I am saying goodbye to a good friend tonight. Her moving has been on the horizon for a few years now. But tonight it goes from a “Yeah, probably one day” to a packed moving truck and a final meal together. This past year I have been seeing a counselor twice a month, just to clear the emotional cobwebs and realign the wheels of my heart and she, wisely realizing that this goodbye is perhaps more significant than I want to deal with, has suggested that I spend some time journaling this week. (Fun neuro-science fact: When you physically write something out (write, not type) you are engaging both sides of your brain, both the logical and practical side and the emotional and creative side. This allows you to get the full scope of what is really bouncing around up there. At least, this is what my counselor has told me to get me to journal more. I’m choosing to believe her.) An amazing side effect for me when I start journaling is that memories come flooding in. Don’t get me wrong, I usually have a pretty good memory to begin with. Not necessarily for remembering things like where my car keys are or what is on the grocery list that I have left in the car, but I am always that person in a friend group who is constantly saying, “Hey, remember that time…” But I am often amazed at what memories come flying in when I start to write.
This time as I was writing nonsensical thoughts and run on sentences about nothing really at all, I was transported back to the time when I was the one who was leaving. When I was 16 my family moved from Virginia to Michigan. I had lived in Virginia since I was four years old. I had gone to the same school from kindergarten all the way through my sophomore year and so moving meant leaving behind some pretty significant childhood relationships, none of these as poignant or as heartbreaking as that with my friend, Ginny. Ginny and I met in kindergarten and were almost immediately best friends. We were both the exact same kind of awkward and nerdy and late blooming and so we were thick as thieves from the time we were 5 until that day when I was 16 and my family moved away. And although other friends entered our lives and we had our fair share of bumps and hiccups as only teenage girlfriends can have in high school, Ginny was always there. And she was there that day my family moved. Ginny had shown up to the hotel my family was spending our last night in and was waiting in the parking lot when we came down to climb into the car and start the journey North. My very last memory of her and that morning is looking back through the back windshield of our car and seeing Ginny sobbing and waving in that hotel parking lot as we drove away. The significance of that moment was lost on me at 16 as I was dealing with my own devastation and heartbreak but now, 16 years later I realized something: I don’t think I had ever been loved that boldly or openly by a friend and I don’t think I have been since. And I know that I have not ever loved a friend so fiercely that I have been the one left sobbing in the parking lot.
And that got me wondering, as I was writing this all out today, “Why haven’t I ever been left sobbing in a parking lot? And why am I so determined deep down to not be left sobbing in a parking lot tonight?” The answers that I came up with today appalled me. My first thought was “Well, c’mon, with technology and Facebook and Instagram it’s not like I won’t know what is happening in my long lost friends’ lives. Its like they never left. Its just a click away.” This was followed by another logical thought of “And seriously? Do you really spend that much quality time with your friends these days anyways? Between Levi and preschool and working out and and date nights and beach trips and play dates, let’s be honest, a friend moving away really doesn’t actually change the amount of time you spend with them at all.” And finally this brilliant little number, “What is that line in that Derek Webb song? ‘You’re just a call on the phone or a ride on a plane’? I mean, that’s true too. You still see these people during the holidays or special occasions. They aren’t gone, gone. They’re just farther away.”
Absolutely none of these thoughts are life giving or healthy. They are simply excuses that I make to not feel the bumps and jostles of real life. They are the things that I tell myself so that I don’t end up sobbing in a parking lot. For years I have been striving to keep my emotions at a manageable distance. Without realizing it, I have let myself believe that emotions are inconvenient and a nuisance and most likely will cause you to end up sobbing in a parking lot somewhere, which is very impractical and a little silly. But remembering Ginny today and thinking about my upcoming goodbye tonight makes me realize that being willing to love someone so boldly and so freely that you sob in a parking lot for a minute while they drive away is an incredibly human and life giving trait. In that parking lot moment Ginny was giving credence to the significance of the end of an era for us. She was standing up and saying, “This hurts and I will miss you and no amount of email and Instant Messenger is going to change the fact that our friendship is changing.” She was willing to lay it all out there and showing me the fullness of how deep our friendship really was for us. And I want to be the kind of friend that can love someone that intensely and feel all of the emotions that come along with that.
So I don’t know if I will sob in a parking lot tonight, most likely I won’t…because, well, that’s awkward and kind of a big leap for me right now. But I am committed to loving my friend tonight as boldly as I can and embracing whatever emotion might come along with that. And who knows? Maybe years from now I will stand with Levi as he is sobbing in his own parking lot saying goodbye to someone he holds dear and I will sob with him because we are a family that sobs in parking lots together and knows that that is perfectly ok to do. Because the end of an era is significant and demands to be noticed and saluted.
PS: Thanks to Instagram and Facebook, I know EXACTLY what Ginny is up to these days. She carved an amazing life for herself and is currently the chef of a private yacht that spends its springs and summers sailing around the Caribbean. She met and married an Australian crew member and they live a glorious life of adventure and sunshine. From time to time, she gives me cooking tips via Instagram and as a result, I now know how to properly flambe a dish without setting my kitchen on fire. Sail on, Ginny. And thanks for sobbing in a parking lot. It took me 16 years to figure it out but I am a better woman for having had you in my life on that day.