#reverb10, Day 29: Tearing Down Walls

A combination of the day 29 prompt (Defining Moment: Describe a defining moment or series of events that has affected your life this year) and my decision to finally read “Eat. Pray. Love” made me realize what my defining moment of the year was.

My old friend, JD, came out to visit and to work at our place for a few weeks this autumn. For me, this was a win trifecta:

  1. I could get the man I considered the love child of Bob Vila and Martha Stewart in our our big master bedroom project.  Trust does not even brush how I feel about the level of his work in home remodel.
  2. I could have a few weeks with my old buddy from KC to chill with in the evenings and catch up with.
  3. Colin could get some solid man time in with a guy who was so superlative at being a GUY that back in those death metal days, when JD wore luscious curly locks and tight shiny spandex leggings, no one even batted a shadowed eye at his GUY-liness.

Both Colin and I like having houseguests of all sorts, so we settled right in to the routine when JD arrived. We made him really comfy: made sure to have plenty of good beer in the house, gave him his own room, stocked the snacks he likes, then proceeded spoiling him with tons of attention from the little ones and 3 squares that he didn’t have to make and didn’t have to clean up after. We REALLY wanted him to feel good about our remodel project.

In the mornings, over coffee after the little ones had disappeared off to school, my old friend and I got the chance to take short breaks from our work to reminisce, swap child-rearing stories, and wax poetic about the good life in Iowa.

JD and I had always been good friends. It’s easy to be be friends with him anyway since he is so generous with his time and talent. But I’d always tried not to be too selfish with him, and over the years, I think he kinda appreciated that I didn’t take him for granted. We had even lived in the same house before, along with his wife and cats, before he and Robyn had their daughter.

We drank our coffee and laughed about silly things we remembered. We didn’t talk too much about the now, and the complications of getting older. Spending that little time together was a relief of much-needed conversation with someone who knew me. Talking to him, I realized something:

OK, yeah. This guy really GETS me.

We had lived parallel lives for 8 years in Kansas City, our lives meeting frequently and like bumper cars. We had come from similar upbringings in Iowa. He knew some pretty embarrassing stories about me. So I guess we had some shared history.

I was rocked by the realization that my old buddy, who had helped me, been hired by me, drank with me, lived in my house, unclogged my sink, chauffeured my parents — knew my flaws– was more than just a friend.

Ah, so this is what a soul mate looks like.

I have met other soul mates in my life and they had take all forms and genders. Frances, is one. Valorie is another.  I ran with an entire mixed mind-posse of soulmates in grad school. And Kevin — my first love — still lingers in the stacks of the dusty soul mate archive.

I recognized these people almost immediately. They seemed to have access to parts of my mind and my heart that regular people would have no interest in. Or maybe they were interested, but could not ever make the translation. And they used that access to mine what they needed from me, and to conduct back to me regular soul recharges.

Time Gone By

JD, however, was a strange situation. I considered him as fixed definitively in my past.

You know the sort of friend I mean. Someone you ADORE and tell stories about. But your life has moved on. You can’t take all the friends and furniture you accumulated with you. You have to pare down to the friends who will keep room for you in their lives, no matter what. It often ends up being a kind of slaughter, a brutal killing, especially if you move often.

The ones you keep must be those with whom you manage to “stay in contact with”– even when you are silent.

Years had gone by and I had pretty much left JD at the curb. The last connection was that he and his family were on the Christmas card list, but since they don’t send any to us, were in peril of dropping off. He doesn’t Facebook or email. His wife wrote a good blog that I commented on sometimes, though she and I were never too close.

And then this remodel project got complicated and long overdue to completion.

And I thought of JD. Then I mentioned him to Colin. As a joke, you know. Maybe he’ll come and stay for a “work-visit.” haha.

And Colin was game. And we had the cash. And, oddly, JD said yes. He’d come. It took many months to get him to agree to a date. I persisted with unprecedented patience and calm.

The Past Always Leaves

When I was driving him to the airport, to return him to his lonely wife and daughter, we jabbered most of the way over nothing. Then it was quiet. And then he said:

I bet you thought I would never come.

He smiled his big, easy smile, but one that seemed filled with pure surprise.

In Eat Pray Love, while attending the ashram in India, Liz moans to friend Richard the Texan about David.

Liz: “I believed David was my soul mate.”

Richard the Texan: “He probably was. Your problem is you don’t understand what that word means. People think a soul mate is your perfect fit, and that’s what everyone wants. But a true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that’s holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life. A true soul mate is probably the most important person you will ever meet, because they tear down your walls and smack you awake. But to live with your soul mate forever? Nah. Too painful. Soul mates, they come into your life  just to reveal another layer of yourself to you, and then to leave.”

JD came into my life more than once and tore down walls. His nail guns and hammers and awful SPORTS TALK RADIO rattled me and made the kind of noise that did more than change the shape of my immediate world.

His limitless generosity — acceptance, time, love, patience– showed me in human form my own opportunities for change.

I suppose he reminded me that it wouldn’t hurt if I filled my stressed out, anxious life right now with a little more generosity and pure love.

After all, that is the only way he has ever treated me.

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