January 17, 2014

Friendships are the Touchstones of Our Lives.

I woke up this morning and was nervous to meet an old friend whom I had not seen in over 20 years.

We were great friends in high school. He lived in another city, but we met every year on the same island where our families vacationed. We were always “just friends” and he is happily married, so I didn’t have to worry about weirdness that way.

But, you just sort of wonder.

Will there be anything to talk about?

Will I regret reaching out and just stare at the time on my iPhone waiting until our visit is over?

I started to wish that I had set up a plan like Jennifer Aniston in “The Break Up” when she told her friend to call her half way through her date “just in case” it was not going well. However, I did not have time, nor the foresight to put any such plans into place. So I put on my skinny jeans, my new black boots, my sister’s borrowed black sweater and I headed out the door.

Here is the strange thing.

When I woke up in the morning the word “touchstone” flashed in my head out of nowhere. Really, out of nowhere. I was not thinking about anything that remotely had to do with touchstones so I thought I would break out my iPhone and Google the definition. I could not believe what the word meant when I read it.

Touchstone: (n) An excellent quality or example that is used to test the excellence or genuineness of others.

I couldn’t help but wonder if our visit this morning had to do with the word “touchstone.”

The Starbucks we were meeting at was only two blocks from my sister’s house, so I contemplated all that was spinning in my head as I walked down the alley and headed one block down the street. I felt nervous. I checked my Facebook account while I was walking because I didn’t want to look up and seem too anxious.

Thank goodness I didn’t trip and fall while I was walking with my head down in my phone.

I finally arrived outside the door and scanned to see if he was there. I was actually relieved to see he wasn’t. For some reason I was nervous about having small talk while I ordered my tall Eggnog Misto Americano. Luckily for me I was able to order my favourite Christmas drink in peace and I even broke down and got a molasses cookie as well. I looked around the cafe for the best place to sit to have a visit with someone whom you haven’t seen in 20 years and nothing was jumping out at me. There were only tables and chairs, no comfy couches, no recliners.

I felt my heart sink. Not one place looked like it would facilitate a great visit. I finally settled in on a table and set of chairs in the corner, close to the window.

A lady soon came up to me and asked if someone was going to be sitting in the chair on the other side of my table. It sort of took me off guard and felt a little invasive. I wanted to reply, “Yes, someone is going to be sitting with me and I’m already nervous about it, so please don’t add to my stress.” But I politely kept my mouth shut while she and her two friends infringed on my introverted “personal space bubble.” I knew this would not be the right place for our reunion. I said “Forget it,” got up out of my seat and headed out the door.

This particular Starbucks is right on the ocean. Even though it was a chilly day, I decided to go wait outside for my friend. I was instantly calmed watching the ferries sail in and out of the terminal on their way to distant shores. I was only sitting there for about four minutes when I heard, “Noodle!” For some reason that was my nickname in high school; I guess because I’m tall.

I was relieved to have the initial greeting over with and it was so good to see my friend.

I explained to him all the interworkings of the seating drama in Starbucks and we both agreed it was best to go have breakfast across the street. It did not take long before we were laughing and sharing. It was like no time had passed. I was actually surprised how we were able to banter back and forth; like a great, long lasting ping pong game. We talked about our life and what we had been through over the past 20 years.

One breakfast certainly was not enough to catch up, but it’s affect was undeniable.

Spending time with my friend reminded me of who “I” was. He reminded me of my innocence; my strengths. He helped me connect back to the “intrinsic me.”

The me without life stress.

The me without pain.

The me without walls.

I felt alive remembering the times we had shared dancing on the sundeck at his cabin or talking on the wharf as the ocean lapped up on the pilings beneath us. Just meeting him for this breakfast brought me back to a true sense of “who” I am meant to be.

I had a smile on my face as I walked away and said goodbye to my friend.

It was a good meeting and then the word flashed in my head again,”Touchstone.” It all made sense. He was part of my touchstone. This authentic, stain free friendship was to be one of my touchstones in life. It was as though something divine was saying, “This is who you are. The way he remembers you is the real you. Don’t let that go. Hold on to it like you are holding on for dear life.”

There are many people who come and go in our lifetime, but if we are lucky enough to get a handful of friends who are our true “touchstones,” they will help guide us on our journey to becoming our best authentic selves.

“Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.” ~ Anais Nin

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Assistant Editor: Alicia Wozniak/Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: elephant journal archives

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