Once upon a time, my friend Lynda and I would get together and laugh — endlessly, uncontrollably, often for no apparent reason or at least, once we got going, none we could recall.
We did this everywhere, at each other’s homes, at festivals, in nightclubs and at restaurants — in those instances, usually over an order of wings — where our guffaws generated more than a few amused and curious glances.
Of course, we had our serious moments, too, delving into the grit of each other’s lives with just as much fervor. In fact, many get-togethers encompassed those disparate yet interwoven threads: the moments of reflection where we sought counsel and support from each other were always inevitably preceded or followed by rollicking, giddy laughter.
In the last several years, however, those moments have been increasingly few and far between. Life, the very life we once relished sharing and dissecting in each other’s presence, seems to have gotten in the way. Different schedules, directions and interests have pulled at the fabric of a friendship that though still strong has become tangled in what sometimes feels like unnecessary complexity. When Lynda moved from Lansdale to Norristown, a mere 20 minutes from where I live, last year, we rejoiced in our proximity, envisioning frequent and even spontaneous get-togethers that would make up for the slow drift between visits that had become more of the norm.
More than a year later, we’ve seen each other a handful of times, lamenting, on each of those occasions, our failure to honor our best intentions. Of course, we know we can’t go back to when we first became friends, when weekends meant sleepovers and dancing the night away at our favorite clubs. The long phone conversations rehashing the nights’ escapades in vivid detail, the furious email exchanges decoding the gestures and words of every crush, the lunches where we swapped hopes and dreams and tales from our careers — we were both newspaper writers when we met — those were the bricks that built our friendship.
We laugh now to think how foolish we were in almost dismissing each other when our paths first crossed, considering we worked for competing newspapers covering the same beat. All thoughts of her being the competition evaporated, however, the instant I learned she was from Guyana, as I’d practically made it a personal imperative to at least try to befriend anyone from the Caribbean whom I met.
Our bond may have initially been forged from our shared heritage, but we quickly fell into a rich and easy friendship that has seen us through innumerable joys and challenges. Lynda would pack in her clubbing days long before I did, feeling called to a life of deepening spirituality. She would also eventually leave journalism and find contentment working for her church. But even as we occupied increasingly different worlds, we still found time to laugh together with abandon and to tend lovingly to the inner terrain of our lives — even when our get-togethers were reduced, amid expanding circles of friends and opportunities, to only once a month.
But it’s been several years since we’ve maintained that schedule. Our experience isn’t that unusual, as I’ve fallen into a similar pattern with other friends, especially those who are married with children, as we all strive to juggle the many demands on our time.
But as I talked with my boyfriend Zane recently about my increasingly intermittent dates with Lynda a few days before she was to join my family for dinner, he pointedly reminded me it was in both of our power to change the circumstances we bemoaned.
“It sounds like there’s a commitment issue there,” he said, a comment he would reiterate to both of us when he saw us together.
And he was right. Perhaps seeing each other once a month was overly optimistic, but there was no reason to let three or four months go by without making the effort to connect. For in his words, I saw all the other areas of my life I was willing to give time and energy to, obligations and self-imposed “shoulds” I crammed into my schedule that in no way fed me like the simple joy of sitting on the couch sharing a hearty laugh with one of my dearest friends.
Earlier this year, over brunch with two other girlfriends, one proposed a “radical” idea: Why not get together monthly, she asked? We had so much fun, learned so much about ourselves and each other and felt so supported in each other’s company, it seemed folly to let time get in the way of such a nourishing connection. If we at least aimed for once a month, she thought, there was a better likelihood of seeing each other more often, even if that were every other month, than if we relied on a vague, and easily traded, intention to see each other “soon.”
It was around that same time that a longstanding tradition of monthly dinners with four other friends was revived. We had been meeting at a different restaurant each month to catch up on each other’s lives for longer than I can remember, but in the last few years, marriage and motherhood, illness and entrepreneurial projects had forced those gatherings to the backseat. Yet this year, we made the commitment to get back on track. Our struggles after all appear much more manageable in the intimacy of our communion, our joys much more expanded.
And so Lynda and I, too, are planning to renew our commitment to each other and our friendship, having realized just how easy it is to surrender the latter to the marching on of time.
But when that time has run out, I doubt we will feel gratified by all the ways we found to fill it that neither lifted our spirits nor touched our hearts.
What we will carry with us are the countless moments we took to connect, to listen, to love — to join in a ringing laughter as precious as our own.
– Life in LaLa Land, published in The Intelligencer and Bucks County Courier Times