On Tuesday night, I got to talk to Max for about two hours, and it made me incredibly homesick. She was talking about Fogust (seriously, they’re predicting San Francisco won’t see the sun again until September, guys) and warm NYE nights (which I shouldn’t even be thinking about yet) and how it still feels like I live across town (I was forty-minutes from her on a good Muni day; commuting in San Francisco is hard).
I love New York, and this is where I want to be right now. But I really miss home in certain ways.
I think the mention of NYE threw me the most. Max and I have very specific new year traditions that we’ve cultivated over nineteen years of friendship. We haven’t spent a New Year’s Eve apart in…wait, actually, I went to New Orleans for NYE a couple of years ago. So we’ve missed one in over a decade. That’s still a pretty good run.
About a year ago, Gareth told Max that she and I have a terrible habit: we don’t see each other often enough when we’re upset or stressed.
I’m going to try and explain. Bear with me.
When Max and I notice the other one getting busy we each have the same tendency to worry that we’re going to burden her by dropping our own crap on top of the stuff she’s already carrying.
I’ll go to call her, or invite her out to do something, and then stop and think, “Oh, well, I don’t want to bother her. She has so much going on right now.” And then stick to texting or sending emails or even snail mail (yes, this happens with us), anything that I feel she can get to when she has time to look at it.
Please note that it took having Gareth literally make note of this to her for either of us to realize we’ve both been doing this.
Somehow this just never came up in nineteen years of friendship. And because it didn’t come up, and we only knew our own half of the story, it perpetuated the bad habit of assuming our feelings were stressing the other one out.
I know this sounds a bit wacky. We’re best friends. How could we not have talked about this? We don’t know how we didn’t talk about it either.
And we were shocked since we talk about literally everything else including that weird poop one of us had the other day, and do we think she’s dying?
We’ve been making a concerted effort to stop that nonsense, especially in the months leading up to Max’s wedding earlier this year. You know, the most stressful time in her life for a bride? Shadowed only by the first few months of toddlerhood (should a woman choose to have kids)?
And we got pretty darn good at it. Instead of worrying we’re going to burden the other one, we just flat out say, “Hey, I’m going through this thing. I know you’re busy, but I could use face time.” (Or something to that effect.) And, because she’s our bestie, we inevitably get back, “I can be to you in an hour.” (Or something to that effect.)
But then I moved to New York. And suddenly there’s a time difference. And we can’t just meet up for tea. And school is about to start for Max, and I’m going to be getting a job soon.
It feels a little bit like life is curling in on the edges and starting to isolate me from everyone back home right now. But especially from Max, who I used to see once a week at the least.
I learned something in the last year. I learned that every relationship is about maintenance. Every single relationship in your life — from parents to a neighbor to the dog to your best friend (not in order of importance, obviously) — deserves your effort and awareness.
Sometimes that maintenance is just listening after you ask how someone’s day was — because have you noticed how few people actually listen to your answer anymore? — or bringing them a latte when you know they like lattes and you’ve been a bit checked out lately. And sometimes that maintenance includes deciding that you need to remove yourself from a person, or a situation you’re in because of an unhealthy relationship.
And sometimes that maintenance includes sitting down with someone you care about and literally saying, “Okay, so this is the state of our relationship. How did we get here? And how can we fix it?”
It took me until my thirties to realize those conversations are not only okay to have, but healthy. That those conversations are as much about self-care as they are about relationship maintenance.
My life could have been very different up until now if I had only known that. For reasons we won’t get into, I never learned. But I’m taking that newfound knowledge and making changes, late in life as they might be.
So I guess that’s one reason we’re doing the podcast.
Max and I started seriously talking about the podcast just before I left on this trip. (Gareth has been very active in these discussions but never really wanted to take part.) Back in June, we were sitting in a hot tub talking about all the amazing-but-time-consuming things we had coming up:
- Max & Gareth’s honeymoon started the next day
- We were all going on a long weekend for my birthday with our friend Devika
- Max and I were (still are) finishing our children’s book this summer
- Gareth had been asked to present on behalf of his team at a big meeting in NYC
- I was launching on this trip at the end of the month
- Max was asked to represent CCA at an annual event in Los Angeles
- I was (still am) trying to finish a technical writing certificate
- Max was (still is) prepping for her thesis year of grad school
- I was trying to finish my novel before I had to start looking for a job
Really big stuff was being packed into a couple of months, and I was going to be gone for most of it, which really sucked. So the original plan was to make a date to talk once a week while I was on my trip.
That didn’t come to fruition for a lot of reasons. One of which was because we were trying to pack it in with all the stuff I mentioned above. Another of which was that I didn’t have reliable internet for most of my trip.
But once I admitted that I live in Brooklyn now, we realized that we have to climb aboard that relationship maintenance train.
Here’s the thing: Max and I will always be friends. We’ve been friends over half of our lives. We’ve had the falling-out that inevitably makes you realize “Well, my life is better with that person in it” and reconnected. In a way that’s a) weird to express aloud or on paper, and b) impossible to explain to anyone else, we’re a part of each other.
But we want to always be best friends — the friends that make each other better people, who challenge each other so we can both grow, who are each other’s family — so we choose to do the work.
And that means making sure we keep talking. Regularly. Frequently. We can’t see each other in person, so Skype is a pretty good substitute, right? And if we make it official, we won’t find Life Reasons (“I have a project due!” “I worked overtime!” “I went to happy hour and got too tipsy to talk!”) to reschedule or cancel for the week.
So we now have a date every Tuesday to record one of our famously meandering conversations and present it to the world.
Welcome to the world, Love Soup. First episode coming in a couple of days. Once I figure out this mastering thing…
I have to be honest: I’ve never listened to a podcast before. I don’t know how I haven’t. I just…haven’t? So this whole process is absolutely new to me and so exciting because of that. If you have any suggestions on great podcasts, please do make some recommendations!
Listening to: “Respect” Aretha Franklin