I don’t know what it is about traveling to Texas that makes me want to break out singing 80’s rock ballads, but all I could think about while my plane touched down in Dallas Thursday night was the song Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now by Jefferson Starship. Texas is where I grew up. It’s where most of my childhood memories are rooted and it’s where many of my friends still live. One of my best friends from high school got married this weekend and I got to be a part of the celebration.
It’s hard to believe that she and I have been friends for 24 years. That’s more than half my life. We’ve had our share of ups and downs, but at the end of the day, we’ve always been there for each other. Our history includes moments of shared joy, like the births of our children or marriage, as well as devastating losses like divorce or the death of her father. There are few things that have been a constant in my life over the years, but Ra has been one of them. There aren’t many memories that don’t include her somewhere.
When I think of high school and Ra, I think of midnight meals of Jack in the Box egg-rolls and curly fries dipped in buttermilk ranch dressing. I picture us double dating for dances, breaking curfew for one last joy ride or one last kiss. I remember the wind blowing our hair like crazy, the windows wide open, while driving down Loop 410 the night we graduated. A thousand stories of broken hearts, new crushes, nicked legs from botched shaving jobs, giggling until dawn, and passing notes in the halls. (And trying to pass off peppermint Schnapps as mouthwash). We don’t always see eye to eye on religion, fashion, or housekeeping but what we do have in common is a love for family and a desire to serve others.
It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Friendships are a lot like marriage, I think. They take work and commitment. You have to be willing to love someone unconditionally, through thick or thin, for better or worse. Sometimes you have to be willing to put someone else’s needs above your own, extend compassion instead of criticism, forgive even when the other person isn’t sorry, and be quick to admit when you are wrong. You have to be willing to let go of past hurts or disappointments, accept each others flaws or short comings, maybe even love them for their imperfections. Friendships have to sustain themselves through months of silence, missed birthdays and anniversaries. And, like marriage, require communication and honesty, loyalty and patience. Perhaps it is even harder to maintain long-term friendships than a marriage. There is no paper binding you together, no legal agreement that you will share a life, and no assumption that you will be together for the next 24 years. There are only choices along the way, choices through each season of your life, about who we spend time with and who we let go.
It’s harder as we get older to keep in touch. Living thousands of miles away doesn’t help, either, but mostly because our lives are no longer our own. Children, family, spouses and work absorb most of our attention leaving little left over to share. But each moment we do get to spend together, it is like it was yesterday. There is so much history between us, threading together the past and the present, that our friendship is seamless.