Years and years ago, Mary and I began a friendship.
When Former Husband and I moved to Winnipeg, she and her husband were the first family to invite us over to a meal in their home. Eventually, (small world) she and FH became co-workers…and we often got together as couples for double dates. He enjoyed working with her. We enjoyed their company.
When FH became distant from me, at the beginning of the end, he did the same with others, including her. Given that the two of them were the only two on staff of the little church, she experienced the same pain at work as his co-worker, that I experienced at home as his wife.
We began to meet weekly, because in an odd sort of way, we understood each other in our pain over the loss over an important relationship. We could be confused together.
Being confused was hard…but being confused with someone else was a little less hard.
And we have never stopped meeting.
It’s been going on 12 years now.
We stopped for about 3 months once about 5 years ago when she went on a sabbatical…I thought we might not resume…but we did.
We talked about our arrangement last week…as we’ve done from time to time. That morning I read how our internal voices–the voices we hear inside giving us a running commentary on our lives–those internal voices are generally in the spirit and tone of those closest to us in our lives.
I told her that her voice is one of my voices.
When I notice myself getting discouraged and frustrated, when I feel lonely and lost, when I don’t know know what to think, I know that if I borrow her voice for a little while, I will be ok.
I told Mary how I often say, “What would Mary do?” when I have a parenting moment that leaves me flummoxed and frustrated. Because I know Mary would get matter of fact about the situation with her child and outline the dilemma in a way that outlines her frustration in a way that is respectful to the child. Then she often does something creative and out of the box that hijacks the anger and turns the situation around. She would find a way to make them feel good together again.
I asked Mary, in the months before FH left, what I would do, how I could bear it if and when he would actually leave. I couldn’t imagine the moment.
Just. Couldn’t. Even.
She said that I would call her, and she would come over.
So when my unimaginable nightmare became my unimaginable reality–I called, and she came.
She tucked me into bed that night, all soggy and snivelly, red faced and swollen, and prayed for me before she left the room.
I wasn’t a pretty picture that night…I was a mess. I never got the idea that she saw me as ugly, as I knew myself to be that night.
I was reminded of the mornings, when as a newly single mom, I would call Mary on my way to the university in tears saying, “I don’t think I can get through this morning.” And she would hear how hard it was, and let me know she understood, and then encourage me to just show up first, and maybe see how would go. Then she would pray for me, right on the phone with me. And then I would go…and get through the full day.
I remembered the time I was moving our little family from the big marital home to a cuter home a few minutes away…while working 2 jobs, 2 active kids, and feeling the weight of the world on me–the move seemed overwhelming. There was a lot to sort and pack and make decisions. Mary came over to help…and we worked on some shelves. Then I said I couldn’t do anymore, I was tired and needed to go to bed (but there was mountains left to do). And she said, “How about we set the timer and spend 15 minutes on the cedar closet? You’ll feel so much better, won’t you? We can stop after that if we want to!” She said it like she was asking, but she didn’t really give me an option. 🙂 We went to it and in 20 minutes we were done. The worst closet that seemed onerous and dreadful was behind me. I often replay that when I dread something, recalling Mary: “What if I spent just 10 minutes at this, I’ll feel so much better!” and I gently cajole myself into the difficult task.
So, now, for a while every Thursday morning, we talk...laugh about the funny bits of caring for aging parents (her) or growing teenagers (me). We talk about the books we’ve read, or the plays we’ve seen…and what we learned. We share disappointments and struggles. Neither of us tries to fix anything, but we do remind each other of who the other one really is.
It’s good when someone remembers what is important to you, when you might forget.
We remind each other of the strengths the other has. And sometimes I remind her to take care of herself in amongst all those she looks after. Sometimes she does the same for me.
We have a lot of equity in the relationship bank.
When I see her moving in a way that’s hard for her, I’ve earned the right to ask the hard questions. She told me that sometimes, when she’s tempted to overcommit, she’ll hear my voice: “Mary, what are you doing? What’s happening that you’re saying ‘Yes’ so often?”
When she sees me doing something unhealthy, she calls me on it. I have given her the authority to speak bluntly and directly into my life. She’s earned it. She knows me well enough to call me on something when I need to hear it.
And she knows me well enough to know when to just let me talk and cry and listen to when it is hard.
That’s a gift that is priceless.
And by priceless, I’m not exaggerating.
I have several great friends. I’ve been gifted with multiple great friends that I enjoy spending time with. Mary and I rarely get together outside of Thursday mornings. Can’t remember when the last time was Mary and I saw a movie, or went for a walk. We don’t enjoy a glass of wine on the weekend. We pretty much only get together Thursday mornings.
But she’s my person.
She was, of course, one of the officiants when Husband I were married.
She told me last week, that she realized that I am her person. She’s got great friends too, but not ones that she has such a regular weekly, “How goes it with your soul” conversation. We talk…sometimes we talk to enjoy each other…sometimes we talk to help each other…and always we talk to be connected. When one of us might be going through something big, we don’t have to arrange to talk.
We just show up on Thursday to have the talk we need to talk about.
Today is Bell’s Let’s Talk day.
The day when Bell speaks out for Mental Health…and reminds the rest of us that talking is good for mental health. Because it is.
Harvard Medical School says that lack of healthy relationships increase the risk of premature death more than obesity or physical inactivity. Not having significant social relationship is equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes per day.
Bell uses the “let’s talk” day to encourage those with mental health issues to courageously reach out and make connections, knowing it will save lives, reduce depression and decrease anxiety.
But talking just isn’t for those with a mental health diagnosis.
Talking is for all of us.
Talking regularly helps get people healthier…and helps healthy people stay healthy…and helps healthy people who are facing inevitable struggles to work through the challenges in ways that helps with the coping of those challenges.
I think that you need a person to talk to that is not your spouse.
Someone that you can talk with when things at home get challenging (because they will always get rough, at some point). That’s harder for men, I think, than women.
We, Mary and I, will meet again. Tomorrow. The regulars at Starbucks will see us at our usual table.
We will sit down and do life together again, sharing the mundane and the magical, the troubling and the triumphant, the hilarious and the humdrum.
Do you have a person?
Dare to reach out, to start a conversation, to start talking. To develop having a person. Give it a shot. Try again if the first one doesn’t work. Rinse and repeat.
We are created to each need a person (or two).
Someone needs you as their person.
Can you say to someone today, “Let’s talk”?