I am one of the few lucky ones. I have my husband and my children on this journey with me. I have my family who loves and accepts me. I have learned to connect with the people I love in ways that don’t hurt. We talk about life and feelings and our shared past and our interests and the weather when there’s not much else to say. We don’t talk about religion and we try to avoid politics. I know pain and disappointment linger in the cracks of our relationships but I try my best to be open, loving and understanding. I can love you even if you hate my choices. And I know you love me even though you hate my choices.
Friends are not family.
But I am still one of the lucky ones.
This one is for you, my friend.
You choose your friends.
You find your common ground and you hang out in the same places and have similar schedules that make it impossible to do anything together on any random night.
You save your friendships for the end of the week.
Your friends are in the same social circle you wander around, even if you are always on the outskirts and they are in the center.
You meet in shul or outside the shul and you invite each other over for Shabbat meals. You sit in the park while your kids run around and you catch up. You talk about your life and your feelings and your kids and your politics and your interests and your religion and you feel connected.
You form friendships out of a religious belief even though you have come to realize that the people behind the label mean more to you than the belief you may or may not share. And you treasure your friends so you think about them when you think about what you may or may not believe.
You need to put yourself first so you make some decisions and you walk off a cliff. Your friends don’t know because you didn’t tell them you were planning on hurtling through the air with a wall of rocks to your right and vast open air to your left. There might be a body of water beneath the clouds you are plummeting through. Maybe not. Your friends don’t know so they don’t know you survived.
You decide not to go to shul anymore and so you don’t see your friends quite as often. You take off your head covering and someone raises an eyebrow. You start disappearing from school pickup because you are going through too much to explain to other people. You make some uncomfortable comments about rabbis. You show up at the park on Shabbat in weekday clothes.
Then you write some blog posts and think about the last time you got together at a friend’s house for a Friday night meal.
You survived but you’re not unscathed.
You go back to the park on Shabbat afternoon because you crave something you didn’t know you ever had.
You find that you can still connect with your friends as long as you don’t address the elephant you dragged into the room. You talk about your life and your feelings and your kids and your politics and your interests and sometimes even religion.
But you want to talk about the elephant because the weight of it is slowly draining you and you can’t keep pretending it isn’t there.
Then you find yourself in the park and you are with your friend and you are talking about the elephant and it is shrinking because your friend is talking about it with you.
And you realize that you can lose your faith and keep your friends if you have the kind of friends like mine.
The feelings expressed above are rooted in my personal experiences. No two stories are alike, but we can find similarities in our journeys. Have you ever felt this way about a friendship? Let me know in the comments below.