A piece of my friend’s heart is lost somewhere over the Pacific Ocean. At least, that’s the way I like to think of it. She sent me a message asking if she could send me a letter, actual folds of paper and ink, to share a piece of herself with me. I replied “yes, please, of course and absolutely!”, curious and chuffed that I could be a safe harbour for her request.
It hasn’t arrived yet, and I miss it. I don’t know the shape of the envelope, or how my name looks on the page, if it will limp to my letterbox, under-stamped and overwhelmed finally by my ripping excitement, or be wilted by the summer heat and post-Christmas crush. It’s not here, and I miss the unmet corners of it in my hands, the tug of my friend’s words unspooling across the page, her thoughts and worries sinking into the paper, tumbling like ribbon across the ocean to be knotted and anchored to my heartstrings, to be weaved into our friendship and melted into my reply.
There is bravery in honesty. Not the scoffing, often brashly untrue “Honestly, I couldn’t care…” or apologetic “Honestly it doesn’t matter…” but to somehow overcome the nerves and nausea that comes with revealing a need, a hope, a morsel of our own personal grenade we’re trying to swallow, panic we’re trying to bury, the mortal mud we’re drowning in, the delight that both has us dancing and snapping it between our teeth because maybe others won’t “get it”.
Recently I went interstate and had dinner with a wonderful friend, and sometime over the appetisers she said something like “You’ve done so awesomely with your life and challenges, you and your boys are doing so wonderfully, and I don’t want to be a gloomer but honestly… I’m having so many disasters.”
We sat there, licking sticky plum sauce and salt off our fingers, and spoke honestly of our realities. Kids not coming to church anymore, other kids fighting about going to seminary, health panics and futures splintering to dust, constant punches to our hearts and hopes and emotional falling pianos. Prayers not being answered, laughing in delight and wrong moments, Saints being jerks, us being awful to our loved ones and bruising our fists on our own doubts and furies. We wrecked our mascara, fought over who would pay the bill and, tucking our honesty around our shoulders, left our masks on the table when we left.
I’ve known that friend for nearly twenty years. I love and admire her, I know my secrets and worries are safe in her ears – yet we both still hesitated to share our honesty. I think of how differently the evening would have been if she hadn’t held out her hurt, her reality, all leaky and lopsided, and my gut lurches. I imagine the what-if of me not reaching back, to give comfort and sharing my own bedraggled, twitchy life, and my gut rolls again.
Deciding to drop our pretending punts us somewhere along the terror spectrum from “take a breath and do it” to involuntary loss of speech, sphincter control and/or sanity. It can be sending a letter to literally the other side of the world, or crying over delicious ribs. It can be looking in the mirror, or sending a text message. It can shove your life in a different, bewildering, astonishing direction.
So a piece of a friend’s heart is (temporarily) lost somewhere over the Pacific, and another friend’s heartache is hanging out with my own. It is a beautifully messy situation – full of hope, leakings and confidences, weighted with salt, exhaustion and stubbornness – and it’s real, and it’s glorious.
Do you find it easy to share the honest realities of your life? If you are feeling alone, or unheard, or overburdened, what is something you’d like to share?