Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing. – Helen Keller
Some days, I just don’t know what I’d do without my friends.
Well, maybe I do. Maybe I don’t want to think about it. Maybe I don’t want you guys to know that. Maybe there’s a tiny part of us that is unfit for any other human to know, see, or understand,
even those we trust the most.
I firmly believe in the power of community.
Nothing hard is conquered in isolation. Nothing painful is endured so well as within a safe community.
But even the safest community can be – at times – dangerous.
I remember the first time I learned this. Over a decade ago, unsure of my own abilities – and immersed in the lie that I was only as good as my successes – I feared failure above all else.
And then I failed. In public.
Instantly I knew. I knew I’d failed. I knew others knew I’d failed.
One of the others – someone I believed to be a friend – wouldn’t let it go.
Someone I’d trusted not only believed things of me that were untrue, but they spread those things to others. Trembling by the stark reality of being talked about in the worst way I could think of, I fought it by judging my friend back, unleashing my fury over the phone. That fury only increased when she pointed out my inconsistency: she couldn’t say bad things about me, but I could say whatever I wanted about her.
For six months, we could barely be in the same room together. Then one day, a mutual friend approached me and said they thought it was time I apologized.
Me. Apologize. Just me. Um, what?
– You weren’t the only one hurt by what happened.
My stomach sank. How exactly was I supposed to go about apologizing to someone who hurt me so deeply – especially when I knew they had no intention of apologizing to me?
I took a deep breath – or thirty. I asked my very best friend for advice. He told me to listen to the advice I’d already been given.
– You’re responsible for your own actions here, Lana. Not theirs. Best to get your slate clean – no matter their response.
Smart man I married.
The next day my old friend was waiting for me at my apartment. Unprepared, I rushed around, trying to make small talk. She didn’t let me. She wanted to know if we were ‘okay.’
Eyes closed, I took a breath, then said the hardest words I know:
We’re okay. I’m sorry.
I didn’t feel sorry – not then. But somehow saying the words made me believe them.
As soon as they were out, I felt a weight lifted. I opened my eyes to look at this person I could barely look at for so long, and I saw her as she was – frail, human, scared of losing a friend. And I felt sorry.
It was a full year before I heard her say the same.
We were both new people by then, and – dare I say it? – Friends.
Much stronger friends than before, too.
It doesn’t feel good, but sometimes good things come from conflict.
I look back on that first major conflict I’d had with a confidante and I see now how I could have prevented it all from unfolding. I see where pride blocked my view; I see where fear of pain kept me from seeing my friend’s point of view.
And I see where I failed.
But I’m okay with that.
As Jim Morrison said,
Expose yourself to your deepest fear; after that, fear has no power, and the fear of freedom shrinks and vanishes. You are free.
Humanity is frail. Flawed.
But the pain of having failure woven into our DNA is worth it.
Too often, we shut down in response to betrayal – to everyone. We think, if I can’t trust this person, then I can’t trust any person.
But even the best of friends let us down. Even the most gracious of companions will at times misunderstand. Even the safest and best of people will sometimes judge. I know that because I do all of those things – even though I don’t want to.
That doesn’t mean we stop trying.
Some of our favorite people – some of those who’ve taught us how valuable friendship can be – pointed this out last night.
One of them said,
I don’t know how to be anything but transparent, but I’m not sure I want to be anything else.
My ears perked up. This was me. I don’t know how to be anything but transparent.
But do I really want to be something else?
There is great privilege in being there for someone else; there is great strength in relying on each other. And withoutvulnerability we do not know any of that.
Without weakness we do not know strength.
Without vulnerability we do not know victory.
So perhaps, then, the bravest thing we can do in response to pain is to keep going. To still be us. To feel anyways, hurt anyways, risk anyways, trust anyways.
It doesn’t ensure we won’t be hurt again.
But it does ensure we maintain our capacity for joy.
Risk, brave ones. Cry. Laugh. Smile.
Some day – if not now – it will be so unbelievably worth it.
Until then, know this:
Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts. – Winston Churchill
Be brave, dear friends.
Be very brave.