Thursday, October 12, 2006

The Comfort and Satisfaction of Being Known, Or, How Jane Austen Makes Sense of My Life

Abraham Lincoln once said that “the better part of one’s life consists of his friendships.” When I take a moment to really consider the tremendous people I am privileged to call my friends—or when I am able to sit down and connect with one of them over a latte, or go for a walk where we air our concerns, or squash my cell phone against my ear as we catch up on each other’s lives—I am always overwhelmed with wonder and gratitude at these precious people God has placed in my life.

Yesterday morning I called one of my best friends on the way back to the office after dropping off my boss at the airport. It had been too long since we’d last talked, which was admittedly and pretty much single handedly my fault, and before long I was spilling out my latest account of relational klutziness, marked by more than a little melodrama. I confessed to her my confusion, my indecision, my moments of womanly weakness (real or perceived), my failed attempts at assertiveness, the battle of my instincts vs. my inclinations, my uncertainty about the validness of my standards and ideals. I appealed to her for perspective and wisdom, and she came through for me beautifully, confirming that my red flags were completely justified and telling me what I just needed someone to straight up tell me. Why is it that sometimes we need someone to tell us to do what we already deep down know we need to do in order to have the courage to actually do it?

One of my favorite quotes about friendship—because it so exquisitely captures the comfort and satisfaction of being known—goes like this:

“But oh! the blessing it is to have a friend to whom one can speak fearlessly on any subject; with whom one's deepest as well as one's most foolish thoughts come out simply and safely. Oh, the comfort—the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person—having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring them all right out, just as they are, chaff and grain together; certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then with the breath of kindness blow the rest away” (Dinah Craik, A Life for a Life, 1859).
It was really quite remarkable. It was like I backed up my dump truck of life stuff, unloaded it on the dock of her willing ears, and with wisdom and grace she was able to take stock of the sticky mess I’d laid before her and say to me gently but confidently, “You’ve said a lot, but in all of that, I didn’t hear this, and from what I know of you and hope for you, that’s a pretty crucial thing to have absent.” And then, without missing a beat, she came out with, “It’s like in Pride and Prejudice, when Elizabeth has that encounter with Mr. Collins…or in Emma, when they’re in the carriage…” And I was like, “Oh my word, you are SO RIGHT! That’s exactly what this is like,” and “How did I not see that?!” and “Thank you for reminding me not to let go of hope for that which seems so elusive simply due to the immediate presence of a pale counterfeit.”

Okay, so in the actual moment my response was not nearly as eloquent as that last statement, but now, a day removed from the conversation, I can see—because a good friend helped my eyes to focus—that that’s what I had done.

And then, causing me to be further emboldened and encouraged, another friend called me yesterday afternoon to tell me the story of a not-even-close-to-mere-chance encounter with a remarkable young man who so far seems to be the male version of herself in terms of interests and passions, and that has bolstered my waning hope even more, giving me the courage to stay true to my inner Miss Elizabeth Bennett, and not succumb to the melancholy resignation of Charlotte Lucas.

Chaff, grain, and Jane. Thanks, friend.

1 comment:

Bethany said...

Friendship is a beautiful thing and that was a beautiful post. Thank you for your friendship and for the reminder of how important friendships are!