Monday, July 21, 2014

On Sandy Toes and Friendships That Last

Last week, one of summer's sweetest gifts was given to me. I got to go for a long walk on a breezy beach with a dear friend on a beautiful day. We were on a girls' getaway trip, just three amazing women and myself. It was the best kind of beach weekend. We rode bikes with baskets on the front for hours and shopped in the most precious little shops. We ate more than our fill of chips and queso and white chocolate fondue and goat cheese stuffed peppers. We read books until we fell asleep and sat on the beach until the sun went behind the clouds. It was glorious. So much laughter, so much food, so much peace. A true escape from my current reality of internship hours and comps studying and the race against the clock every day. And on this escape, one of my friends and I went for a long walk on the beach. It was one of those walks where we talked, really talked about life and what's going on for us right now. We shared fears and insecurities and joys and pains and tried to choose which of the majestic beach houses would be ours in our highly unlikely millionaire futures. It was one of those walks where I knew we probably needed to turn around for more sunscreen at more than one sand castle, but I also didn't ever want to stop for fear of losing the beauty of that moment of our friendship.

Friendship. That's what's ironic, really. Friendship was perhaps the most covered topic of our walk. You see, we are both at this place between college and kids where friendships are changing.. all the time. Honestly, thinking about and talking about friendship is a commonplace for me right now. Not just on the beach but at Greek restaurants and in friends' living rooms and on back porches and in line at Chuy's nacho car. It's an exciting and interesting time for friendships in life and also a really hard one. It has left me thinking all the time about what makes friendships last and what doesn't. And that's what my friend Kaitlynn asked me about on the beach that day. So I tried out my working theory about friendships on her. I said, "I think the friendships that last are the ones that allow for change. Change in the friendship and change in the friend. Capacity to change, that's what makes a friendship last." And so, as we kicked our feet in the waves and sand, she asked me for an example. I didn't have to stop and think for more than a second before answering... "Mary Beth."

Mary Beth, my best friend of 21 years. She holds the friendship that has withstood Barbie days and puberty and high school boyfriends and college choices and marriages and big moves and all the high points and low points in between. And throughout these conversations with so many of my friends and I struggling to figure out our friend scene in these post-college years, I started to realize that there is a theme running through my friendship with Mary Beth and all my other friendships that are lasting well and that is this: Mary Beth has allowed me to change, to reinvent myself time and time again. She lets me figure out who I want to be and then doesn't hold me to it if I change my mind. Not only that, but she allows our friendship to do the same. There have been seasons where we have been inseparable for weeks on end. In our current season? She lives 200 miles away and I've rescheduled coming to see her three separate times now, if anyone is keeping count. (But she isn't keeping count, God bless her soul.) We keep up through texting and an occasional email or call. And that's it. But there she still is, steady and supportive, knowing that everything changes and nothing changes and maybe so do we and maybe that's okay.

Have we always allowed for that space for change well? I don't think so. I remember at times clawing for things to stay the same and never change, grasping at what we used to have and who we each used to be. But isn't that life sometimes? We grasp and claw and fight for what we used to have when something even better and healthier and more freeing is around the corner if we'll just let go. So, inspired by this revelation of the beauty in this sweet friendship, that's what I'm trying to learn to do in all my relationships these days. Build into each the capacity for change. It feels freeing and real and so much easier than trying to hold on to exactly who we used to be and what we used to have.
So today, whether your mind or your toes are in the sand, I encourage you to take a moment to think about the relationships in your life. Are you allowing space for the people you love the most to change and become who they want to be? Are you fighting for what matters and letting go of the rest? If so, enjoy the freedom it brings to keep becoming and to allow others to do the same. And if not, if you're like me and you have had to or need to learn to like (or maybe just accept) change, welcome aboard. It's scary and daunting, but the reward is sweet. Letting go and allowing for change may be one of the most pivotal elements in cultivating sacred space for friendships that you want to last to truly last.

What do you think? How do you cultivate friendships that last?

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Waving the White Flag

Tonight, I want to write. I want to write because I need to learn from and remember.  I want to write because I think maybe what I’m learning is a lifestyle shift I didn’t know I needed until I started to write it and now I’m convinced that you might need it too. I want to write because I want to be quiet, alone, and reflective, at last, deeply leaning into surrender.

And I’m beginning to wonder if maybe that is what my next season is supposed to look like. Maybe it’s time to let my iPhone go to voicemail a little more often, quit making so many plans and dates and meetings, and just sit back a little. Maybe, is it even possible that if I continue living in this drive-thru culture, I might miss exactly what I’m here for anyway? What if the me underneath it all needs to take a deep breath, stretch her legs out, and leave this on-the-go lifestyle in the dust for a while? It sounds awesome and it sounds terrifying. Like I want to sprint toward it and dart away from it all in the same breath. Because choosing to not live on-the-go might mean I miss something. It might mean that some of my colleagues learn things that I don’t. It might mean that some of my friends make monumental memories that I miss out on. And you know, it might just be exactly what I need.

