I woke up one morning last week to a lovely text from a dear friend which resulted in an even more lovely love text fest later. Her text reminded me of how much I have grown over the years. There was a time when that kind of exchange with someone I called a friend would be unheard of or unreceived because I was afraid to open up in that way. When we first became friends I was going through a big change in my life and I wanted better relationships with my friends even though I wasn't quite sure how. Until that point, I was in what felt like accidental friendships that violently collided a long time ago and no one ever managed to get checked out for injuries. We just kept doggie paddling in a sea of ignorant dysfunction littered with mangled emotions and shark-toothed egos.
When I thought I lost one of my greatest friends to suicide years ago, the shift began in me to look for deeper and richer connections with those I called my friends. It is weird to say I lost him because I don't feel that way now, but it is still true. I lost him to what we call mental illness way before he made his transition. However, I did get him back. He continues to come back to me now, his true essence unmarred with the personality known as him or the illness associated with him, the true essence of who he is and who we are. There have been times when I thought he left me as my ever present spiritual guide but I have learned what has left are my notions and misconceptions of who he was in physical form. He reveals his true self to me now slowly and I must admit sometimes it is hard for me to accept. Why?... because I want to be right about him and all the ways I judged him. It's my ego really and I do the same thing to myself. It can be hard to see past all of the fluff, walls, and drama that people have around them and some don't want you to. Some might say it is just my selective memory of him and I will allow them to say that because I know better. I ask you to open your heart and have enough vulnerability to allow someone to reveal themselves to you and then tell me about selective memory. Why would you need to be vulnerable you ask? Well...the moment you put down all of your defenses that you have built up over time to "survive" this life so do all of your prejudices, as prejudices are just protection mechanisms. I say he reveals himself to me slowly because he moves as fast as I do, despite my fantasies of radical transformation. He shows me who he is as I let go and become more honest with myself. It is in those moments I understand how deep our connection really is! When I think he is gone and instead he shows up with a greater beauty, a greater lesson, and a greater love that I had only glimpsed when he was in physical form.
I have experienced countless deaths of the ego and mourned each one of them. It's the oddest feeling. I will feel sad but mushy and loving all at the same time. With each death my relationship with myself gets deeper as I reveal myself to myself, and my friendships have begun to reflect that depth. This has also meant that I had to release some friendships. This was a hard lesson for me since I have not always made friends easily. It meant I had to let go in order to let in what I really wanted without any guarantee that I would get what I wanted. I have had to step out with faith and heart. I won't dare tell you it has been easy for me to do that. Nope, not at all. I had become so emotionally intertwined in these friendships, sometimes feeling like it was my job to ensure their sense of well-being. Their problems were mine and I had to fix them. I found as I started to put the focus on myself and started fixing myself, the dissonance in the friendships grew from a whisper to a bawl. Once again I felt the loom of death, an event I have grown to appreciate as odd as it seems. Sure there is sadness but there is also love and overwhelming peace that blooms within, purifying all of the madness that seemed to be a mystery until that moment. Maybe I have described the process of acquiring wisdom.
My last post about relationships greatly affected me. (Yes, I read my own blog.) I started to see all of my relationships differently, especially the one I have with myself as it determines all other relationships I have. Every stride I have made with myself shows in the wisdom I received. Today I will say, there are two aspects of us, the personality and the true self. Our personalities are like the suits we wear to navigate this terrain and our true selves are us in all of our naked glory. Sometimes we find it easier to only see ourselves and others in our suits. Getting naked is often out of the question. Well I am different now. I just want to get naked and see others naked. I remember being 11 years old in acting camp, we were traveling and had to shower in public showers. I hated being naked and washing in front of my fellow theater folk. It was miserable. Fast forward to a Korean Bathhouse in the recent past and I was more than happy to bare it all and let someone else bathe me. It was joyous. Wisdom. Overtime as I have grown, the lessons my great friend taught me continue to reveal themselves. He didn't judge people, a skill I work everyday to master. He loved people even when I thought he was setting himself up to be hurt - so I am learning to love fearlessly. He didn't do anyone's work for them, but he offered a helpful loving hand, and so I am learning to not carry others' burdens. Since he spoke well and honestly of all of his friends, I baptize my tongue every morning. I can say now I have managed to attract really loving people into my life. I can also say I have acquired the wisdom to let go of those who can't get naked with me. I challenge myself everyday to befriend in love and not my ego, fear, or loneliness. Fearless friendships, that's the journey, love is the fuel...and it all begins and flourishes from within.
10 years ago he and I graduated from college together. He from Morehouse and I from Spelman. It rained on the Morehouse green just like it did this year, but I was there to see him walk as my hair threatened to change its appearance with joy in my heart. Later I went to get ready for my own time to don my cap and gown knowing he would be there. When I went to find my family after commencement, there he was, the first person I saw, with a expression of glee and my headscarf around his neck. He uncharacteristically picked me up and swung me around in an embrace and emotion that seemed to propel us out of the confines of time, our suits, and the gaze of our on-lookers. I think only he and I really understood that moment, our embrace, our nakedness, a celebration of our friendship and all that we overcame to be in that moment together.
Now go find a friend and get naked. ;)