“The greatest healing therapy is friendship and love” ~ Hubert H. Humphrey
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It’s inevitable; you’re standing in line for tickets at the Iowa State Fair when your husband casually mentions he saw a friend with her new family. Someone you were once close with
So the two of you fumble into stilted small talk about what you’re going to have for lunch, while you try not to stare. Y our mind is racing with a million thoughts. She looks so pretty with dark hair. Does her daughter like her new teaching job? She’s a stepmom to little ones now; how’s it really going? You’ve missed her. How’s her heart? Should you say hi?
And before you realize it, the moment has passed, and they’ve been swallowed by the sea of people
— — —
There are seasons you re-connect with a friend who seems to stand for everything you do. She’s fighting the same battles, struggling with the same noose. You grow close. You share sweaters, wine, hot tubs, and memories. Your mothers gather to pray for your futures. Your fathers close their eyes and try not to look
And then she makes a permanent change in her life that you have to accept
It’s a great change for her, and she’s happy. And you’re kind of bummed
If there’s anything in my life that’s proven ambiguous, it’s friendship. I’ve found it hard in that we all want a great friend, but that means we have to be a great friend. All of which requires a) time and b) effort; neither of which we have a surplus of
During those years of re-connection, my time and effort quota was earmarked for a) teenagers, b) trying to unwind myself from an unfortunate marriage, and c) keeping my career afloat. Although not necessarily in that order and at any given time a and b were both on a downward slide (at best)
Where did friendship fit? Not a casual acquaintance, but the really great kind straight out of the movies. Where you find yourself sitting at a diner at 2 am, crying into your cold cups of coffee? Sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever have the movie kind; but with her, I really did wish for something better than good
I’d catch myself thinking that (perhaps) it was likely if we kept moving in that general direction. If we kept texting each other weird memes, swapping recipes, and living vicariously, maybe one day we’d wind up at the diner
Baby steps, I thought.
— — —
At an NA meeting once I heard the story of two strangers who’d survived rehab together.
After years of hardcore drug use, neither of their bodies were in good shape. Their faces were haggard and gray, track marks lined their arms. But the women were grateful for their lives and had bonded over their shared gratitude. They believed it was their scars and experiences had made them beautiful
They’d become the best of friends
But then, years later, one woman married a man who gifted her reconstructive surgery. She no longer wanted the scars, the struggle, the memories of a life that once was. She just wanted a new face to match her new life
Her friend couldn’t look at her the same
They grew apart
In those brief moments of trying not to stare, I knew she’s still the same on the inside. Or at least, I think she is
But her life looks different, and her words sound different, and it’s just that sometimes people change the very things you once loved about them most
When it happens, when someone you love decides to pursue something that changes them at the core, you can do one of two things, I suppose: a) talk it through and wish her well b) stop taking her calls
Admittedly, neither helps the situation. Not really. One is certainly healthier, but neither changes the fact that she’s still the new version of herself. The one that’s hard for you to relate to. The one with the new face that’s hard to recognize
But sometimes when I’m brushing my teeth before bed, I spot changes to my own face. Are my laugh lines multiplying? Is my furrowed brow growing deeper? Maybe I should whiten my teeth? Is that (another) gray hair?
I see things a bit more clearly
I’ve changed too
I’ve thought about the two friends from rehab off and on over the years.
I wonder about the woman who didn’t have the surgery. Was she jealous? Did she feel left behind? Lied to, as if the scars of the past no longer defined beauty. Did she wonder if their friendship was built upon something that never truly existed?
Was this a season of life where they were brought together to offer help to each other before both moving on? Offering words of wisdom that the other needed to hear? Or a valuable lesson the other should already have already known?
I’m not sure it’s any of those
I’ve come to believe that she simply couldn’t recognize her friend anymore. Nor could she recognize her own self in the face of her friend. She could no longer look into the eyes of a battle-scarred soul who fought for gratitude and a new life as hard as she did.
She could only see a woman who wanted out; who wanted better
And perhaps that’s the only way to accept the change in someone you still love. Accept that your definitions of “better” are simply different
Be thankful for the season you’ve had together and the lessons learned. Like how to show up for your life. How to show up for someone else’s. How to rise above the circumstances you can’t control, and those you can, but know you shouldn’t. How to know the difference between the two. How to bite your tongue. How to parent with grace. How to offer kindness and love
The mirror has two faces
Neither stays the same forever
Along with a trip to the fair, a backyard BBQ with friends is also on our agenda this weekend. I’m in charge of the pasta salad.
Pasta salads really get a bad rap. I find that the more I think of them as warm (or room temperature) summer dishes, and the less as mayo-slicked bowls of suspicion, the more inviting they become. Not only for cookouts and picnics but a beautiful Wednesday night
I started with an artichoke sauce we’ve loved and built from there.
Next, grilled, roasted, or sauteed veggies really turn a pasta salad into a great lunch or dinner, without the aggressive crunch of raw. The summer months are teeming with great produce, and we should take advantage. I’ve also discovered that the more exceptional the vegetable, the more you can dial back the proportion of pasta; should you and carbs be wary of each other right now
Finally (this might just be me), but my favorite thing is going to a store that offers a great selection of pasta shapes, and picking something funky. The best kind here will be short, easily stabbed with a fork, and have pockets where the nubby bits of sauce can hide out.
When it’s finished, take it outside somewhere. Pasta salad is made for plates on your lap, picnic benches, and colored plastic cups with condensation along the outside. But most of all, they’re meant for someone to share them with
~ Adapted from The New Enchanted Broccoli Forest by Mollie Katzen
Warm Artichoke Pasta Salad with Mushrooms and Greens
- 12 oz small pasta (any shape)
- olive oil
- 1 medium-sized onion, chopped fine
- ¾ lb mushrooms, chopped
- fine grain sea salt + freshly ground black pepper
- 1 ½ tsp dried thyme
- 1 tsp dried sage
- ½ - ¾ lb kale, spinach, (or any kind of green), cleaned and chopped
- 3-4 large cloves garlic, minced
- ¼ cup white wine (veggie and chicken broths, or even water are great substitutes)
- 1 Tbsp spelt flour (or any kind of flour you have on hand)
- 2 (6 oz) jars marinated artichoke hearts or crowns, cut into bite-sized pieces (save the liquid, you'll use it too)
- 6-8 leaves fresh basil, chopped fine
- 3-4 Tbsp milk (any nut milk or coconut milk would be a great substitute)
- ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese, + more for serving
- Optional add-ins
- roasted asparagus
- Cook the pasta according to the package directions and set aside
- In a large, deep skillet (or dutch oven) over medium heat, warm a glug of olive oil. Add the onion and sauté for a couple of minutes
- Add the mushrooms, thyme, sage, and a pinch of sea salt. Stir and cook for about five minutes, before adding the greens, garlic, and another pinch of sea salt
- Stir, cover and cook another 5 minutes over medium heat. Add the wine (broth or water) and wait until it bubbles
- Sprinkle in the flour and stir
- Add the artichokes to the skillet, along with all of the liquid from the jars
- Add a couple of grinds of black pepper, the basil, milk, and Parmesan cheese
- Add the cooked pasta, optional add-ins, and stir to combine
- Remove from the heat and serve, with additional Parmesan cheese sprinkled as garnish