Aside from hearing some new work, being inspired by talks, meeting new people who also live to scribble words in notebooks and probably have rather wide collections of spiral-bound blank pages and pads of wrinkled paper smeared ink, aside from that stuff, I get to spend some time with friends I made over the course of my MFA who have become incredibly important and dear to me. Had we not gone to school together, I probably would not have developed friendships with a single one of them in any other situation. On the surface, it never seemed like there was much to tie us together, but at heart, we're incredibly similar, and getting to spend time together every once in a while is like remembering how to breathe. Really, we all lead some pretty solitary lives outside of significant others and families--and that isn't always easy for people to understand . We have positions in the work force that are isolating and lonely, and then we go home to work on our art--which is also isolating and lonely--and difficult to talk about with anyone but people who do it. I always feel so much better after a few days of word play and goofing off and reading and sharing and connecting.
The older I get, the more friends I lose, really. I know the whole thing about how if you're really good friends, you can just not talk for months and months--years sometimes--and just pick right back up. And that is true--but only to a degree. For me, getting a reply to a text, email, or the random phone call every month or two is something I need to feel like I'm not forgotten. So to have this little group I wander off to be with every once in a while that has been relatively stable in my life for the last five or six years is really priceless to me. Sometimes the word "friend" feels too simple for the relationships I have with my closest ones. They're people I love, people I trust, people who make me light up, who accept everything I show and don't show to the world. They're people I love more than anything.
And love is such a strange, amazing thing. And the older I get, the more I feel comfortable using the word. And the older we get, the more I feel like it is used--and not arbitrarily. "Love" carried with it a different meaning when I was younger, but the more years that pass, the more I understand how arbitrary it can't and shouldn't be. "I love you" was once a phrase mostly reserved for people we were dating and our parents, but now it flows easily as we say goodbye before we drive off knowing we won't see each other again for five or six months or more. Now, "I love you" pops up in the middle of conversations that, in the midst of inappropriate jokes and some random board game, have suddenly turned serious. Now, we realize we're kind of shoved together for a reason---and no one wants that to change because there are so few people in the world that we connect to in the same way. It's not that we didn't choose our lives, that we didn't choose to teach and to write or that we didn't know they'd be isolating activities, but there is an incredible comfort in the bond that is formed when connecting with people who do the same things as us, share the same memories, have lived some of the same lives, and carry with them the same kind of guilt and burden over not writing and not reading in every spare moment we have. There is an acceptance of the darkest corners of our minds, the way they look on the page, the things that sit behind the ugly fictions we often tell to an audience of readers who never actually read our truth-filled words.
Cultivating and growing the friendships is something I just can't give up, as childish as disappearing for a few days may seem to some people. At times, other "responsible" adults have shook their heads and said, "Aren't you all a bit old to still be doing this?" but being away from home for a few days makes me miss my husband. And that is important. It makes me miss my dogs, my cats, my house, my bed, my family, all the things I've worked for and chosen for myself. While I'm eating up every second I get to spend with my crowd, I'm also missing home and my partner. People always tell you it's good to be apart at times, and it is true. There isn't much arguing in our house, and when there is, it rarely lasts longer than fifteen minutes, but there is so much to be said for how it feels to get a text that says "Come home soon." I miss him quickly--I think of the things he does and the things we'll talk about when I get back, and I want to return. I want to go back home just as much as I want to stay. And I wish I just didn't have to miss anyone I loved ever. I wish we could always all be together, but I guess that's the thing of it--you're always missing someone, you're always leaving someone behind when you're heading to someone ahead.
The return is always as exciting as the arrival, but both are a little sad. I was gone a few days and got back, and I was overjoyed to hug my husband in the kitchen, to pet my dogs and cats, to curl up on our couch in my sloppy pajamas and fall asleep far earlier than normal. The time away, this time, made me realize I needed a little break for more than just the days I was gone, so I missed some CrossFit, and it felt so good to just come home after work and putz around instead of racing to the gym, getting home late, and then hurrying up and eating to get to bed. My days are rushed pretty much every day of the work week, and sometimes that routine gets old.
And will it matter when I'm dead? All this stuff and nonsense?
Yeah, it will all matter.