked me to be. 

I’m covered in blood.