Lately I have had some fairly difficult rounds with my own thoughts. I’ve always been a thinker. I wonder if that is true of the majority of introverted people? Even as a kid, I would often spend time alone sitting on the front step of my childhood home, just thinking about various things. Sometimes my mind would wander to the future and I’d allow myself to dream that someday some guy would come along who would actually love me. Please understand that I believed that to be an impossible dream. Other times I would think about things that were happening in my life at the time. Sometimes I would play a game in my own mind and pretend I was someone else. Sometimes I would play the part of someone I knew (and usually wanted to be) and other times I would play the part of a fictional person. I did a tremendous amount of reading (still do) so my imagination was often fueled by the books I read.
My mind hasn’t changed all that much. I still spend a great deal of time lost in thought, although I no longer pretend to be someone else. 🙂 I figure I have enough trouble as just one person. No need to add a fictional character’s problems to my own real ones!
This morning I was thinking about the people who have been a part of my life over the years. I’m not talking about family members here but rather friends and acquaintances. As I thought about the various people who I have come to know, it struck me how strange relationships can be. Some people came into my life many years ago, and while I don’t see them anymore, I still would classify them as wonderful friends. I can think of three right away. One is a childhood friend. I met him when I was probably five. Two summers ago, I went back to my childhood town to help my mom after surgery. I stopped at my friend’s house and had a wonderful time of conversation with him, his wife and four wonderful daughters. There is great comfort in knowing that someone who has known you almost your entire life still cares about you and wants to spend time with you. That same summer, another dear friend, and probably my best friend, was visiting her mom in the same area. We got together and it was like we had never been apart. I met Kris in middle school and we were inseparable until marriage and life took us to different states. Still, though, I know I could call her if I ever needed someone to talk to. The third friend that instantly comes to mind is someone I met online over ten years ago. She and her family has visited our family twice in those years. She is a little ahead of me on the path of life and far ahead of me on the spiritual path. I know anytime I have a question or need a friend that I can call her. All these friends live far away from me, though. Of course, there are others who I believe care about me, and a few of those I would list as “friends” if I were asked to do so. These are ladies who call just because they want to talk or someone who makes it a point to meet for coffee (or diet Pepsi) or lunch somewhere. Many, though, are people I know, who also know me, but aren’t really people I could say fit the above qualification. They fit more into the acquaintance category.
I believe there is a third category, though. It is this category that has occupied my thoughts the last few days.
As I scroll through social media, every once in a while I’ll see the name of someone who, at one point, was a part of my life. Sometimes the part was a big role; other times the part was small. Regardless, though, the commonality is that they used to be in my life and now they no longer are. The reasons vary. For some, a move has placed too many miles between us and the effort to maintain a casual acquaintance isn’t really something there was time for. In other cases, hard feelings or differing viewpoints have driven a wedge between us. For a few, there isn’t really a definitive reason except that for a reason only God knows, they are no longer part of my life like they used to be. Some of the people in this third category have been hard to lose,and it is this handful of folks that have been on my mind. The “loss” (and I place that in quotes because I don’t think I have completely lost them; I have just lost the closeness we once shared) of several of them have left, what I consider to be, empty spaces in my heart. To go into details on those who once filled these empty spaces would take more time and space than I can give right now, but there are some who have been especially pressing on my heart lately and need to be mentioned if for nothing else than for my own mind to process and come to grips with the fact that change is unavoidable.
Just about four years ago, a family came into my life that had way more impact on me than I ever could have imagined when I first met them. This was a young family in a life stage very opposite of where I was at the time. They were looking for someone to watch their little girl, eleven months old at the time, while they were at work. I was nearing the end of my homeschooling years and my daughter was pretty independent in her work. I figured it would be a good experience for her, and it would help this young family too. What I couldn’t have predicted was how much I would fall in love with this sweet little monkey and her parents. It was at the same time that I started watching her that I found my marriage taking a quick spiral downward. When my life was so much sadness and misery, that little monkey would walk into our house every morning with a big smile on her face and say “Hiiii.” She was a ray of sunshine in my world that was pretty dark. Although I only watched her full time for four months, I stayed close with her, her parents and, eventually, her baby brother. I even had the opportunity to watch them both on a part time basis occasionally when their mom went back to work part time. Later that following spring, their dad had the opportunity for advancement with his job. It took them to another state. Even then, I managed to get their for a few visits. I never stopped loving that family and always was excited when I could see them. This past year, their dad was offered another promotion that came with another relocation. This time their location will most likely rule out visits. This little family of four brought much joy to my life and there is an empty space in my heart. Even though I don’t think I have “lost” that relationship, it has drastically changed and when I think about it and remember the fun times we shared, it makes me sad.
There are many others who have come and gone. Some have gone completely–I have no idea where they even are now. Amy, a friend from college and one who sometimes babysat our first two babies, is one of them. Some I know where they are yet their presence in my life is non-existent either by their choice or mine–or both. Some were at one time close friends while others were not so close. Regardless, it strikes me as strange sometimes how relationships work.
Sometimes it also hurts to reflect on the empty spaces that exist because life is unpredictable, feelings get hurt, and change is inevitable.