Saturday night, while driving back from a long day in State College, PA, I was texting a friend. I’d been friends with this person since high school and we talked sporadically during college. Recently we’d talked about doing a writing group together, so she was checking up to iron out those deets.
The conversation went a few different places but eventually she started talking about her fear that she would “cheat on her best friend” with me (she felt this way because she had considered me her best friend in high school and when we began talking again she started to feel some of those same thoughts and feelings arising again). I kind of shrugged off her concern, mentally noting that everyone has their little quirks and this was clearly a serious thing for her that it wouldn’t be too hard for me to respect. I told her not to worry, that I wouldn’t try to “seduce her” away from her friend, that her memory of me was probably better than the reality of me anyway, that I’d try to stay aware of her emotional wellness as best I could, and that, in any case, I was without a best friend and not looking for one.
This last part caused her great concern, so she began wondering if I was ok and remarking how sad I probably was to be best-friendless. I told her that wasn’t the case, I had a lot of good friends and people who function as best friends, I just wasn’t in a place where I wanted to give any of those people the title of best friend since it no longer felt as important as it did before.
She ended her piece by saying this: as long as your heart is whole.
That night, as we continued through the dense fog along the Pennsylvania interstate, I thought about those words. We had just stopped driving to get some snacks (Lays salt & vinegar chips for me, cookies and water for my parents) and I thought about the moment I was in and how it felt kind of similar to a moment I had experienced 3 years earlier, road tripping from Virginia to Princeton with my friend. We had stopped at a gas station rest stop and I got two bags of chips (bbq and salt & vinegar) and then went back on the highway.
The memory of the rest stop led to memories, both good and bad, of the trip. I thought of my mediocre driving, the house we slept it, my friend’s cousins, the night at football practice, the awkward conversations and the sad ones, the general simultaneous anguish and joy I’d felt on the trip, that I’d felt that whole year.
And all those things were just memories. They didn’t bring me to tears or bring me great delight. I just remembered them all without all the feelings that had been originally associated with them.
I never responded to my friend’s text because right after that message the conversation quickly shifted. But if I had answered, I would’ve told her that it is. But I think I would also tell her it is ok if it isn’t. That loss is a part of life and denying your emotional response to pain doesn’t make you strong, it makes you invulnerable.
For once, I’m not fearful and insecure. I’m not constantly worried and ashamed. And it’s not all because of the end of a friendship. In fact, I don’t think most of it is. I think some of it stems from the fact that I’m done with school, some is because I’ve met cool peeps and developed friendships with them, and some is because I was finally willing and able to remove the idol of that friendship from my life (see previous post for more on that).
But honestly, the thing that has made these recent times so great is that I’ve been even a tiny bit more focused on God. I’m not gonna lie and say I pray an hour a day and consistently read my bible, but the only reason my heart is more whole now than it was a year ago is because now the idea of brokenness isn’t so scary. It’s just part of life.