May 20, 2009

Cacti Never Die

I might compare my capacity for tending friendships to a remote locale that sees only two seasons -- full spring, and drought --both extreme. During the season of growth and renewal, friendship is a lovely, thriving thing, bursting with fresh, shared experiences and deep bonding. But inevitably, the land slips into a time of dry, seething silence when I bury beneath the dust into mute withdrawal.

I have loathed this about myself. Before I truly understood it, I used to punish my conscience for being selfish, lazy, and thoughtless with the people who love and trust me. It got to where every time I felt the dry time coming on, I scanned the list of bridges and wondered which ones I'd burn this time.

Honestly, I've never needed much (or many) in the way of friends. One or two (including Miner) bordered my universe. I guess a person can get away with that when they're young, but as we grow older and our lives and personalities become more complex, so does our need for a variety of connections.

Now that I'm grown and I find my reach to friends expanded, I guess I'm more aware of different people's needs in relationships. Being at times unable to meet their needs, I've had plenty experience studying the aftermath of a dissolved friendship, examining exactly how it "fell apart."

I've learned friendships -- even the really, really great ones -- may dissolve in time. Blame it on life. People move, people work overtime. They change interests or fall in love or have kids or change philosophies. Many, many ways life may shift a peg out of a groove. Yet that doesn't mean the structure was never solid.

Still, I think my case goes a little deeper than that. Everyone's got her own equilibrium, her own formula that keeps her balanced and allows her to distribute her energies to survival, maintenance, and pleasure. Some functional equally in all three.

I think I'm the type of person who can function and function well in only one area at a time. This month, all may be right as rain. I'm ready to take on the world, fill my schedule, do it all! Multitasking is my middle name. Bring it on.

The next month, it may be neither about me or you, but about trying to catch up and keep up. Must organize, review, plan, clean, rearrange. It's a time of preparation. Postured for the next thing, but largely unavailable to anything outside the front door.

Or the next month -- God forbid -- it's all I can do to make sure the kids are clean and fed. Forget the world. Forget schedules. Forget cleaning and rearranging. Just leave me alone and let me rot here.

Each season passes. It's the one thing I can count on. I know the present will always change, and I also know my present connections will change. I've also accepted some friendships may dissolve much more quickly than others. That's always painful, but not always regrettable.

When the dust clears and 'Ailina crawls up through the packed dirt into the sunshine, the land's going to look different. There may be a few trees missing, flowers withered away. Maybe the bleached bones of a critter or two.

But there will be the few cacti who by their very nature continue to stand when I can't and haven't. For however long I'm gone, for however much the terrain has changed, I can expect to hear them say: "Hey, you. Welcome back. Long time no see."

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