“Whacha doin’?” I asked.
“Nothin’” he mumbled, looking up briefly from his work to lock eyes, that warm, friendly gaze ever so familiar.
As he gently tapped another brick in place I continued with my story. It was like all the others lately, sad and filled with heart-pain and lost love. I spoke straight from my heart. The comfort of being best friends for such a long time made it easy to be blunt. He smiled as I spoke, occasionally looking up and mumbling confirmative grunts. But he never stopped working.
After a while of me spilling guts and tears, he started talking. His business was doing great, he said. The future was very bright, he said. You wouldn’t believe the success that was happening, he told me. It was amazing, he said. And it was. All he told me was wonderful. But I felt cold. As he spoke he didn’t look at me. The more he spoke, the more distant I felt. While I heard his words, it seemed like what he was telling me was mumbled and hard to understand, like the message was possibly meant for someone else.
I began to feel alone.
He continued to talk but I stopped listening. I heard the mumbled tones of his voice but I didn’t hear his words anymore. Something was between us, something that was smothering me. It was not familiar at all. Finally, I stopped him and asked “What’s happening here? Why do you sound so far away?”
Then I saw it. It was like I was asleep and suddenly I had awoken. Where I had only noticed that his hands were busy, now I saw the bricks, so many bricks – each staggered on top of another, layers and layers, ten feet tall and completely surrounding me. All except for one small space where he stood, brick and trowel in hand, staring at me with warm, friendly, loving eyes. I can’t imagine how this happened and when all this was done. Yet here I was, trapped behind an almost-closed wall.
“What are you doing!?!” I asked.
“I’m helping you” he said.
“How are you helping me?”
“I’m protecting you from things that might hurt you. And from me” he stated.
“I don’t understand. Why do you seem so far away? I miss you.”
“I miss you, too, my best friend. I wish you’d come back.”
Me: Every time we hang out you just talk about business. I have so many other things I __need__ to talk about but I feel like you only want to talk about you, like you don’t see me anymore. I feel so alone and it hurts my feelings. So I’ve been avoiding you.
Him: When we hang out, you are so sad that it hurts me badly. You are hurting and I care so much about you. To see you hurt, hurts me and I don’t know how to deal with it. Then, when we talk, inevitably, the things I say end up hurting you more. I can see you visibly cringe! I talk about my wonderful relationship with my wife and it hurts you. I talk about how things are going well in my life and it hurts you. I don’t want to hurt you anymore. It’s dragging me down.
Me: I’m sorry. I don’t mean to be a fun suck. I’m so sad though and I just need to talk. It didn’t used to be this way and it won’t be this way forever. But I’m so, so sad right now. You are my best friend and I trust you and we are so comfortable I feel like I can be really honest with you.
Him: You are so raw and the things you have experienced and feel are so intense. I don’t have the tools to handle them.
Me: I’m sorry. I don’t mean to cause any difficulties.
Him: I’m sorry that all I’ve talked about is business. It’s because I’m scared of hurting you more. I see you hurt when I talk about certain things. I see you cringe in pain. It hurts so much to see you hurt. I just want to protect you.
Me: You can’t protect me. You mustn’t try!
Him: I can keep from hurting you by avoiding talking about things that do hurt you. I keep conversations light and on topics that can’t possibly cause you pain, like my business.
Me: How can you possibly anticipate what’s going to hurt me when, heck, I don’t even know myself?
Him: I want to keep you safe but it’s so hard.
Me: Please don’t try to protect me. There’s no wall you can build that could save me from the world. Besides, any wall you might build would only cage me in and separate us.
Him: But I don’t want to hurt you. I don’t want you to hurt.
Me: Just talk to me. Be my friend. I give you my word that I won’t be angry at you for anything you might say. I trust you. Please give me permission to hurt. I promise I’ll be ok.
Me: If you see me hurt, just give me a minute. If need be, give me longer. I’ll be ok. Let me take the pain, sit for a second and regroup. I _will_ regroup. I’m strong. But you have to give me a chance.
Him: But if I say something that hurts you badly….?
Me: I’ll still be ok. Give me permission to hurt. Then have faith in me that I’ll be ok. This is how I heal. This is how I’ll grow. If you protect me, you are keeping me from healing. If you protect me, you are stopping me from a return back to normalcy. If you keep you from me, then you are starving me from our friendship, something I need more than anything else right now.
Him: This is scary. You are telling me that it’s ok that I hurt you?
Me: Sort of. I’m telling you that it’s ok to be you. And I’m asking permission to be me, hurt and all. If you’ll let me, eventually, I’ll be stronger and you won’t see me hurt so much.
Him: It’d be nice to see you again.
Me: It’d be nice to be me again.
Him: I’m glad we are friends.
Me: Me, too.
Him: So, me and my wife were hanging out the other day. Have I mentioned how much I love her?…..
8 thoughts on “The Love of Friends”
This reminds me of an injured athlete. You don’t restrict them from ever playing sports again just because they got hurt. You wait till they heal up enough to start physical therapy. The rehabilitation hurts, it takes constant repetition, baby steps and practice to heal. In time, they are strong enough again to get back out and play. If the coach banned the player from ever playing sports again simply because the rehab was going hurt, then he’d get fired.
That was a brave conversation to have with your friend and I’m glad you shared it. It’s hard to know what to say or how to act around your friends when they have dealt with a loss you’ve never faced, especially a loss that scares the hell out you. This helps me understand how I can be a better friend. Thank you.
This is a very special post… profound in many ways. Thank you.
Tears are streaming down my cheeks…how do you do it? How do you put into perfect words what others can only feel?
Chris, you are a gifted man for the way you are able to communicate your feelings. You heal others with your gift.
I pray that all the blessings you inadvertantly bestow on others will come back to you ten-fold.
“DITTO”! What Bobbie said!
Every Sunday, I check your postings. I do my homework on Sunday’s and I click the “personal” tab for my link to school and two rows down is, “The Great Cancer Adventure” link that somehow now has morphed into, the “I wonder how Chris is dong link.” Bobbie put so eloquently what I was feeling that I almost had nothing left to say. I was never particullarly close to you, acquaintances through Maggie and Christine over the years so sometimes I feel like a voyeur in your life, but I guess an invited one.. Every Sunday, I am reminded that life is precious and to hold onto every moment even the ones where you have to have the “tough conversation.” Thank you, Chris for letting me get to know you through your words. In personal pain comes strength that you never knew you had.
Wow. Love it. Thank you!
Dear, dear Chris,
I woke up this morning, after a drug induced sleep. That is the only way I can actually fall asleep since I started chemo.
Anyways, the first thing that I thought about was you.
You have been on my mind a lot lately.
Dealing with my beautiful little sister’s stage 4 colon cancer, and my breast cancer. Looking at how people react when faced with this horrible disease.
Anyways we all know that everything is in God’s hands.
But I just wanted to tell you, I know that I said it once but I feel like I have to say it again.
YOU are one if the greatest, sweetest most beautiful human beings on this Earth, and your beautiful Maghie was so lucky to have you.
Even after she has been gone, I am sure when I say this that everyone can feel the great love that you have for her.
In her short life she was lucky enough to experience a love that some people can live to be 100 will never het to feel.
I really think that it is time that you rename this blog.
The Great Love Story.
My heart is still aching for you and I hope and pray to God to help you with everything in your life.
You have made such sn impact on so many people, I wish you nothing but happiness in the future. God knows that you deserve that.
Have a Happy New Year.
Love and admiration always,
I am sorry for all the typos.
I am like half blind and can barely see.