One of my best friends nearly died recently. A ruptured appendix, a bungled diagnosis and delayed surgery. I’ve been visiting her in hospital, feeling helpless in the face of drips, oxygen, and the indignity of surgical gowns. She was weak and confused. I’m not sure she remembered if I’d been with her or not; she told me the same things over and again. One day she had a priest with her, a social call rather than last rites, but I found it awkward enough company even if the intentions were good ones on his part.
Now my friend is back home and visits feel more normal. I bring a little shopping on request, she lies on the sofa while I sip mint tea and we chat until her speech grows softer and slower as she gets tired.
In the ordinary run of things we don’t see much of each other these days, although we live really close by. Our schedules don’t mesh very well, nor our friendship circles; professional and domestic duties keep us busy, we say. And so months pass, with promises of meeting up that rarely eventuate.
Until now, when I’m making time out of nothing to drop by and see her. So it is possible after all. We joked today that it shouldn’t have been literally a matter of life and death to get us spending more time together! She must be feeling better if she can indulge in gallows humour.
We go back a long way. We’ve known each other since grad school, so we’ve experienced some big life changes during that time, transitioning from penniless students to respected professional women. Talking to her feels like reaching back into my past, familiar and not needing too much explanation, just some vague joining of the dots to keep us both in the picture. The version of me she first met is a far cry from the person of today. I easily get caught up emotionally in the changes, in my desperate longing for healing and wellness, to escape from the shadow of the past. As I look back I tend towards the melancholy, grieving for something I feel I lost, something I can’t quite articulate.
She knows my stories and she understands. But she doesn’t indulge me or add to the emotional baggage I’m hauling around. Firmly in the present, she just sees the results of so many positive changes. She’s amused and a little puzzled: how weird it is that I teach yoga now, how funny that she’s the one of us now dozing on the sofa as we talk, how amazingly fit and well I am these days. Transformed, did she say transformed?
I think she’s proud of me.
That means a lot.
Sometimes we just need to be acknowledged by those who know us. She sees me. She’s not holding onto the past version of me; she’s firmly enjoying the present me. And one day I’ll catch up with her! Letting go of my own past is hard. It’s what I’m practising now each time I’m on my yoga mat. “Let go, let go, let go”. A mantra my teacher uses in class. I never really understood before. It’s too deceptively simple. Simple, not easy. I’m glad I have friends and teachers to remind me: