I spent July 3-4 with friends, most I hadn’t seen in years. We hadn’t all been to gather since my wedding (since divorced) 20 years ago this November. I almost didn’t go. Addictions of any kind really are fueled by isolation. And if you isolate for long enough, like anything else, it becomes what feels comfortable. Even sober, that craving for dysfunction is stronger than any cravings I have ever felt for alcohol. But I booked the ticket. I’m so glad I did.
The first day I got there the kids were at the beach and the spouses (spousi?) were shopping. Three hours I had with 2/3 of my best friends in the world. We did the requisite Glory Days reliving of the late-80s to late-90s. Then the conversation turned. I forgot what it’s like to have smart friends in person. I mean really smart, erudite friends. We could talk about 18th-century colonialism and the English Beat, eminent domain and marketing theory, the seemingly intractable problems of universal preschool, homelessness and drug addiction. And whether Black Sabbath really started heavy metal. Absolutely everything was on the table. Simply life-affirming.
Next day the same group, this time with families. And what wonderful families they are. Everyone, except me of course, seems to have picked the perfect partner, and all the kids (young adults really, from 15-20 years old) were polite, well-adjusted and grounded. It brought into focus that before the madness I had chosen, this was me. Remarkably, this was still us.
We were joined the next day by still another close, decades-long friend and her wonderful husband. Again the discussion turned to art and passion, and creating just for the existential satisfaction of turning nothing into something, no matter what that something was. All these friends were close enough that it wouldn’t make sense to hide my recent struggles. It wouldn’t feel right to try. So I didn’t.
To a person, all I felt was love and compassion. And every conversation was a continual reminder: this is us, and perhaps more importantly, this is me.