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Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012

The importance of sharing

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About a year ago, my phone rang, and for once, it wasn’t my kids or my husband or my mother or my carpool partner or my in laws or one of those pre-recorded doctor’s appointment confirmation messages.

“Hey Lisa, what have you been up to?” she asked. I was dumbfounded. I had not received a purely social call in months -- it was as if I had forgotten what to do. My mind raced as I tried to remember how to engage in idle chit chat.

Why on earth is she calling me? I thought. I mean, we only know each other because our husbands work together, and besides, I’m new here, but she has plenty of other friends to call . . . there must be some problem. “Oh, you know, the usual . . . busy, busy, busy!” I lied, waiting for her to ask to borrow money, or give her a ride to the airport, or buy overpriced candles for her son’s baseball team fundraiser.

“Well, listen, would you like to go on a power walk or something?”

“Really?! Yes! I’d love to! What time?! Where do you want me to meet you?! I’ll go anywhere! I already have work out clothes on, so I’m ready to go whenever you are, so just say the word and…”

“Nine-fifteen at the Park and Ride lot on Wonderwood Drive,” she interrupted my pathetic ramble.

“You got it!”

I arrived twenty minutes early, and sat desperately waiting to spot her mini van. When she arrived, I bolted from my car as if it had burst into flames.

“Hi!” I yelled and waved across the parking lot, startling her out of her morning haze. For the next hour, we did what military spouses do so well – analyzed, pondered, proclaimed, opined, pontificated, empathized, chastised, gossiped and even listened a little bit, all under the guise of exercise. I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

Back in the parking lot, my new friend suggested that we make the outing our new Thursday routine. I eagerly agreed, and nearly skipped back to my car with a goofy grin.

On the drive home, I thought, Finally, a real friend. I can’t wait for next Thursday. I wonder if she’d want to meet Tuesday, too… maybe that’s too much. I’ll scare her away. Hmmm. Come to think of it, maybe I came on too strong. I think I did most of the talking. Why do I always do that? She was probably wondering if I’d ever shut up. I’ll bet she’ll call and cancel because she thinks I’m an annoying blabbermouth….

I pulled into my driveway and looked at myself in the rear view mirror. Not only did I realize that my bangs had fallen into that unflattering middle part that made my face look like a full moon, it also occurred to me that this had all happened before.

Suddenly overwhelmed with that bizarre déjà vu sensation, I tried to recollect the past. I soon realized that I’d had the same internal conversation with myself in 2008, 1998, 1996, 1994 and 1993 – basically, every time the military has ordered us to move.

After every move, you busy yourself with setting up your new life – new house, new schools, new doctors, new dentists, new music teachers, new church, new pizza place. But once new routines are in place, there’s nothing left to do except live.

I don’t care whether you live in Poughkeepsie or Prague, boredom eventually sets in. You find yourself dawdling on the internet, ignoring housework, and eating too much. You put on work out clothes, but never make it to the gym. You call your husband even though you know he can’t chat. You write long e-mails to old friends who are too preoccupied to write back. Even the family dog, has no good gossip to share.

You are bored out of your mind.

As I fixed my bangs in the rear view mirror, I remembered the story of Christopher McCandless, a young man who disappeared “Into the Wild” (the name of the book by Jon Krakauer) to live free from obligations and relationships. After spending over three months utterly alone, he realized that he had been wrong about life all along. Days before he died of starvation trying to make it back out of the wild, he wrote, “Happiness is only real if shared.”

Remembering the quote helped me understand why I always get a little pathetic every time we move, and although I’m in no danger of starving anytime soon (quite the contrary in fact,) I realized that everyone needs a good friend or two to nourish the soul.

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