One of the things that I find most difficult as an adult is that I have way less time to play with my friends. And what I’m finding is that when I have less time to play with my friends, the more neurotic I become about my relationships. The more I start to worry that we’re disconnecting, the more frustrated I get at myself for being busy. The busier I get and the more frustrated I get, the more my internal spinning makes it less likely to hear “I love you” when my friends tell me.
I mean, I’m not deaf. My ears work just fine, so when my friends say the words, “I love you,” I hear them just fine. I think, though, that more often than not we get told we’re loved without words. We get told we’re loved when people show up for us. Like, when they drive an hour and half in traffic to your school only to sit for an hour and half in the rain to watch you receive the degree that you’ve been working toward for 4 years. I think we get told “I love you” kind of like that. But see, I’m a words person. I like words. I obsess about words. I stop reading to Google words I don’t know. When I do Bible studies, I always have a Greek lexicon nearby and then I drive my Bible study friends crazy when I say, “Guys, I looked this up and it means this. Isn’t that so cool?!” every week. No joke. Every week. I think there’s such power in words. Power to express yourself clearly. Power to share an idea that hasn’t been shared. Power to communicate and connect with other people. Power to change someone’s day. Power.
The downside to being a words person, though, is that when ideas are shared by action or people communicate by behavior, I sometimes miss it. Particularly, I’m realizing that I miss the message of “I love you.” A few weeks ago, I was over at my friends’ Amy and Mike’s, and we were celebrating the fact that I had just submitted my last assignment. That I would never have to transcribe another session and could forgo listening to myself on tape for a good long while was definitely worth celebrating. In the midst of conversation that night, somehow, we ended up talking about her sister, Jesse, who happens to be my very best friend. It happens sometimes, much to Jesse’s discomfort, that we talk about her. Usually, it’s about how awesome we think she is and how grateful we both are for who she is in our lives. Usually. This time, because we’ve all been so busy and it’s become so hard for us to connect, the tone of conversation was charged more with frustration than gratitude, at least, on my part. Amy and Mike listened patiently as my internal spinning became external, and I ranted…about how Jesse’s been folding laundry nearly every time I’ve been over in recent weeks.
I told you: neurotic. I was ticked off at my best friend for folding laundry. In her own house. Which she had invited me into. In a moment of wisdom, which can only be described as divinely interruptive of my perfectly good rant, Mike stopped me, “Hold up. Let’s think about this. Maybe what Jesse and Matt are saying to us when we come over and there’s laundry all over the couch is that’s how comfortable they are with us in their lives. They don’t have to entertain us. When we’re there, they can just be in their own house.” Here’s why that was powerful: Because my best friend and I hadn’t had very much time to connect, I started to get a little nutty about who I am in her life, and Mike broke apart the nutty. Mike could help me hear “I love you” from Jesse when the words weren’t there. And it helped me think about other ways that my best friend had told me she loved me when we were so busy we couldn’t find time to chat. Like, when she made plans weeks ahead of time for me to stay over this weekend because it was my graduation and she wanted to be “in” it with me. Or, going to see Fast Five even though she was sick and hates those kind of movies, but because I’d been talking about it for months and I love those movies. So, even though we couldn’t find time to talk about those things over a cup of coffee for hours and hours, she really was telling me that who I am in her life is important to her. She really was telling me that she loves me.
I figure that the next time she invites me over and she’s folding laundry, I won’t be irritated. In fact, I anticipate that I’ll smile, abundantly grateful that she’s comfortable with me in her life. And, if she lets me watch Fast and the Furious while she’s folding laundry…well, life couldn’t get better.