In case you aren’t #blessed enough to follow me on social media, you might not know that this past weekend, Greg and I had to dig a trench around the back of our house…I mean around the back of the whole house. I’m not great with guestimating distances, but I’m going to say that it is reasonable to guess that the trench ended up being about 5.2 miles in length…at least that’s the distance my sore back and muscles are claiming it was. It was a brutal weekend. The trench had to be 18-20 inches deep, which is far deeper than you realize until you are knee deep in dirt and realize you still need to dig another 2-3 inches.
Renovating a house shuffles you through a variety of emotions. You feel exhilarated at the endless possibilities. You feel moments of hope and pride at the end of a long day when you begin to see the sweat and, usually, the blood you have invested pay off, and a house become a home. You feel devastated and emotionally drained when you tear down a wall and realize, oops, that doesn’t work at all. You feel all sorts of ups and downs through the whole process. But the one consistent emotion that will beg at your door most often is loneliness. When you set the goal of revoting an old heap of history into a gleaming homage to this decade, you have to isolate yourself a little bit. Your weekends belong to the house. Your Instagram feed switches out pictures of lunches with friends and family outings to pictures of the Home Depot (where you will visit a minimum of 30 times a week) and…well, stuff like trenches. You can feel a little forgotten. A friend of ours, who comes into play later in this story, told us about a time years ago when he had to move himself out of a second story apartment all by himself. You would expect his tale to be about how hard it was maneuvering a couch down 2 flights of stairs all by himself or how frustrating it is to wrangle a dresser into a moving truck solo. But instead he said, “Man, it was just so lonely.” And I completely understood.
This same friend shocked the bejesus out of me when, upon hearing earlier this week about our trench digging expedition, offered his help. I said sure, thinking he’ll realize when he wakes up Saturday morning that the last thing he wants to do is dig a hole all day. But sure enough, he texted my husband and by lunch time he was in the hole with me, digging away. My mom had showed up earlier that morning and gone to town on our little trench. She might be small, but that lady can swing a shovel like the Black Creek farm she grew up on taught her to.
As I watched my mom and later our friend, jump in the dirt and hack away at roots and mud and grime all of a sudden I realized, today doesn’t feel as lonely as the rest. The trench didn’t get any shorter and the work didn’t get easier and the sun certainly didn’t get any cooler, but my heart felt lighter. My people got in my trench with me.
That same friend who showed up, at that same time has a wife recovering from a huge and nasty surgery. She is one of my dearest friends and it has been heart breaking watch her suffer. But the amount of love I have watched the people that care for her shower on her as she fights and wins through this recovery, has blown my mind. For my friend, getting in the trench with her means laying next to her, holding her hand and telling her what’s going on in the world. It means making her laugh, but not too hard because laughing hurts like hell right now. Getting in her trench means letting her cry and crying with her. It means loving on her kids. I have been brought to tears watching her community jump in that trench with her. It is truly a beautiful thing.
I made a new friend recently and we christened our new found friendship by having a three hour lunch together…oops. (Sorry, Greg, who was waiting for his lunch to be delivered by me.) This new friend and I have both lost people we care deeply for to tragic and completely preventable circumstances. And as we talked about our pain and heartache around it, she got in my trench with me, in the middle of a crowded restaurant. She sat and dug away with me and got messy. And as I looked at the tears in her eyes, a reflection of the pain we were both feeling, my breath was taken away again by the power that comes with no longer feeling isolated in your trench.
I’ve had a lot of time to think this weekend as I dug away in my trench. I thought about the people who have gotten in the trenches with me over the course of my life so far. I thanked God for them and the ones who are currently hanging out in my trench. I wondered if I’m the kind of friend to people that cultivates trench digging relationships. It’s hard to get in someone else’s trench. Its messy and muddy and usually 100% of the time completely inconvenient. Its a selfless act to enter someone else’s trench, particularly when you feel like you have so many trenches of your own to dig. But its important and I want to be the kind of friend who happily grabs my shovel and jumps down into the muck with those I love. I realized that if I am feeling isolated in my trenches these days, maybe I’m not inviting people in to my trench. Maybe my trench has barbed wire set up around it because I feel like its too dangerous or messy for anyone else to jump into. Or maybe I need to find some other trenches to jump into. Maybe I need to take a good look at the people I love and search for their hidden, or not so hidden, trenches and maybe I need to jump their barbed wire and settle in next to them.
Regardless, I dug a trench around my house this weekend and somehow managed to learn a lot about relationship in the process.