Nashville. such a big city in name and such an adventure i could scare imagine before i had really set out. the thought of actually taking a journey and being allowed to really do life with my best friend for an entire week was more than i could comprehend–even in dreamland.
months in advance, after a hurried and excited conversation with a dear friend i found myself tapping out an email to my boss requesting off an entire week from work. surely enough (as i had fully expected) she stopped by later that morning to ask what i was planning to do. i was bursting with excitement in the shenanigans i was planning and about ready to explode so it wasn’t hard to coax the words out of me. very animated, i explained (with numerous hand gestures) about how i was going to Nashville and visiting with my best friend for the first time in two years. “you haven’t seen your best friend in over two years?” my boss questioned skeptically with raised brow. “yes” i breathed, “two very long years indeed.” and that’s kind of a very accurate definition of what has happened with us in the last two years. both of us have grown and changed, moved around, been depressed, experienced incredible joy and multiple deep life-changing instances.
but it was definitely time.
months ago i had fully calculated out the miles and about how much it would cost to drive the 8 hours from Wisconsin to Tennessee. as a surprise out of nowhere, it seemed completely right to me and i questioned of my youngest sister, “would you be interested in taking a road-trip with me?” more surprised than ever she said yes. i grinned and then faltered. though it was becoming more and more real to me daily, still it seemed like a far-off dream, something too elusive to attain.
you see, ever since some traumatic events with close friends in my teen years, i swore i would never get that close to another human being ever again. in my eyes, the laughter and the memories were not worth the pain and the ache that would eventually come because people always leave. that was my bitter mantra that i clung to for a couple empty, aching years after high school and is probably why college was such a nightmare for me. how fitting it should be that the minute i declared something irreparable, God would immediately begin a healing work.
we began as friends from a distance, an email here, a message there. sharing few photos of our lives, but never too much because opening up was too much like bleeding wounds and both of us were afraid, eyes wide open, waiting for something major to happen to convince us that it was okay to hope again. that to be loved by another person was actually possible, that life wasn’t always going to be lonely.
bit by bit and whisper by whisper we slowly chose to share our lives. some days were more challenging and i remember encountering grace for the first time after being ever so certain that unkind words spoken in haste had done damage beyond repair. truly there was something about this girl. how could she really want to be my friend? didn’t she see the emptiness behind my eyes and didn’t she hear my whispers screaming to be loved? how was it possible that i found myself trusting and crossing borders i had set up for myself?
was i really learning to love again?
fast forward a few years, hundreds of tears and numerous phone calls later… and there i was, sitting in the passenger seat of my baby sister’s car, blinking at the GPS on my phone. “ETA: 15 minutes” wait. no. seriously? wasn’t this an 8 hour drive? where did the time go?? why was i suddenly so nervous and why am i holding my breath?
“Liz!” my sister sharply interrupted.
“…yes?” i stammered.
“are you sleeping over there? what did the GPS just say, am i supposed to turn at this exit or not?”
snapped back to reality, i figured i would just push the fear and anxiety aside for the time being. it was easy enough to ignore the immense pounding of my heartbeat, it’s not like anyone but me could hear it anyway. so as we turned into the exit of the apartment complex (yes my sister is a bright one sometimes) i kept staring ahead, eyes barely blinking and breath caught in my chest.
after all of the dreaming and hoping and wishing that i could be with my best friend….i was actually here. and not only that but i was meeting her husband for the first time. would he like me? would it be super awkward? i had fully prepared to get a hotel room if necessary, a secret fall-back plan that i didn’t mention to anyone, not even my sister. so many worries and fears that i had pushed away or hidden at the back of my mind were suddenly and violently rising into my chest where it seemed as though a helium balloon was being inflated making it challenging to inhale properly.
“okay” i breathed, “i texted Mary that we’re here and asked her to come outside. i figure we’ll see her before she sees us which gives me a few moments to compose myself.”
“huh?” my sister muttered, totally distracted by something in her purse.
“um…nevermind..oh! there she is!” i exclaimed as the tall, thin blonde frame i knew so well emerged from an entryway.
“well are you getting out?” my sister probed.
“oh! right!” and i extracted myself from the vehicle more swiftly than i expected (no seriously i’m a klutz!) and just stood there for a minute, waiting for her to notice. immediately she did and in what seemed like two incredibly large steps, we were less than 6 inches apart and i could tell she was shaking too.
looking up into my favorite, clear, blue eyes i whispered, “why are you scared too?” at which point she wrapped her arms around me in a hug and i quickly reciprocated. neither one of us cared that we were in the middle of a parking lot or that two other people who didn’t know each other at all were hanging back waiting for introductions.
it had been two freaking years and sometimes you just need a hug.
“keep your eyes open where you roam,
because you never know,
when your life’s about to change”
-the rocket summer