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…



August 6, 2009

today is my 30th birthday.  WOW! so far, i love being 30…it’s almost like a lightswitch went off in terms of my confidence – in your 20s you’re so used to that process of trial and error to figure out who you are that when you are 30, you have an authority to know it! Don’t ask why…and that probably doesn’t makes sense, but who cares, it does to me.

in any case, I think Tim McGraw sums up this day better than I can – so here it is:

I think I’ll take a moment, celebrate my age
The ending of an era and the turning of a page
Now it’s time to focus in on where I go from here
Lord have mercy on my next thirty years

Hey my next thirty years I’m gonna have some fun
Try to forget about all the crazy things I’ve done
Maybe now I’ve conquered all my adolescent fears
And I’ll do it better in my next thirty years

My next thirty years I’m gonna settle all the scores
Cry a little less, laugh a little more
Find a world of happiness without the hate and fear
Figure out just what I’m doing here
In my next thirty years

Oh my next thirty years, I’m gonna watch my weight
Eat a few more salads and not stay up so late
Drink a little lemonade and not so many beers
Maybe I’ll remember my next thirty years

My next thirty years will be the best years of my life
Raise a little family and hang out [AS A] wife
Spend precious moments with the ones that I hold dear
Make up for lost time here, in my next thirty years
In my next thirty years

Being a house-guest is a funny thing. It always promises an odd mix of awkward and fun. I’ve seen it go really wrong. Last weekend, I was visiting my best friend’s parents in Jackson Hole, Wyoming….she and I never go out at the same time. Mostly b/c we like undivided attention and love – we used to chalk it up to scheduling – but now we just admit it, which is better for us all. She’s very generous in lending them to me. 


i digress


this time, being a house-guest, proved to be a bit shocking – in all of the right ways. 


It so happens that right now, I am facing an insurmountable set of transitions – starting grad school, potentially resigning from my job, maybe moving to a new city , milestone birthday, moving on after a relationship fell apart, and on and on.


I had been in 6th gear for about five months – I didn’t want to think about it, or moreover, I couldn’t…I just had to keep going to get through it all and the best way I knew how to do that was to just keep going.


Needless to say, when my plane sunk into the Teton-shadowed runway, I was tired. 


The first night I arrived (a Thursday) I didn’t sleep very well, because new places always feel different and when it isn’t your house there’s always that sense of fragility.  Friday came early and was nauseatingly idyllic.


I loved it.  


I wasn’t raised in any sort of normal family dynamic, so i eat up days like this.  I went to the local art fair  w/ mamma Janet while papa Bob stayed at home to work….we reconvened for lunch, went for a nice bike ride, and headed home for dinner.  


Their house is one of those where the kitchen, living room, and breakfast room are all kind of one room, so after we got home, i jumped in the shower, threw on some track pants, and perched on the couch.   Chatting away w/ mama…as she was walking in and out – going to her room to get ready for the symphony that night – the conversation waned and my eyes got heavy….somewhere in twilight, hearing bob set the table and janet mix the salad, I realized I don’t do this.


I don’t fall asleep on other people’s couches. 


I’m a guest – I need to be awake, to be on, to earn their love and be so funny, smart, insightful, and dynamic that they can’t help but love me and think “man, we really want her to be a part of our lives forever”


But I slipped slowly into a restful sleep on that butter leather couch (which I might add is nowhere as comfy as the black ones in their old house in Florida).


Who does that?  


I trusted them. I trusted them in the intimacy and vulnerability of sleep. I don’t know how long I was out – probable not long – we were late and they were hungry…mama janet leaned over, kissed my forhead and said “time for dinner!” 


Somewhat groggy, my eyes opened to see a beautifully set table.  Where’d this come from? 


Why did this come?


I didn’t earn this.  I was useless.  I wasn’t charming or delightful…



I was just me, exhausted, asleep on a couch, contributing nothing, saying nothing


and afraid of nothing.


I was safe – my personhood was safe, my standing in their lives was safe.


Do you have any idea how incredible it feels, when you are exhausted, to have a moment where you can close your eyes, rest your head, and fall into the safety and protection that comes with knowing you don’t have to do or be or give anything to be welcome and loved and acceptance?


now i do…