I've been thinking a lot lately about communication, or the lack thereof, and what that means for how people relate to each other or don't. For me, lack of communication is one of my absolute biggest pet peeves; I'm losing count of how many hurts, small and large, could have been avoided if people (myself included) would just speak the hell up and say something at least remotely close to what they really meant. It's especially frustrating because it is, at heart, a simple thing to do: to say what you are thinking, to say anything at all really, to tell me something that is the one puzzle piece that I'm missing when I try to understand why something isn't going well. But I've been guilty of omission myself, plenty of times, and so I know all too well that it isn't always that easy; the truth makes you vulnerable, and that can be pretty intimidating. However, for as much of this year as I've been able to manage, what I've been particularly striving for is a level of truthfulness that I've never quite obtained before. I finally got tired of hiding behind false pretenses, no matter what their purpose, and as you may have gathered it's been a highly interesting experiment.
Lies serve a purpose. We use lies to protect ourselves and others, to make things easier, to avoid doing unpleasant things, or because sometimes the idea of telling the truth is too terrifying or painful or hard. The problem is that, at least for me, it often ends up backfiring; I don't tell the whole truth and suddenly I'm unhappy, with the situation I'm in and with myself. (I think there's some sort of lie-to-discomfort ratio, where a white lie provokes mild discomfort and a large one makes me miserable, but maybe I just like that as a concept. Or maybe it's just me.) Lies and truths are both types of freedom: lies allow you to hide yourself, to free yourself from the task of showing all of who you are, but truth allows you to cut through the bullshit and connect with people without the interference of facade. There are a million grey areas, of course, and all I can do is try and see what happens, but ultimately for me it comes down to figuring out what's more important: the safety of hiding or the intensity of connection.
Luckily I have friends who, intentionally or not, have made it relatively easy for me to come out of my shell and begin to figure out who I am without all the artifice. I was talking to one of them a few months ago when she told me that the thing that amazed her the most was how honest everybody was, how the way they lived and the way they wanted to be seemed so much closer than it is for many people. I've been watching people through the lens of that idea ever since, and the happiest people I know are the ones who act with a greater degree of truth and understanding and honesty on a daily basis. I don't think that's a coincidence.
One of these friends left recently--well, many friends left, but this one is just for her--which is the point of all of this. Rose-Anne was somebody I met during my first year in Chicago, and then we didn't really talk for at least three years after that aside from occasional meetings with mutual friends. But this past year she rocketed back into my life, and I feel so lucky to have shared many evenings full of food and conversation with her before last week, when she moved to Texas to begin a post-doc position doing scientific research on fruit flies. Over the past year or so we have talked about boys and girls, about food, about our lives and anxieties and families and just about everything else, and never did I feel like there was anything but the most honest of connections. She's one of my biggest cheerleaders and also a voice of reason when I'm feeling thrown by life. She's a good friend, indeed.
The last time I really saw Rose-Anne was this past week, when I helped her pack up her kitchen. It seemed symbolic, as we'd spent almost all of our time together baking and chopping and flipping through magazines for recipes, and so we spent a last evening together swaddling glasses in bubble wrap and packing cookbooks into boxes. We made her favorite salad and she introduced me to the magic of roasted chickpeas (her blog post about this made me cry, I'm not too proud to admit), and so we ate our last duo meal together until I hopefully visit her in Texas next year. I miss her already; I miss knowing that sometime soon I'll be sitting in her kitchen, sipping tea and discussing the finer points of pastry crust or grain-free baking. It's always difficult to say goodbye to friends, but I'm grateful that not only did she get a job in what seems like it will be an excellent situation for her but that we were able to become friends before we parted ways.
I know I range so often into the realm of Excessively Cheesy on here, but it's so hard because I tell myself every damn day how lucky I am: lucky to be happy, lucky to be doing things I enjoy with my life, and most of all lucky to have such amazing people all around me. If I want anything from life it's some degree of truth and happiness, and on my best days I feel that I approach that. Life is not always so complicated (although it can certainly seem that way); the things that really matter in the end are simple. The autumn sun on my face, a night spent telling histories and personal folklore until the sun rises, or a simple dinner shared with a true friend are all parts of what I want my life to be like. I may not have grand goals right now, but at least I have friends and chosen family and good memories.