Monday, October 3, 2011

50% Friendships

Over the past year I have developed a love for heading to the movie theatre after the house heads to sleep.  I have a toddler in the house who goes to bed early and I either have to spend the last few hours of each day tip-toeing around the house or I can go watch the latest round of new films.  I end up with a few hours less sleep every morning, but it has generally been worth it.  Except for the time a professor friend of mine suggested we all go see Transformers.  It is the stupidest movie of all time.  Ever.  I jabbed my straw in my eye a few times to try and make it stop.  It was like paying $9 to go watch someone else play a video game.  Awful.    
Last night my son went to spend some a few nights with his grandma and my wife and I decided to forgo a night of grading papers to head to theatre on an impromptu date.  We saw 50/50, a brilliant buddy comedy about two best friends dealing with an incredibly difficult situation.  Think Good Will Hunting meets Terms of Endearment meets Pineapple Express.  Like I said, brilliant.  

Medium Spoiler Alert

One of my favorite scenes of the film is when the main character heads to the bathroom of his pot smoking, excessive-swearing best friend, the night before the climactic live-or-die surgery.  While there, he notices a copy of Getting Through Cancer Together (or some similarly titled book) sitting by the toilet.  I don’t know about your house, but in mine, only truly important literature makes the toilet side reading list.  A friendship that knows no bounds.  

I recently had a good friend melt down to the tune of tossing away his marriage, family, job, etc.  Made some pretty horrific decisions that hurt a number of people.  Not skin hurt but bone and muscle hurt.  Deep stuff.  As we sat in some dive diner picking through the dressings of the still bleeding/oozing wounds, he said that one of the worst parts of the ordeal was that he had found the outer edges of every relationship in his life.  It was a stark loneliness – a vast empty parking lot of loneliness – where you find that those people who are supposed to stand by you forever have cashed in and disappeared.  Family.  Your best friends.  Church. 


Or not really gone, but somehow ascended above you, dropping leaflets of hallmark sayings, obscure bible verses, and judgment on you.  Those leaflets feel like cinderblocks coming down. 
I hope that I never forget sitting in that diner and listening to him try to articulate the pain of loneliness.  And more importantly, the pain of loneliness that he was imposing on those he truly cared about.  At the same time the bricks were falling, he recognized he was throwing his own rocks on those he loved and cared about.  And his rocks were a long shot.  
This guy’s former job was in a church.  And when he left the church, the church returned the favor.  And when he said dumb things the church responded with song lyrics.  And when he needed a pillow to crash on, the church responded with “When you get your life back together…” 

And I don’t think that is what relationships are for.  I think there comes a time when you have to make a decision to simply be there.  And when a person is making stupid decisions, they will know that you will continue to take their punches to the jaw because come what may, you will be right here

You’re not moving. 

And I know that there are times when those you love make dumb decisions and you literally have to distance yourself for your own sanity and safety – I get that.  I’ve been there.  But inside the bell curve, that is often like letting go of the rope of someone dangling over a cliff because your hands burn. 

And you don’t do that. 

You don’t let go.

Your hands hurt so bad but you don’t let go. 

You don’t lecture or make declarations to the person hanging on over the side of the cliff because often, the “me above you analogy” doesn’t play out and the person you are standing in judgment over is much more eye to eye than anyone feels comfortable with. 

And friendships – the good, go-down-with-the-ship kinds of friendships, are not dog treats.  

You don’t get to be my friend as long as you are doing the things that I like. 
You are my friend always.  And if you’re doing something stupid, you damn well better believe you’re going to hear about it.  You will hear a starkness and honesty and candor from me that you will not hear from anyone else.  Because I am your friend.    

But I’ll still pick up the tab and you can crash at my house because that’s what friends do.    

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