Change has never been the easiest thing for me when it comes to the people in my life. I suspect that most people see me as being fairly tough and resilient on the outside - for quite a long time after Geoff met me, years ago, he thought I was "tough as nails." In reality, though, I am someone who becomes easily attached to people and who finds it very difficult to say good-bye, or to become distant from someone I hold dear. It's often hard for me to express this in the moment, and I rather suspect this would shock many people who know me...but it's true nevertheless. I grieve change when it has to do with people in my life.
I have been this way since I was a child, dreading the moment that someone near and dear moves on, or the possible end of a friendship. As a student in school, I was the only kid who dreaded summer holidays because it meant separation from my friends and fearing that they might change over the course of summer months; summer vacations were like a death for me. Graduations from high school, from bible school, and from each university I attended, while highly anticipated by my fellow cap-throwing colleagues, were torture for me because it meant separation from my friends, and the beginning of a new chapter in my life. What's wrong with the old chapter, I used to wonder? Why can't the chapters of my life be longer so that I have more time with these people that I love? I toughed it out every time and even pretended that I was as excited as the next guy, but every time, I lamented it. Every. Single. Time.
These days, though (perhaps) beyond my formal schooling days, I grieve other things. I was depressed for almost two years after we moved from Vancouver in '05, mourning the absence of the friendships I left behind; I quietly sorrowed over the end of playgroup last month because I will miss some of the women that I have come to know and care about; I sighed sadly over the resignation of Matthew's music teacher of the last four years and thought about her for weeks after the last class; I dreaded for months in advance having to say good-bye to my dear friends after our annual cross-country girls' weekend in April; and I know already that it'll be hard when Sandie comes to visit with her boys this summer and then leaves again. Truly, the list could go on and on. I mourn the passing of a moment that I treasure, the movement away of friends and loved ones.
Yesterday marked another change.
Almost five years ago, when I started attending a new book club organized by a local bookstore, I was immediately drawn to three of the other women there: Arlene, Christine, and Terri. The attraction must have been mutual, because the four of us became friends. Though our birth dates are spread over fifteen years, though we're (mostly) at different stages in our lives, and though we're very different in our outlooks and world views at times, we have somehow just connected over the last several years. The quartet of us - dubbed early on by Arlene as "The Fab 4" - started getting together socially outside of our monthly book club meetings, and we have since developed a pattern of eating dinner together on a very regular basis. We eat, talk, laugh, compare notes on the books we're reading, share bits of our lives with each other, support each other on the journey, and simply enjoy each other's company. They are wonderful friends to me.
This was the Fab 4 on Friday night over dinner (I'm on the far right):
Sadly, as of yesterday, the dynamic shifted. Arlene (on the far left of the photo) left yesterday for Arizona, to be close to the man that she met and fell in love with last year. I am so happy for her; thrilled, in fact, that she has found happiness with someone that she wants to share her life with. Her intended is very fortunate to have her in his life, because Arlene is a caring, compassionate, funny, and loving woman with a hard-earned depth to her; she will put the very best of herself into their joined lives.
Alas. Ever the two-edged sword. I am so hopeful for Arlene...but so sad for myself. I will miss her dearly. Grieve her regular face-to-face presence in my life. Wish often for her quick laugh and many hugs. Look at her empty chair at our book club meetings and wonder what she wrote in her little notebook about this month's read. Long for her complicated life to fill my thoughts after one of our Fab 4 dinners or a one-on-one coffee or lunch grabbed together.
How is it possible to, on one hand, wish someone you love the very best in life, and, on the other hand, want them to stay unchanged forever in your life? Honestly, I don't think it is possible. Because I know Arlene well, I know how much she needed to move on, to grab on to this transition that holds so much promise for her. I couldn't deny this to someone I profess to love. In fact, I want it for her.
I just need a little time to grieve another change, maybe to shift my thinking from the Fab 4 to the 3 Amigos. I can't help it...I need time to adapt. Though the outside of me may have been a little crisped over life's fires, I'm all gooey mush on the inside.