I was discouraged when I arrived at my staff Christmas party this year. I came dateless. I had originally asked for two tickets, circumstances changed and I only needed one and then by the time the event date arrived, I could have used a second ticket but could no longer get one. So when the seating was made for the tables, being the odd woman out, I was sat at an oddball table off in some remote corner with some people who work at my institution that I barely knew but maybe in passing.
I sat beside a woman who has worked with us for a couple of years now. I’ve always looked at her and thought she was vaguely familiar, I thought, maybe, from a past job in my profession. The conversation started like this: She told me she heard that I just moved and wanted me to know that she used to live on my old street.
Me: Oh, which house?
She: (tells me the number and describes the house colour)
Me: Well that was very close to where I lived. I lived at number __. Your old house is (name of people’s) house.
She: Yes. I sold my house to them about 7 years ago. But I know your house well…..
And that, for the moment, was all she said about that. Those small-talkish beginnings, evolved into a conversation that shaped my evening. The rest of the table essentially disappeared. I don’t think that I could tell you who else sat with us anymore because it was just she and I, forehead to forehead in the din of a four-course meal and a bottle of wine, sharing stories. She too had separated and divorced from her husband while she was in her 30’s. She too continued to live in the house that contained her marriage for a few years after he moved out and she too brought another relationship into that home.
She also dated a person after her marriage ended where the age difference was large enough to be socially frowned upon and whispered about. I too was and still am dating a person where such an age difference exists. The taboo nature of her relationship was much greater than anything I might experience because, in my situation, I am the younger one.
So in the middle of conversations that revolved around age and relationships and choices and the drama of divorce, (and in terms of drama I will give her the nudge of victory, but it was definitely a photo finish), she stops and puts her hand on my arm and says, “Well Kim, I believe you and I were meant to sit beside each other tonight.” And I couldn’t help but agree. I had already been thinking that exact thing from almost the first five minutes of being seated together. In an hour and a half worth of conversation, I told her things that I hadn’t even told people that I consider to be true friends. And I am sure she would say the same. She did, after all, eventually tell me why she knew my former house well.
It hasn’t happened often in my life that I've cross paths with a person that I know was put in my path to teach me something and help me grow. I'm not a very religious person, just today I referred to myself as an atheist, but I am a person who believes in fate and perhaps has a certain sense of spirituality associated with that.
Several years ago I took a walk with a person, who at that time was simply an acquaintance that I had things in common with. Our conversation on that walk progressed in such a way that I ultimately shared, on almost a whim, something I had not shared with anyone else in my life up to that time. And maybe it was the degree of acquaintanceship that made this person safe in that moment to share my secret because telling people I was close to what I had been living with for the several months before this day, was an emotionally frightening and risky venture indeed.
What I told my friend about was my writing my book, and that one revelation alone changed acquaintanceship into very close friendship which ultimately changed my life and maybe my friend’s life as well in ways that neither of us ever fully articulated. It lead to hours upon hours of conversation about life and relationship and fate and the future and fear and choices and parenting and heart's desires. And all these conversations took place over the next two years in planned two hour rest breaks, or in 30 second passings in the hallway, in hurried 15 minute coffee breaks, in lengthy emails, or on the telephone. We had code words and phrases and facial twitches that could only be understood by us.
Or sometimes we just talked about our jobs.
It opened other doors for me because suddenly I learnt how to talk about things I wouldn’t have dreamed about talking about with friends before. It allowed a formerly trapped emotional passion out of me, wailing and screaming. And like anything in the process of maturing and growing, that passion was a little uncontrolled and tremendously reckless. Soon after, I told other friends about my book and I got the same response as I did from my acquaintance-who-became-friend, but that first scary revelation resulted in an avalanche of revelations to multiple people and I learned to open up myself to the world in ways I never could before.
Sadly, I am no longer close to this second friend. We cross paths once and a while and we say hello and we make small talk but that is all. And there is nothing in the way we talk that reveals how much we really know about each other. And it isn’t something either one of us needs or wants to revisit. Lessons were learnt and it will always be a relationship that will hold importance for me because of how it changed me. But it was a friendship that turned out to be for a season.
As for my Christmas party friend, I have only seen her once since that evening and it was at a meeting and she was across the room and neither of us made a move to approach the other. Because while we both knew that we were meant to sit beside each other that night, I knew, even sitting at that table wine glass in one hand and fork in the other, that this was likely going to be the only time I had a conversation like this with her.
I haven’t fully figured out what I was meant to take away from that night. A feeling of being soothed perhaps? – Because I was. A little bit about forgiveness? -- Definitely. A calming of my worries about venturing into a new but exciting relationship with a man much older than I? -- For certain. About 15 years my senior, my Christmas party friend is miles ahead of me down the same path I have chosen to take in life, but she told me that I am, at present, further ahead of where she was when she was in the same phase as me. I needed to hear this as I ponder the uncertainty of my choices. And people who know me, know I don’t handle uncertainty well.
After dinner we got up to mingle with others but I felt lost. There seemed to be no other reason to stay at the party. The only thing I know for certain is that she, in that moment, was my only reason.
And then there are the friends I have for a lifetime. And you know who you are.
A Reason, a Season, or a Lifetime
People come into your life for a reason, a season, or
a lifetime. When you figure out which one it is, you
will know what to do for each person.
When someone is in your life for a REASON . . . It is
usually to meet a need you have expressed. They have
come to assist you through a difficulty, to provide you
with guidance and support, to aid you physically,
emotionally, or spiritually. They may seem like a
godsend, and they are! They are there for the reason
you need them to be.
Then, without any wrong doing on your part, or at an
inconvenient time, this person will say or do something
to bring the relationship to an end.
Sometimes they die.
Sometimes they walk away.
Sometimes they act up and force you to take a stand.
What we must realise is that our need has been met, our
desire fulfilled, their work is done. The prayer you
sent up has been answered. And now it is time to move on.
When people come into your life for a SEASON . . .
Because your turn has come to share, grow, or learn.
They bring you an experience of peace, or make you laugh.
They may teach you something you have never done.
They usually give you an unbelievable amount
of joy. Believe it! It is real! But, only for a season.
LIFETIME relationships teach you lifetime lessons; things
yomust build upon in order to have a solid emotional
foundation. Your job is to accept the lesson, love the
person, and put what you have learned to use in all
other relationships and areas of your life. It is said
that love is blind but friendship is clairvoyant.