Friday, January 14, 2011

Relationships and Separate Journeys

My best friend called me yesterday on his way to a business appointment. I hadn't seen him since our three-hour lunch a week ago. He brought me up to date about some of his life and business activities.

What struck me was the stuff I didn't know. How could we be so close and I didn't know his business partner has cancer? That he's laid off some of his employees? That his wife goes in for surgery in a couple weeks?

It brought home to me again the truth of the separateness of our lives. Yes, each life is a journey, but the journey has it's own strangely wandering path, and it's mostly unknown to everyone else. Your journey can even be mostly unknown to yourself, if you lack self-awareness.

I look out my window and see my neighbor walking his dog. What's up with him these days? What will the rest of his day be like? Maybe he's planning his next hunting trip. I could make assumptions and dream up scenarios, but I'd only be fooling myself. To be perfectly honest, I don't have a clue.

I have six brothers and sisters, and five of them live over a thousand miles away. It's hard to know what's going on in their lives, especially the lives of their children. When I call, I'm always surprised by what I hear. When I try to imagine what they are doing each day, the images I get are not like movies, but more like still photos of years ago, sometimes faded and fuzzy, sometimes blank.

And so it goes. We discover a bit of each other's journeys through varying degrees of intimacy: acquaintances, friends, best friends, life partners. But we never know the whole story.

I guess this is one of the reasons I love stories. In my life I've read thousands of stories and novels, and I've watched thousands of movies. Through these fictions, I get the experience of penetrating through the membrane of separateness that keeps us from knowing about another person's life.

This separateness is a fact of life, but it's not comforting. It's a good reason to stay in touch with the people you care about. It's why when we say "goodbye" to our friends we sometimes jokingly add, "Don't be a stranger!"

Post by Dennis E. Coates, Ph.D., Copyright 2010. Building Personal Strength .

1 comment:

Sarcastic Bastard said...

Don't be a stranger, Denny. You or Kathleen. I love you two.