One of my first friendships was with a neighbor girl, Susan. When we were two years old, our mothers decided we should be friends. So we were.
As we were coming up, we loved each other hard, yet we had terrible battles. A kid who was innately a people-pleaser, averse to conflict, I was always caught off guard when I realized Susan and I were on the outs. Apparently, I did things wrong, but I never quite knew what they were — until we were locked in the midst of strife, and angry remarks or notes clued me in.
Eventually, we’d come out the other side. Because I’d have been feeling sick to my stomach for days, I was just. so. happy when the fight resolved.
It’s only with the helpful telescope of memory that I can look back and realize my gratitude to Our Lord and Jesus Pappy was premature.
The things that stuck in Susan’s craw only intensified once we reached puberty.
It was a friendship that scorched significant acreage of my internal terrain.
Yet. I loved her.
Eventually, because most of us are wired in ways that pitch us towards peace, Susan and I learned to redact the worst parts of ourselves in the interests of detente.
So, once I stopped gasping that anyone could think my family’s modest income made us “rich,” we were friends again. Then, enemies again. We walked to school. Or not. We got our driver’s licenses. Made mischief together. Moved on with and without each other.
By the time high school came around, we’d gotten better at being with each other and apart from each other, gotten better at being ourselves. Once the first rush of pubescent rockiness had blasted through, we started to learned how to own our personal pain, reveal our vulnerabilities without fear of attack, bolster each other.
After high school, our lives headed in different directions. I saw her a few times during my twenties. With the advent of social media, we reconnected, and I’m incredibly glad to know where she is and how she is.
Most of all, I appreciate that we get to grow up. When I was young, and when one of my dominant friendships was hugely fraught, my reaction was quick and visceral. I cowered in a protective squat, agitatedly scratching my side of the story onto tear-stained notebook paper.
What I know now, though, is this: we all have pain.
It wasn’t just me who sobbed on her waterbed in the basement, crying about being wierd and insaen, dreading the next round of drama.
Susan was on her bed, crying, too.
Throughout the years of manufactured agonies, we were lurching towards an important realization.
At the end of it all, after callow energy has burned hot and fierce, exhausting itself, the residue it leaves behind is soft and giving.
Such is maturity, the state where we finally relax and realize it’s not about being fat or a bitch or who walks with whom or who wears what clothes or who needs to suck a lemon or who needs to write God a thank-you note.
Such is maturity, the state where we finally relax and realize
it’s the love that matters.
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