“I’LL HAVE the chowder,” she says.
“Extra crackers, please,” she says.
I look at her,
my friend who keeps me on the straight-and-narrow,
texting in warm weather
to ask if I want to go for a bike ride,
packing picnic lunches for us
with pita to take to the park.
Fruit, a little hummus and a carrot stick.
So much better than a fat sandwich and chips, she always says.
She’s right. She’s right. I know she’s right.
I have a cadre of friends like this,
hopeful of pulling me back from the edge of self-destruction.
I keep them on because I love them, pure and simple
(but the year they went Paleo was almost the end for me,
a person who bakes bread and pie as gifts.)
Things must be bad.
I look at her.
She looks at me, eyebrows up.
“Sure, yeah,” I say. “Me, too. Extra crackers.”
I feel the world has just tilted on its axis in a different direction.
* * *
I HAVE A HABIT,
started last year.
I make it my goal
on my day off each week,
to get together with one of my friends,
to touch base,
Not the same person every time.
Coffee, brunch, lunch, whatever.
My house, her house, someplace in town.
60 minutes perhaps, or 30 or 90.
That’s it. And then we go our separate ways.
In times of crisis, I withdraw,
as all card-carrying hermits do,
but before long I am so isolated
things are worse than they need to be.
I have no thoughts beyond those in my own head.
I have no sense of the lives others are living.
* * *
FIVE YEARS AGO
when Wally was diagnosed with CLL,
I fell into one of these withdrawal modes.
Just trying to meet the demands of appointments and keep the house running
can pull a person out of circulation.
“I feel so out-of-touch with people,” I told a friend.
“You need to get on Facebook,” she said.
But you know what? Facebook didn’t help.
It didn’t address the isolation, the disconnectedness.
In fact, it increased it.
So I have this practice, the once-a-week face-to-face.
File it under “Mental Health Initiatives.”
It works well.
And though I started it
because I had a crisis that threatened to consume me,
if I was not careful and intentional,
my crisis has fallen off the headlines of our conversations.
It’s not the top topic anymore.
And now my friend is ordering extra crackers,
count me in,
and I am already in place to hear her out.
This is the second post in a week I’ve written about intentionally being around people. Hmmm.
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