Finders and Weepers but never the Keepers.

I don’t often find the words for you. But when I find them, I always want to keep them.

“We will map it out in the sand,” the Girl with the Curls said to her Most Precious Friend.

“That way we will never forget it, that we are coming back to one another.”

The Girl with the Curls All Up in Her Hair was a bit older in years. She’d seen more stretch of the earth. She’d touched more tops of fingertips. She knew the good that could somehow live in a word as strange as “goodbye.”

She patted the ground for her Most Gracious Friend to come and sit down beside her. And then she began to clear away the rocks to make for a space, a map that would mean Together during a time of Apart.

“This is where I will be,” said the Girl with the Curls, tracing a circle out in the sand. “I will always be here and you can always find me here.”

She set on clearing a space several feet away, “And here is where….”

“There,” said the Girl with the Curls’ Most Lovely Friend, pointing back at the newly traced circle. “There is where I want to always be.”

“But we…”

“There.”

“I know it would be eas…”

There.” Her finger grew relentless with its pointing. “There or here. Whichever one keeps me with you.”

The Girl with the Curls had no answers. No answers for why, one day, she wouldn’t smell the lavender in the hair of her Best Friend or how she’d have to call upon her memory to play back the sound of a laughter she used to marry with her own percussion of giggles.

And so she said nothing. Not Much. And she let the Hunger for Words & Goodbyeless Goodbyes fill the air, thick like the humidity of August that calls curls to go untamed and motherless.

The two girls sat in the sand and stared at the circle for a very long while. They sat still & quiet until the stars had no choice but to join them, resolving to shine their brightest on this Night for Girls who were Never Good with Letting Go.

“It will come one day. One day we won’t be sitting here beside one another. It’s just the way it has to be,” the Girls with the Curls finally spoke, laying her head down to see the whole sky. Her curls splayed and spiraled across the parts of the map that hadn’t been drawn yet.

“But why?” asked her Most Sacred Friend.

The Girl with the Curls just nodded her head in Unknowing. And her Most Real Friend stared and let the whistles of silence out from her lips.

For they both had learned the hearts of one another—all the curves and spots of wear—as if they  old watercolors perched up on the mantel of a hallway from childhood. They’d learned each other in an easy way, in moments as slow and wonderful as the whispered names of French sugared sweets. Savarin & Souffle. Tartin & Brulee.  The two girls marveled at how it was never a thing that took effort or angst. They had simply found one another at a time when all they craved were open books and a Someone to sit beside when the world rocked crazy. A Someone to sit beside and find your whole self understood in a world that rarely leaves room for Understanding to take off her shoes.  That was the best thing they could have. They knew it in conversation & secrets & nights of tea with three lumps of sugar. It was the best thing they could have.

“I’ve never really known but it’s a thing called Growing Up,” said the Girl with the Curls to her Most Radiant Friend. “I think it’s probably beautiful but awkward and silly at times, with just pinches of pain to remind you of Aliveness.”

 Because that is how most things are: beautiful but awkward and silly at times, with just pinches of pain to remind us of Aliveness.

“But we can’t do it together? I want to be Growing Up with you. Not without you… I don’t want a reason to draw maps in the sand.”

The Girl with the Curls heard the stinging in the voice of her Most True Friend. She didn’t have reasons. She didn’t have answers. And she, also, never wished for Growing Up without her Best Friend beside her, Growing Up too.

“You know,” she finally spoke. “We could be Artists & Weepers. Dreamers & Dancers. We could own the stars if we wanted to. We could climb mountains and let the salt waters of the ocean pucker up to our ankles. We could be Explorers. & Finders. & Lovers. But I know we cannot be Keepers. A Carrier, maybe, but never a Keeper.”

“But why? What is the difference?”

“A Keeper would mean that we stayed here. And we never moved. And we held each other’s hands too tightly. And we never saw the world.

And you never became You and I never found Me in the spaces of this place where we were supposed to Be.”

For the Girl with the Curls had no answers. No connect the dot reasons. But she knew she could never be a Keeper, no matter how badly the urge tickled at her. To keep her Most Gifted Friend all to herself would only lead to a lifetime of picking Regret up by the armpits and spinning her round & round.

The world needed a Best Friend like hers. Strangers needed her. The sick needed her. The lonely needed her. And how does one become a Finder if they always stay a Keeper?

“Carry,” said the Girl with the Curls, to fill the spaces in the air left for Sadness & Sorrow & I’ll Miss You & Take Care. “I can be a Carrier. I promise I will be. I’ll carry you wherever I go.”

“Really?” said her Most Sacred Friend.

“I’ve already started,” the Girl with the Curls bit back more words.

She’d already started: The Letting Go. The Packing. The Looking Backward for a moment or two. The Finding but not the Keeping. And the Carrying. The Always Carrying the Heart of her Best Friend.”

She knows my whole heart. And she does not judge me for any of it.

She is a friend of mind.  She gather me, man.  The pieces I am, she gather them and give them back to me in all the right order.  It’s good, you know, when you got a woman who is a friend of your mind.  ~Toni Morrison, Beloved

There are days when I want to literally curl up into my Inbox and just wait. I could find a cozy spot between the sent items and saved drafts and just wait. I would even settle for making a bed with the piles of junk mail and deleted items. Just To Wait.

Life might be easier this way, if all we were expected to do with our days was wait to hear from our best friend. A friend who gets us completely.

My best friend and I email each other almost every day. Sometimes I have great difficulty in coping with the fact that we have the adjective “Long Distance” attached to our friendship for what could be a very long time. But we have a bond that I cannot explain. She Knows Me. I Know Her. And at the end of each day we cling to that understanding.

