Tag Archives: making friends

Progress is a Joyful Thing

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Her Instagram feed is dotted with squares of ice cream. Every six or eight or ten posts, you see it. Vanilla in a cup with rainbow sprinkles. Twist on a cake cone. Chocolate in a cup with whipped cream and a cherry on top.

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With her, I always read the caption. Because it’s never about the ice cream. It’s about the person she’s with, the day they were having, their struggles and trials and tribulations, their hopes and dreams and wipeouts. It’s about all the little moments between the last time they laid eyes on each other, as friends, and swapped stories over this gloriously sweet dairy dessert.

I told J the other week, after one such post, that all I really want is to go on ice cream dates with people. Just line up the friends I haven’t seen in months, and the ones whose names occasionally pop up on my phone’s lock screen, and stick a recurrence on my Outlook calendar for dessert with someone I haven’t shared a booth with in a while.

We forget to stop and see people in our lives. We see the clothes they wear and the work they produce. We see the food they cook and the car they drive. We see the shows they watch and the articles they post online. But we don’t see them – all the pieces that make them human, that make them want to run a marathon or master two-tier cakes or finish a middle grade novel.

We overlook the time it took to whip, whip, whip the cream and spread it coolly over the top of the ice cream layer, nudging leftovers and half-empty milk cartons out of the way to sit it inside the fridge and settle for a bit.

That unpaid bill sitting on their counter? We overlook that too. We don’t bother acknowledging that in the time it took to get from Point A to Point B, they had to make a pit stop at the auto mechanic, and sat on the side of the road in tears for an hour before the tow company came.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my life, and how I operate differently, and how I want to see the nuances stuck in every action, every thought, every spoken word. I want to know those people in my life deeply, in a way that will make my heart hurt the day God takes them away. Because honestly, I believe that’s the only way to live. And if it means ice cream on Wednesday nights, swapping stories and laughing deep in our guts, then that’s the kind of friendship and life I want to show up for.

Because I’m the girl who believes friendship starts and ends with real, meaningful conversations over chocolate chips and whipped cream.

The girl who laces up her shoes to go for a run, even if it’s barely a mile, because at least she went at all. The girl who pushes just a bit farther the next day.

The girl who looks high and low for friends who believe in connection the way she does, whose definition of success has nothing to do with 401(k) statements or six-figure salaries.

Friends to fill her up, to cheer on her progress, to share their baby steps, too. To revel in the joy of a job well done, a day conquered, a week mastered, a year of ups and downs, but mostly, mostly good people to share it with.

I’ll get there. We’ll get there. Progress is a joyful thing.

Sit. Stay. Share Stories With Me.

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“You know me,” I said. “I don’t know how to make friends. We know this.”

I tell her that a lot, on the way home from work. Most of the time, I yell it to her through my speakerphone, slinking up the highway toward my apartment.

We’ve been friends for eleven years, so our conversations usually go that way. That “we know this” way.

We know this friendship thing is my biggest fear. We know I don’t do small talk. We know I want to be somebody’s confidante. I am good at listening. Can I write that on my forehead and tattoo it to my handshake palm? I. Am Good. At Listening.

And when you get me going, I am good at talking. Not about the last time it snowed so bad my fingers burned while I shoveled my car from the 3-foot drifts, but about how my once-upon-a-time boyfriend woke up one day, one month, and stopped loving me.

Or how my dream last night left we startled for hours. Or what love feels like – those moments when look at the other person and feel warmth, feel like laughing out loud, feel like Christmas morning came early.

That’s my goal for this year: to find people to laugh with, to find people to share moments with, to find a reason to sit in diner booths once more, the way I did when I was in high school, and cup mugs of decaf tea or hot chocolate.

We’re good at that. Goal setting. It’s like a mountain we like staring at, but not climbing. Our legs hurt, our arms ache, our fingers slip and our hearts race in response.  This was easier in my dreams. This was easier on paper. This was easier when I sat around a kitchen island at two a.m. and told you I was going to do it. This, this year, I was going to do it.

I don’t really want to wake up at 30 and realize I gave up on friendship at the age of 24 or 25. What an awful, lonely way to go through life, when you can’t hear the sound of your friend laughing next to you for the same reason, neither of you saying a word about the passersby. What an awful, lonely way to live, when the only arms that ever reach out for a hug are hundreds of miles away.

I don’t need an army of people in my life. Introverts know that. We just want a few, to sit, to stay, to share stories with. You know? Maybe, you do. Maybe you’ve been thinking that too. Sit. Stay. Share stories with me.