For most of my twenty-six years on this planet, I’ve lived pretty on-the-go. From my earliest memories of my childhood to my most recent hours of this very day, I’ve been never-stopping, grab-food-for-the-road, hopelessly and often happily on-the-go. As a little tike, that looked like being one of four kids, in a blended happy little mess of people. I have an onslaught of memories of more than my fair share of baseball games. And basketball games. And football games. And tennis matches. And yes, even golf scrimmages. I was the baby, the only girl, the not-so athletic one, and the nature of that was ballpark after ballpark, metal bleacher after metal bleacher. It seemed like there were weeks where we had games and events every day and every night, and I rarely missed a second. Now don’t get me wrong. I certainly didn’t hate it. I would pack my toys and dolls in my beach ball bag and meet up with my friends in the dirt under those bleachers and play. And it was good for then. Somehow, amidst it all, my mother kept us fed and clothed and got us back to the ballpark the next night, on-the-go again.

When adolescence struck with all its awkward splendor, I upped the ante a notch in my personal life and had a constant stream of people that I “needed” to be with. Youth group events, movie nights, school functions, last minute trips to Waffle House... If you can name it, I didn’t want to miss it. I lived my high school years running up and down the back stairs, driving my little Nissan Sentra wherever I could convince my parents to let it take me. I remember hearing the words, “Where is she going this time?” and “Is she ever home?” more than once (a week) as I skipped out my revolving back door, ready to be on-the-go again.

I lived college like that and grad school like that and jobs like that. Go, go, go. Don’t stop. Or if you have to, don’t stop for long. “There are people you have to meet up with, events you simply can’t miss, and more more more you always need to be doing,” the voices in my head seem to chant at me. They convince me that scheduling something every hour of every day is somehow a great idea and I definitely won’t be tired at the end of it all. It’s like a warzone. Be here, do this, don’t miss that. You need more training, this friend won’t understand, one more appointment won’t be too much. And today, on the day of our Lord, July 2nd, 2014, I’m calling a truce. Actually, I’m calling it quits. Yep, I’m quitting. Despite the words of my mother in my head telling me that we never give up (Sorry, Mom!), I’m giving up. And here’s why.

I’m giving up because my quest for constant on-the-go is too good. Too perfect. Too much. I’m giving up because if I stay on-the-go, I don’t have to face what’s really going on inside of me. When I’m running from appointment to meeting and on the phone in between, I miss it. I miss everything. And then I get to the end of the day and I’m grumpy and on-edge and have so little to offer to those I love most. And I think that just won’t work for me anymore. 

So I’m giving up on-the-go as a lifestyle. I’m giving up trying to do it all. I’m giving up the need to please everyone and meet more needs than I have the capacity for. I’m giving up the desire to hit up every therapy conference and answer my phone every time it rings. I’m giving up filling my calendar to the point where you have to turn it and start writing vertically. Yep. I’m doing it. Starting tonight, after a day where I fit in one too many appointments and meetings with friends and spent too little time being quiet and listening to what my soul needed. Honestly, I even heard what my soul needed at one point today and disregarded it because I was too busy to really stop and notice. See why I’ve gotta slow down?!

And you know what I’m going to do with that new space that just opened up on my calendar? I’m going to sit. I’m going to pray. I’m going to read books. I’m going to take long baths and cook yummy food. I’m going to go for walks with my husband and hang out with our 19 year old live-in child. I’m going to watch documentaries that sound interesting and find TV shows that make me gut laugh. I’m going to write and reflect and play. And I’m going to look deep into my spirit and its longings and see what feels life-giving and what feels life-draining. (Thanks, Grow Class.) Yeah, I have some responsibilities I’ll have to keep up. Maybe they’ll fall in the life-giving categories and maybe they won’t. But how will I ever know unless I make time to see what God is or isn’t doing in my heart and life? There’s a chance I could keep running on a hamster wheel forever if I never stop to look around to see what’s outside my wheel.

So that’s my vow for the second half of this year. I’m going to give on-the-go the boot and slowing down a chance. Really, I think I’m giving God a chance. A chance to speak to someone who is attempting to step off that hamster wheel and listen again for the first time in quite a while. And yes, I know as babies come and jobs change and life moves on, there will be more on-the-go days and on-the-go seasons. But I’m thinking on-the-go can be just that... A season, not a lifestyle. 

So here it goes. I'm surrendering. I'm waving my white flag. And it looks curiously like the back of a ripped out sheet of my over-filled weekly planner waving high in the sky, a bold display of defiance in my on-the-go world.

Anyone want to join me?