Our emails are a mess. A Literal Mess. Sure, you could uncover the paragraphs. The punctuation. The breaks and beginnings. But our hearts are splattered all over the messages. I sometimes think after I send an email to her that I should recieve a notification that says “Mailbox over size limit” because we pack so much emotion, hope, desperation, questions & answers, and an overwhelming love for life into each email. No gigabyte or megabyte seems justifiable.

Someone asked me the other day what was the best thing about my friendship with her. “She knows my whole heart,”  I said. “And she doesn’t judge me for any of it.”

I guess as we grow older we learn what is important and not so important when it comes to friendship. I once thought friendship was all about quantity. Lots of friends on the playground. Plenty of friends to sit next to at lunch. Too many friends on Facebook. Always people to text message. But sometimes having so many friends can make us feel so little in this world. Insignificant, as we cling to our generic messages and irrelevant friend requests.

I now see that friendship is about something much deeper than numbers like “7” or “12.”

My mother always warned me not to pick and choose my friends like colors out of a crayon box. She feared the ease I found in becoming bored with one and moving onto the next in such a natural manner. I always replied that it was best to have a lot of friends. “A lot of friends, Hannah?” she would ask. “Or real friends?”

She waited for me to learn (in the way no parent ever hopes for: The Hard Way) that friends, real friends, are there without question. They are not be seeking out the next best route to make us feel worthless or weak. Friends, real friends, are loyal to a fault. They lend relevance to the cliche “catching you when you fall,” as they know when to stop walking next to us and start walking close behind. Arms Out. Ready for the Catch. Friend, real friends, never give us a reason to ask if our secrets are safe with them. We trust the second that the deepest intimacies of our souls reach their ears they are tucked straight into the heart. Locked and Keyed. And there they stay.

Friends, real friends, let us Wallow, Cry, Scream, Be Mad at the World. They accept broken hearts and bad moods as currency to our friendship on some days. But they are real friends because they know when to tell us to snap out of it, to straighten ourselves up and get back out there in the world. Friends, real friends, know when our sadness is no longer an excuse for missing out on life, when our delusions have gone too far and when we need to smarten up before the World deals us a harsh lesson. Friends, real friends, are the kind who rejoice in our victories. We count on them. To Celebrate. To Commend. To Be Proud. They also give reality checks and bring us back down to earth when we get ahead of ourselves.

Friends, real friends, help us to uncover things that we were not meant to find on our own. Sometimes diligence. Other times passion. Sometimes kindness. Other times persistence. Friends, real friends, are a saving grace in a world that seemingly becomes scarier every single day. Because this world comes with a lot of potential for pain: bullies on the playground, broken hearts on the concrete, broken dreams in the gutters.

Sometimes there are no better words than this to describe a true friend: No matter where you are, in your hometown or a big city, someone, somewhere knows your heart. They know the pieces. They know the stories. They know the struggles. And they choose not to judge you for the mess that you are. Someone, somewhere, carries you in their heart wherever they go. And that will always surpass carrying around a number like “1,700 Facebook friends” or “300 followers.”

Someone, somewhere, never made you a number. An obligation. A project. A chore. They simply made you a friend and, in a world that seemingly requires so much to be happy, it became all you never knew you were even missing in life.

Placing the happy in front of the ending

Things end.

We grow up knowing this. Anything that is good surely cannot last forever. Anything worthwhile and special to us relies on the fact that it has some kind of ending point. An expiration date.

We can convince ourselves that good byes don’t exist and that we can hold time in the palm of our hand and dicate when it will stop and when it will go. But be warned, a sad reality awaits around the corner when another ending comes to sit at our feet.

We need to live with the ending in mind. If I have learned anything in this past semester, more valuable than the papers that I wrote and the lessons that I was taught in the classroom, it is that when we keep the ending in the picture the story line becomes all the more sweeter.

When we keep the ending in mind, we start to think “why not.”

When we keep the ending in mind, we start to say “we should.”

When we keep the ending in mind, we forget the “I will find time later,” or the pushing of people to the back burner.

When we keep the ending in mind, every moment becomes special.

When we keep the ending in mind, we remember that these days are not to be played with, they are to be treasured and used.

Now I dont ask you to treat your life like a story book with your thumb placed on the last page, but I do encourage you to look at the people all around you, today and tomorrow and think about how much you value their presence. What would life be like without them? Would you be the same person? Have they taught you something that you would not have learned otherwise? Do they know this?

We should always be mindful of the fact that we cannot slap timers on peoples’ backs and expect them to stay forever. Life does not work that way. Some endings come when we least expect them.Some endings are known from the beginning.

Either way there is no excuse. There is no excuse for not telling someone how much they mean to us. There is no excuse for not making time for the people that we love. There is no excuse for not building relationships that make saying good bye so hard to do. I have decided that I would much rather have a memorable experience, one that I can hold close to my heart rather than one that I held back from because I knew it would end too soon.

Keep the ending in mind, not because it makes life seem cruel but because it’s there. But dont let the ending get in the way of starting something or letting something grow. The ending should remind us that this moment is sweet and once in a life time. This moment will never be duplicated. We should never take the time we have been given and the people that we have been blessed with for granted.

Forget the clock on the wall.

Go hug your friends. Call your family. Let people know how you really feel.

Things end. Don’t let the fact hinder you, let it remind you of what it really and truly important.

This post has been dedicated to Celia Fox. Today we found our ending point but have already forged a new beginning. Let the world be your playground. You are ready.