I’ve never been particularly good at friendships. I make friends easily and I love people, but the things involved in keeping bonds going do not come easily to me. Remembering birthdays, checking in, returning emails and texts. I don’t know what it is, but I never seem to be able to keep on top of it. I go through phases of engaging ferociously, and then I get tired and a little burnt up. I recoil from the world and read a lot. I turn off my phone and I stay in jammies. When Joel tries to speak to me, I flash him a look which sends him disappearing deep inside the house, scattering like a mouse who has suddenly seen a cat. My friends know this about me and they love me anyway, which I’m glad about.
I’ve also never been particularly good in groups. I find it stressful navigating social dynamics and group hierarchies. I get tired thinking quickly on my feet, saying the right things, laughing when I’m supposed to, feeling included but not being grabby, asking appropriate questions in silences, appearing relaxed, effortless, likeable. I like my friends one on one, where I can ask how are you? and they can really tell me. Where they can ask how are you? and I can really tell them. I feel most comfortable on a couch, or on a floor, talking about the things we cover with cute clothes and make-up when we meet a bunch of people for dinner. I love a night out, I really do, and not all my conversations need to be deep and meaningful. It’s just that most of the time, I think the dynamic of friendship groups leaves little space for the intimacy occurring between the people themselves.
In moments when I am sitting in front of another human being, sharing tissues and secrets, I get a strange sense of something outside of myself. In the midst of unrelenting honesty, of heartache and of loneliness – and we all house these things when we dig deep enough- I feel a basic human connection. I see how fragile and strong we are. I see how connected we are in life’s simplest pursuits – that we love, that we lose, and that we dream. I feel right there, in those moments, that the bridge between us overrides all the things we believe make us different.
We’re not different.
Throughout my life, I have studied a lot of spiritual practices. I’ve read countless books. I’ve turned concepts over in my mind until I found a way to understand them and then integrate them into my life. What I could never quite understand was that many practices found peace and bliss and enlightenment and God by being alone. By sitting on a mat and going inside.
While there is not a shred of doubt inside of me that discounts the need for isolation in mastering myself (that is an inside job, after all), I am not convinced that inside is where God lies. I think God exists in the space between me and another human being. The moments in life I’ve felt to be most holy have always included other people, and still to this day, the times I feel the presence of something sacred, something divine, something greater than myself is when I am sharing in something real with another person. When one of us is hurting and the other is caring. When one is needing and the other is providing. Those experiences right there – the small acts of love between people – are the only true thing I know about how to find God. I think God is really just sitting there quietly, waiting to be found in each other. When we love. When we realize that love is not a feeling to have, but simply something to do for one another.
So, you guys, I’m doing this little thing. A weekly bucket list. To love people better and to love life better.
And it goes a little something like this:
Good morning Monday, what are you looking forward to this week? and I will make a list–a miniature week version of a bucket list, full of ten very doable tasks, and I will cross them off all week long and celebrate on Friday.
So (drum roll please….) (and I’m sensing this could become a very Monday thing…watch out)
My Mini Bucket List:
1. Text or email someone randomly every day this week. Pick a person and let them know you are aware of what’s going on in their life; that they are important. Grab the phone right then and there, even if you’re in the middle of a domestic drama. Do not just think nice thoughts. People are not telepathic, Rachel.
2. Bake something new. Take a plate of before-mentioned treats to a friend. Devour together.
3. Put babies to bed, turn off the phone and watch a movie on the couch with Joel.
4. Spa day with Ella. Ask her if she wants a massage, knowing full well she will rub her hands up and down her belly saying “mass, “mass”. To this, you will smile, which is the precise reason you asked her in the first place. Paint her toe nails. Light candles and burn incense and play classical music.
5. Try to not yell at Joel if he leaves his clothes on the floor. Or forgets bin day. Or does not put his dishes in the sink. Instead of starting sentences like, OH MY GOD SERIOUSLY FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THINGS HOLY SWEET MOTHER OF JESUS WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU I AM NOT YOUR GOD DAMN SLAVE, I will smile sweetly and remind Joel that it is important to me that Child Services not take away our one and only child so would he please mind picking up the dirty plates he has left around the house before the cockroaches carry us all away.
6. Feed the ducks with Joel and Ella one morning.
7. Mexican food and games night with friends.
8. Dropping dinner off at my brother’s house. He lives around the corner and I should really see him more than I do.
9. Organize our next camping trip— lock in a date and turn it into a group affair.
10. Date night with Joel. Go out somewhere. Drink wine. Laugh.
Join me if you feel like it. Tell me what’s on your list. Keep it small though. Don’t out-superwoman me. You know I get tired easy.
And now, without further ado, I bring you my recent little moments of love. Glimpses of God, right in front of me.
She points to her helmet on a daily basis, and when we have the time, we bundle the bikes into the car and go to the place we always go when we want to do something a little bit special. The place where we’re sittin’ on the dock of the bay, watching the tide roll away. Just sittin’ on the dock of the bay, wastin’ time. This bay has a bike path right along the water’s edge and a kick-arse playground Ella loves. (Sorry for swearing but it’s really, really good.) We buy hot chips, too, since that’s our tradition. God is everywhere in this place.
Have you met my new bike? Red Tenters, most amazing bicycle ever to have existed. Most amazing bicycle ever to have existed, Red Tenters.
All day long is mum mum mum mum mum and I think how strange it is that someone can say something so small and yet it fills up something as huge as my heart.
She’s a slide fanatic. Can’t get enough. Awesome playground by the bay. Three slides. And one’s a double slide.
Shakespeare wrote that the earth has music for those who listen. So I’m listening hard. I’m trying to listen really, really hard.
Monday Bucket List, here I come. Join me, if you want. Tell me what’s on yours.
Have a happy evening friends. See you back here soon.