Keep on Rollin’

I’ve got Black Water by the Doobie Brothers stuck in my head, and I’m glad about it.

For at least the past five years, I’ve been thinking a lot about who I am. Consumed by my roles as wife and mother, I can’t seem to recall who I was before, and lately I’ve become more and more anxious because I can’t envision who I am outside of these roles.

Just contemplating doing a “role stripping” exercise in a book I read recently prompted a nightmare in which I was cleaning my empty house. It was a place where I used to live with my spouse and kids and now I was vacuuming white carpet enclosed by white-painted walls and afraid to turn around because I was certain there was a malevolent presence lurking just behind me, laughing at my fear.

I don’t have to pay a therapist to analyze that dream.

This morning I was feeling trapped and lost and angry. I was letting my kids slack on their homeschool rather than inject their lessons with my irritability, and I was doing something I knew I shouldn’t: Looking at Facebook. I was surprised to find a message from a high school friend asking for the password to the private site where I put photos of my kids. I gave her the password and asked how her Facebook fast was going, and eventually we figured out we each had a few minutes, so I sent her my current phone number (we’d not talked with each other at all for four years and not in any depth for nearly ten). Moments later, my phone was ringing.

The conversation was light, just catching up, comparing notes on parenting, a little reminiscing. I talked to her toddler a little bit—“Can you say ‘Hi, Miss Charity’?” my friend asked him. “Hi!” he said.

We talked for about a half-hour and then her kids needed to go down for a nap and mine needed to learn about square roots and finding common denominators with variables, so we hung up.

An hour or so later I checked my computer again and there was a message from my friend. “Is it lame that I found our conversation very fulfilling? Almost like being a real person for a few minutes.”

“Lame or not,” I responded, “I found myself feeling the same way.”

And it was true. All of the working and worrying, all of the trial and error to figure out who I am apart from my kids and spouse, and what I’d never thought of doing was talking to someone who knew me before kids, before marriage, before college, even.

I have mixed feelings about my time in high school, and my friend and I had our ups and downs, but as we laughed together the deep, full-body laughs we’ve always shared despite the years and miles separating us, the image that came to my mind was riding in our friend’s truck under a starry sky with the humid Virginia air streaming through the windows and feeling like I was just where I belonged, in this truck, with these people, renting these cheesy horror films.

The fear and uncertainty of my teenage years was still in my memory, but it was peripheral. The freedom and belonging was what I breathed in then and again this morning more than twenty years away, and I got just a glimpse of who I am outside of my roles.

Then she dared me to listen to Black Water without getting it stuck in my head. I didn’t even have to listen to it and there it’s been since before lunchtime, making everything all right.

Do you have that almost-a-cliché friendship you can jump into effortlessly no matter how many years it’s been since your last conversation? Does talking to close friends from different times in your life help you see yourself differently?

5 comments

  1. thecoffeebeanbrain · September 9

    I met with a high school classmate yesterday for the first time since graduation and that was almost 17 years ago! Although we do communicate every now and then through social media, it was a surprising afternoon of talking over coffee after an unplanned meet up. We were quite close in HS and grew apart as we chose different colleges but I think our friendship then made a strong foundation. Of course we had to reminisce about high school but we also learned about each other’s lives after that. I’m happy to have found this kind of friendship. You find a piece of yourself apart from what and who you are now and it gives you a sense of achievement.

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    • Charity · September 9

      Achievement…I’d not thought of it that way, but I suppose there is a sense of achievement. Certainly, for me at least, there’s a weird sense that a lot of time has passed but that the present and the past have sort of folded in on themselves so they’re side-by-side for the duration of the conversation. My friend and I also talked about the blessing and curse of social media. It keeps us in touch, but only on a very surface level. It takes more effort to really connect than just hitting like. Strange that’s always a surprise when I re-realize it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • thecoffeebeanbrain · September 9

        Yes, we definitely talked more about the past than the present and like you, found it weird and also unbelievable so much time has passed. I guess the achievement comes from realizing that you’ve sustained a kind of friendship were someone accepts you then as you are now. Just one memory or one song can bring you back and I think that’s a valuable thing.

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  2. Roger Marçal Queiroz · September 8

    Boa noite estou escrevendo em português brasileiro! Parabéns por seus escritos sobre as amizades antigas é bom bom termos amigos verdadeiros para lembrar-mos que temos um passado uma história DEUS TE ABENÇOE NAS POSTAGENS

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