Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Gratitude, part 8

Subtitle: Janna, or the reason I don't go to lunch anymore, or why I had the friends I did.

I left my desk for lunch for the first time in ages. Usually I am reading a book or trolling the web, but today I had a lunch date with my friend Janna, who I haven’t seen in over 6 years.

It dawned on me why I haven’t been to lunch with a friend for so long. All my current friends have little appendages that talk and walk and require feeding. They don’t want to drag their appendages to my office and go to lunch with me while I am sans children. Sure, we meet every now and then for lunch at Mickey D’s, but we have our kids with us. No, work day lunches are a thing of the (very) distant past.

But Janna is single. She doesn’t have kids to keep her away from nice restaurants in the middle of the day. She picked me up in front of my building, and we spent almost two hours talking. Really talking. Janna is like a truth serum; she won’t accept BS. When she asks how you are, how your marriage/kids/whatever is, she really wants to know. Not the happy face you give to the world, not the easy breezy “Great! How are you?” I found myself telling her the real stuff, the stuff that takes more time and sits closer to my soul. She told me who she is, the real Janna, the stuff that people in my conservative world don’t talk about or consider.

I met Janna when I was 18 and had been living in Salt Lake for about 5 months. She was very recently 18 herself, yet had been on her own for sometime already. She fit very well into the group of friends that I had established. She even lived with me for a few months, which was interesting, since it meant that there were three girls (me, Cindy, and now Janna) sharing space in the same small bedroom. I couldn’t help but think about those memories today once I got back from lunch. I thought about Janna and our friendship and the friendships that she became a part of when she joined us, and I realized something big.

We were all broken. That is why I found Angie, Rebecca, Cindy, Janna. I could list the specifics of why we were all broken; chalk it up to divorces, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, miscommunications, dysfunctional families, too high of expectations, too much competition; you get the picture. Once we found each other, we felt a kinship that allowed us to be whole together.

We didn't bond with whole people. The girls at school didn't have anything in common with my brand of brokenness, so without knowing it, I sought out those who were like me. The boys who were whole and wanted to go on dates and take girls to the prom weren't interested in me. They were a dream, and the vultures that were my friends sought to break those boys, to show them who was tougher. I went along with them because even though I secretly wanted to be liked by those boys, I knew in my heart I wasn't worthy. So, in high school we made football players cry; they couldn't understand anyone being mean to them, because no one ever had. In college we found ourselves with boys who had long hair and smelly habits so that we could be broken together.

The girls surrounding us were better than us and we knew it. They could be secure and smug because they didn't have to be broken like us. We didn't have much to talk about with them, so we ridiculed and reviled them. We took pleasure in being the girls who were broken (though we didn't know it) and felt a pride that being whole wouldn't have given us. Rebellion was a second skin that strengthened our ability to hide the scars within.

Now Janna, Angie, Rebecca, Cindy and I are older. We are all in states of mending. Janna uses her brokenness to dominate those who pay her; in her private life, she can be whole with a boy who can love her for who she is. Angie fixes children and in the process tries to fix herself. Rebecca has healed enough to want to start a new life with a person who sees her worth, and I think she can see it, too. Cindy lives out there, somewhere, fixing herself and her husband, and I hope she is okay. She is the only one I can't account for.

And me. I've made my peace with my brokenness. I'm never going to be the girl the popular girls seek out (because, in every world, ward, neighborhood, and church there are always the popular ones.) But I have friends who were never broken, and I don't resent them. I'm amazed at their strength; wonder at the resilience they have to want to be my friend now when we would never have been before. I can't say exactly what broke me, but I do know what has helped me to start to be whole. I don't have to hide my spirituality under a bushel. I also don't have to wear it around on my sleeve. I can look at the places I’ve been and the choices I’ve made with a little more clarity. I can show the people in my life who I really am, and be okay with them seeing me as I am, not who I think they want me to be.

I’m not sure why all this came up today, after what should have been a simple lunch with an old friend. There aren’t many people like Janna; the life she lives now would break many, but it helps her to be whole. I don’t know how she does it, but I admire her for it.  I guess we are all broken. But I am grateful I was broken, just so I can know how it feels when I’m finally not.