For The Swing Set Souls

If you shoved me in the DeLorean and Scrooge’d me into my ten-year-old self, I’m not so sure my side of the playground would be buzzing with activity.

Or swimming with sticky fingers from flavor ice pops. Crackling with sneakers scrubbing pavement.

I’m not so sure you’d run up to me with a jump rope and ask if I could hold one end.

“Please, oh please,” you wouldn’t have said. “We absolutely need your help. Come with me.”

More likely, you’d find me scraping my shoes against a pile of woodchips as I swung back and forth, back and forth, so close to those smiling faces and churning backward all the same.

That go-to interview question pops into my head: “What’s your biggest weakness.”

“Well, sir, you see it’s, um, kind of a funny story. Have you been to Home Depot lately?”

“What?”

“Home Depot, sir. You know those swing sets with striped overhangs and monkey bars? I’m kind of like a swing.”

“You are,” he might say.

Because I am sure that if it were a woman, she would already be pulling her wallet out of her purse and unfolding a photo gallery longer than my forearm. Pictures of her own children pushing each other at the neighborhood playground in her hands.

“A swing,” I’d say. “Yes. I’ve been waiting for too long now like one of those rusty swings cracking and weathered, hoping the store employee might brush his forehead with his orange apron pocket and drag me inside. Out of somebody else’s rainstorm. Away from the back of the pile. Into somebody’s backyard.”

He might not follow, but maybe he will. Maybe he had some swing days of his own, back on the playground, hands tucked inside overall pockets.

I am sort of hoping his childhood years weren’t categorized by foursquare games and knockout championships and getting presidential on the mile run in gym class. I am sort of hoping he got an X for that portion.

Because just like I learned to lace up my sneakers and round a 400-meter track four times, I am ready to stop sitting and pausing and shuffling and waiting and hoping and praying some swing set lover comes over to sit on me. Learning how to take Rooted In Place less metaphorically.

I hope the rest of you Swing Set Souls are, too.

We’re working toward meeting all the selfless souls stringing the streets of Manhattan with dreams.

Next time you tell me how to change the world, I’m going to stop you mid-sentence and ask you to go on a smoothie date.

Don’t get all frazzled by that invitation. Don’t dip your fingers into the sweet blended berries and smear it down my shirt like a reinvented version of Ann Hathaway’s “Princess Diaries” soft serve stunt.

Just hear me out, you wild world shaker. Because I am making friends in all kinds of places.

In Starbucks in downtown D.C. and in circled chairs in city churches. In front of Papa Johns pizza boxes and through computer screens in lonely hotel rooms.

And that is just this week, my friends. That is just the last six days of squeezing my smile into new conversations and shaking hands and learning names.

So when I propose a smoothie date mid-sentence, don’t you get offended. I’m just learning from the best and brightest.

On Tuesday night, amongst my pillows labeled with satin sashes for soft and firm, I hugged my Macbook Pro and livestreamed something spectacular – the Voice Your Verse poetry fundraising night.

I watched poets and world-shakers and change-makers and word-huggers all over New York City and beyond come together to honor She’s The First’s anthology to sponsor girls’ education in the developing world.

Mostly, though, I learned that there ain’t nothing wrong with meeting for smoothies and getting brain freezes amidst small wooden tables not nearly large enough to put our Big Ideas into perspective.

I learned that people you’ve never met in person can make you laugh so loud you worry your neighbors, the ones you’ll never share sugar with, are going to complain to the front desk.

I learned that when you’re freefalling toward failure, the first thing you need is a cold drink with someone who knows that side of the sidewalk so well from dwelling there long before you even knew what it meant. Long before you even knew to be scared.

And I am thanking this world for a woman I hope to someday shake hands with in front of a strawberry banana or a triple berry concoction. Someday swap stories of almosts and good enoughs and not have to count how many times we face-planted on pavement on the way to Something More. Someone Bigger. Someone Better.

I learned that we’re working toward meeting all the beautiful, selfless souls stringing the streets of Manhattan with dreams.

We’re holing up inside our houses clacking on keyboards to make connections that might last. Connections that might turn into smoothies and Starbucks and sweets baked together, shared in front of our own ovens. Late nights around a dimly lit kitchen table.

We are looking for someone who will not punch us in the face for asking for something as small as a smoothie date. Or a Starbucks run. Or a slice of pizza.

I hope we find each other. Somewhere out there. I hope we do.