‘If there’s any kind of magic in this world it must be in the attempt of understanding someone, sharing something.’
– Richard Linklater (Before Sunrise)
I took leave from work today to do several things:
1. Run – which I did, clocking in 6km in 47 minutes. It’s not fast but still, an improvement from when I first began training, slightly over two weeks ago. I ran in the hot sun and was thrilled that I no longer felt faint from the heat. Now I just need a miracle to finish 10km before I leave for Australia, because once I’m back, it’s a mere two weeks till the race. Shouldn’t be too hard, right? Right?
2. Spend time with the little ones – I took them everywhere I went today. They were happy. I was exhausted.
3. Visit to the Amazonian.
Since she gave birth three months ago, I hadn’t spent time with her at all, nor visited her family (me being the fantastic friend I am). I knew I had to do it today, even though she is a good 45min drive away from where I live. I prepared lunch, a fruit salad and purchased some ice-cream, then bundled the little ones into the car and off we went.
The first thing I noted was that my house-proud friend’s living quarters was in disarray. The second thing was that she looked tired.
‘Do you get any rest at all?’ I asked her.
‘No, not really. Once the baby sleeps, I’m doing all I can to take care of my siblings or washing up. And honestly, it’s been hard. That day you texted me to say you wanted to come over was the day I felt like giving up.’
Due to a lack of time, the toilets have not been washed for several weeks, the family eats takeaway every night and my dear friend hasn’t had a break from it all, not one second. I wanted to reach in to her world and find a way to ease the burdens on her shoulders.
Instead, I made her sit down while I prepared lunch and got everyone seated at the table. We ate, chatted and ate some more. I washed her dishes and resolved in my heart to do something about the house at my next visit. I also asked if she minded if I prepared some food for the family.
‘I can pass you several days’ worth on Sunday,’ I said.
‘That would be great. Thank you so much,’ she sighed. ‘It will be so nice to eat home-cooked food!’
We talked about baby care, sibling rivalry and tried to catch up with each other’s journeys but time was too short. Before we knew it, two hours had passed and I needed to leave for my next appointment.
In the cab, my phone beeped.
‘I just saw the Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream you bought for me! It’s Chubby Hubby, my favourite! Thanks dear, I feel so loved.’
It takes so little to show love. I got to do this more often.
‘Do you still want to do this?’ Busy Bee sat forward and asked me straight. I was quiet for a while. It was a question that I’d been asking myself the past few days. There are many good reasons to relinquish my responsibilities with the team of singers under my care and yet, something holds me back from giving up.
‘I’ve thought about that,’ I answered, ‘Because over these past few weeks, with the break I’ve been enjoying, I’ve felt as though I finally have a life again. And it’s grown harder to connect with the singers as I’m no longer on the inside of everything. I’m now an outsider to the team. It’s easy to walk away.’
She nodded. That had always been her struggle and it comforted me to see her identifying with my situation.
‘But you know, I want to continue doing this. Largely in part because… see, you were the first person to really work through my weaknesses – breaking me, teaching me, moulding me – and dear, I don’t want to stop working with you. I want to do this because I want to continue learning from you.’
She teared a little.
‘Thank you,’ she said. ‘Sometimes, it feels very lonely to be where I am and I feel as though I’m facing this huge responsibility all on my own, that no one understands. To have you say that you want to continue… well, thank you.’
We smiled at each other. Partners.
We weren’t always this comfortable with each other.
When we first began working together, it was hellish. A tremendous over-achiever, she intimidated me with her relentless pursuit of truth in relationships. She was always unwilling to walk away when I dodged her questions and sought to know why: why did you say that, why did you do things that way, why do you react to things in this manner… and because of this, she inadvertently made me face up to the one thing I feared: failure.
As a person who dreads confrontation, I hated waking up in the morning, knowing I’d receive a call or a text from her that would again, expose a lapse in my thinking or an unconscious cover-up of a mistake that I’d made.
When I finally came to the end of my self-made strength and told her that I couldn’t go on, she surprised me with her warmth. She began teaching me, little by little, coaching my thinking processes and training me to think for others, to keep seeing the big picture. It was then I realised that all she wanted was my vulnerability. She wanted me to be honest about things, because she was a nurturer at heart and could only help me when I stopped hiding my frailty.
A huge success out in the working world, her business reaped in a profit of more than a million dollars last year. While expanding her business, she pursued a degree (night classes) and continued to get her certification as a vocal teacher. She also teaches piano, conducts external workshops for some schools and somehow works in the time to care for her family.
And people like me.
Our meeting lasted only two hours but we were both extremely happy at the end of it all.
Three individuals who feel less alone in a vast, wide world.