I went to a high school that is only 4.5 miles from my house. I've walked farther than that on a great museum day. The thing is, most of my graduating class that I have "friended" (because making up words works when you become the social equivalent to coffee) is also fairly local.
My latest stretch is to show up. I have met some amazing people this year that are dreaming big and offering me the opportunity to be present for them. I get to show up and it means I'm not hiding in solitude, pretending to be friends because I can see what you're doing online without actually talking to you or pretending you might matter. I mean, at the end of the day, these people are part of me. There was something in my life that they experienced with me, which is why we are connected on social media (for the most part). They sat in the same classes with me. They knew me and saw in me things I couldn't see (because introspection isn't easy when you are too busy looking for similarities so you aren't othered, not realizing it's what's within you that makes you so alike). They didn't see what I kept carefully hidden in shame of who I am.
The reunion was a success. The group of us meant to reunite showed up. There will be other gatherings. In the brokenness that has shown up in other areas of my life, I stepped back and allowed others to plan the reunion, only planning to show up for the game, if that. I wasn't committed to what became an amazing night of reminiscence. The girl that got me into and out of so much mischief asked me to be her date, and when I spent more than a few seconds debating if I should go, I decided I should go. I'm becoming much more impulsive. If a thought takes up more than a few moments of my time, I have been deciding on the, "oh what the fuck, do whatever it takes" mantra, and so far it's serving me well.
In not being an active participant, some friends were left out of the invitations. It wasn't on purpose. Actually, when I first heard about the planning, I was still in the trenches of family life and that life looked a lot like what I expected the rest of my life to look like. The idea of being around old friends and the way I felt I had to fit myself around my ex's needs in that situation were stressful.
*You may or not notice that I have no problem expressing my thoughts and ideas and perspective, but the way I felt when fitting myself around his needs is something I have yet to be able to express. I am still stretching slowly in expressing my feelings but that only comes through relationships which I'm fantastic at avoiding. Didn't notice? You should practice studying the words left unsaid. It can be illuminating. And that is my next real area of growth . . . sharing my feelings (even if they are messy and not always nice).
When my ex said he was done with the marriage, I was often openly bleeding. I was posting exactly what I thought and felt and what was happening on my Facebook wall. Life as I knew it was shifting and it wasn't just the person but the expectations of what my life was going to look like were taken from me and I couldn't make sense of it. It was ugly and messy and in hindsight not a strong or proud moment. I unfriended a lot of people because I didn't want everyone to see it. I unfriended people I wasn't super close to. I unfriended his family. I unfriended the people planning the reunion. About a month ago, I friended a woman that reminded me it's been 20 years and she told me about the reunion. I was added to a group, reconnected with friends, and then kept it superficial, not bothering to see who was included in the group and which of my friends were left out. She didn't actually go, but remembered the douche ex I had in high school. I didn't want to be remembered for being his ex. I can't be remembered for that because who we were has nothing to do with who I am, right?
I got to show up.
I arrived on time, which means I was early for the rest of the group. I'm really used to walking in alone and being comfortable in my skin. I was someone's date, so I took the time to explore the gardens at Yamashiro before their era ends (in 2 weeks). I met her at valet and we walked inside, with a moment for a selfie. She's beautiful but more private than I am, so I'm not sharing her face on my blog. As others came in, there were hugs and moments of, "you kinda look familiar." Because of Facebook, I also greeted spouses I don't actually know with so much more familiarity than was warranted. (Yay creeptackular me!) Then of course there were moments when I was in a room with complete strangers because I was just as self involved in high school as I can be now. How I do anything is how I do everything, but I get to take notice and grow from that.
True to who I am . . .
I'm still me. When I walked inside the restaurant with my friend we stopped at the bathroom where I noticed the way the water poured out from the faucets. I stood in the vent blowing cool perfumed air over me with eyes closed, feeling the wonder of the moment and what I was being invited into. I watched the beautiful koi in the ponds and streams around the restaurant. I enjoyed the sound of my shoes walking across the floor. When I realized the time later, I ran outside to catch an amazing view of the sunset. I then went back in to grab company because it was too beautiful to not share. I had moments where I stood at the large windows as the skies grew darker and buildings and homes all over the city slowly lit up. I wasn't giving all of me to the moment we shared, but living each moment for the gift to myself that it was. It was a sensory nirvana.
The nostalgia feels . . .
There was a moment on a bench where I sat with a friend and we talked about ex boyfriends. We talked about how much better our lives are without them. I told her how after my separation, I did enough cyber stalking to see what my ex's were up to, but decided early on they weren't worth reaching out to. We had moments of connection that probably excluded people that were never as close to us as we were to each other.
On the way to the football game, she was in the car ahead of me. We were talking by phone. I have plenty of moments where I will say, "hi" or "thank you for what you are doing for me on your run" or simply, "you're beautiful" while my window is up and the radio is on and I'm at no risk of actually being noticed. Last night while we talked on the phone, I rolled my window down and said, "hi" to the man in the car next to me. I said, "sorry but you have a terrific smile." He complimented my smile and drove up a bit, ending the conversation. I laughed. My friend laughed. In that moment, I was 20 years younger. In that moment, I had the audacity to flirt shamelessly again and it was epic. It was me standing on the wings and strength of our friendship. It was remembering that with her, I could do anything. Being isolated in my car reminded me that I can do anything.
The homecoming game . . .
My kid brother is on the football team. He was benched for an injured clavicle but he was there. And I was there with the men that were once boys on that team when it was my school and the women I sat with were once cheerleaders and the drill team. We critiqued these kids for getting away with the things we never could have on these teams. The football players scored higher. The cheerleaders would have been out performed based on the leadership we had in our youth alone. The dance team was certainly a highlight of the half time show. This morning I learned that their leadership is the direct result of a foundation and a student that learned under one of my classmates. We're amazing and talented at any age.
The end of the night . . .
I'm mom, so even though I shared two thirds of the planned night with people I haven't seen in 20 years, I was happy to head to my Mom's house and pick up my son. My kid brother didn't want a ride home, and I get it. He had a food baby to feed with his friends.
I went home feeling like I wanted to deepen these connections and renew these friendships. These people had shared experiences and memories with me. There's a built in connection and camaraderie that I can connect with and grow from. We shared similar shock and outrage to see kids walking around holding a live chicken at the game. We remembered the field being more dirt than grass, and too dark to play night games. I remembered that I used to love watching live football games. It wasn't so alien and I wasn't lost on the basics. That was fun. (We won't talk stats and predictions.) I walked to my car with a coffee mug, and in awe of the moment I watched a couple of friends buy a tie from our alma mater, and tie it on with expertise. Another friend reached for a parting hug while holding his sleeping daughter in his arms and wearing his 20 year old letterman jacket. His fatherhood just about melted me.
To see these people as adults . . . Strong, fierce, beautiful people with families and responsibilities and this beautiful light that looks like strong hugs and a searching look to see that I really am right in front of them and doing well . . . It was an affirmation of the life I get to live and love in. There's glorious freedom here.
It was a great night to be me. Even if you are pseudo connected on social media, there is nothing as moving as showing up for your friends and being connected by experience through time. And it's never too late to step in closer and reach in deeper. So much opens up to you and all you have to do is show up. You get to show up and things happen as they're supposed to! I have some showing up I get to do today. You should find ways in which to show up too.