I’m writing from the car as we drive from central Pennsylvania towards Chicago, making the rounds of our friends on our way back across the country.
We’ve become masters of the drive-by visit and I have to say, it’s not a particularly satisfying accomplishment.
It took us five long days of driving to get from Seattle to New Hampshire in time to celebrate Justin’s parents’ 50th wedding anniversary. From there, we raced up to Maine where Justin continued on with a friend to run the 100 Mile Wilderness section of the Appalachian Trail (a feat the two of them have been planning for nearly a year…a self-supported 100-mile trail run is no joke, my friends!) and I remained in the greater Portland area to do some photo shoots.
I tried to squeeze in some visit time with friends between shoots. There was a long walk with one friend and a lovely brunch with another, time I cherished even as I longed for far more of it. Justin ended up stealing an hour with an old neighbor, but his run took up the bulk of his time in Maine and the days ran out long before we’d seen everyone we would have liked to.
And then it was another fly-by of his folks in New Hampshire for a quick 10-hour overnight and we were once more in the car, headed west again.
We are feeling the cost of our lifestyle on our friendships this visit. The combination of too little time and too many people to try to see and the exhaustion that comes with both the travel and my introverted soul not getting enough alone time to recover between interactions, has led to some strain in certain relationships.
I suppose this is to be expected. And I suppose I can understand it.
But it still comes as a tiny bit of a shock sometimes, I have to admit. When a friend that Justin values tremendously, and who he’d actually invited to do the run as well, sent a text message the morning of Justin’s parents’ party that was a harsh criticism of the effort Justin has put into their friendship (or, what was perceived as his lack thereof), we were both taken by surprise and still haven’t quite processed what to do with it.
There is guilt and apology, but also, I must admit, some hurt.
It is tempting to defend ourselves in the face of the criticism, to try to explain our decisions about our time and obligations. I don’t know if it matters, though, because there are two seemingly contradictory facts that must be faced:
Our intentions don’t really count- we must take responsibility for the actual impact of our decisions regardless of what we intended.
Everyone deserves some room for grace- we should be as generous as possible in how we receive the actions of others and as empathic as we can be about their motivations.
And so we’ll apologize for the hurt we inflicted, and assume that the criticism comes from a place of caring and desire for friendship, and we’ll try to accommodate this friendship differently in the future.
But I have to say that it makes me even more grateful to the many friends who have given us some of that grace. The ones who have understood and gone out of their way to make our time together easy in some way. Even when it has been as simple as making time for a long walk or a too-short brunch or driving a little out of their way so that we could spend just a little less time running around.
When we arrive in New England, we have an entire community of people that we want to connect to face-to-face, and often mere days to do it, often sprinkled with work and family obligations that are the reason we’ve come east in the first place. It’s not ideal. It always feels too short and like we weren’t able to be the friends we want to be. It’s been a huge cost to this mobile life.
But it’s also been a gift.
Some of our friends have been so very generous in so many ways, not only giving us a huge amount of grace, but also going out of their way to be understanding, to make life easier while we’re there, to actively support us. And to these friends, we feel a tremulous debt of deep gratitude.
These are the friends that have made us feel seen and valued, even when we are imperfect and flawed and don’t live up to our ideal of the kind of friends we wish to be.
And who inspire me to work harder every day to do the same, to make whatever efforts I can to approach others with greater understanding and compassion.
With plenty of room for grace.
A few shots from up at our land in the Cascades, taken before we left last month…looking forward to some unplugged days there soon!