I soaked myself beneath the ease of pure and sweet community – no pretenses or expectations, no effort or awkwardness. These are the women who knew me before I really knew myself. These are my friends. I am terrible at keeping up with them aside from social media, but that’s the beauty of friendship that is real and true, isn’t it? I paddle boated in the middle of a pond – at midnight – in the rain – after driving sixteen hours – because I always feel that kind of freedom when I’m with Katie. I smelled the smells of the encroaching Southern summer. I felt the heartbeat of friends working in tandem to make a bride feel loved. A thing that is something like joy – made up of equal parts comfort, happiness, and ease – filled my soul to the tip top and then spilled over into the corners of me that are only reached on occasion, and rarely at the same time.
As I watched the bride and groom laugh easily at each other while they danced their first dance of forever, my eyes wandered across the crowd. I knew so many of them. I could glide up and stand beside them, laugh at nothing and catch up on everything. I wouldn’t have to calculate my words or come up with questions. It would be uncomplicated. And it was. And the lump began to swell in my throat, right there under the twinkle lights overlooking the Arkansas water – at the wrong place and the wrong time. So, I swallowed it and willed myself to be all in the wonder of the evening. I danced hard and listened hard and tried hard to love my friends in a way they would know.
Katy drove two hours – with her newborn – to see me – for 2 hours – from midnight to 2 am that night. Vanessa wasn’t even at her house, where we stayed. I noticed a picture on her gallery wall of all of us. Katy and I chatted lazily, with no agenda or need to cram anything in. Then we shared a double bed, which wasn’t weird at all because, hello, we did so for three months during one of the coldest winters coastal Alicante, Spain had ever seen. As easy as breathing. I left quickly the next morning, no time to even enjoy a cup of coffee with my dear friend, what with the hours and miles that laid before me. She and sweet Eloise waved goodbye and I Google mapped the nearest Starbucks.
It took me about an hour to get out of Little Rock and the same amount of time to weigh the weekend against what I was returning home to. I burst into tears before I even made it across the Tennessee line. This continued off and on for the remainder of my sixteen hour drive…sing country music loudly, think happy thoughts of the weekend, think of how hard my current life looks against those happy thoughts, cry, pray, repeat. That’s pretty much how it went down.
It has taken me three weeks to work through it all, but the deal is this – I’m okay with the way it went down.
Tomorrow, I’ll tell you what God continues to teach me through these tastes of community.
*Special thanks to Emily Muckelroy [AKA Pledge Pah-kuh] for capturing the weekend!