Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Naomi

In the fifth grade, I met Naomi.  We were roommates.  I was ten, and I thought she was so mature at eleven.  When I think back, often my memories are of my own emotions, what happened to me, what I endured.  And (in parentheses), I think, “and I had a friend, Naomi.”  

At church on Sunday, the minister gave a sermon on loneliness.  She discussed the difference between being alone and loneliness and the place of both in our lives.  Loneliness she defined as an absence.  Loneliness is a longing for the absent person or thing or way you want it to be.  But being Alone is the full presence of the self, alert, aware and complete.  

My childhood is marked by loneliness.  I longed for my parents.  I longed for my brother and sister.  I longed for my family.  I was alone without the presence of myself.  I was absent.  And I was always longing.

But at night, Naomi would rub my back.  

Naomi and I shared a diary that first year, probably the first in her series of red journals.  We wrote about our lives, shared our feelings, most likely complained about our other roommate.  We were exclusive as only preteen girls can be.  But, a tether was tied between us.

We weren’t always roommates.  We weren’t always in the same dorm or the same school or the same country.  But Naomi became, from that time on, an inextricable part of my life.

It took me years to stop wanting to be just like her and to come alongside her with my whole self.  But by the time we were in high school, we were as intimate as sisters.  

Last night I was talking to Naomi.  We were, as we do, sharing our secrets, telling our stories, being heard by each other.  She’s too far for a back rub now.  Our lives are apart by miles and details.  We don’t share any of the same day-to-day friends or experiences.  We never have coffee.  But we are tethered.

Last night she said that when she thinks of me she pictures me sitting on the floor, hunched over, working on a painting.  

That image has been stuck in my head ever since.  And today, as I was getting heat at physical therapy, it suddenly occurred to me.  Naomi knows me.  Every step of the way, when I remember being alone, I had Naomi.  Every lonely night, missing my family, longing for grace and love and acceptance, I had Naomi.  Every boyfriend.  Every heartbreak.  Every stumble.  Every success.  I have had Naomi.  I can’t be anything but myself with her because she knows too much.  She’s seen all of it.  Naomi is not just my friend.  Naomi has been a presence, a strength, a constant.  She has been the presence of love when I thought I didn’t have it.

And she still is.

Friendship isn’t just someone to talk to in the dark.  The conversations in the dark weave together the fabric of your very existence.  Naomi is woven into my being, an intricate part of who I am, made possible only by her presence.  And she’s there to remind me of who I am when I start to forget.

I started sobbing on the way home today. This immense love has been with me all along.  She’s not perfect, I know that.  But she has loved me.  She has allowed me the space to figure things out.  She has asked just the right questions to get me thinking differently.  She has made me laugh in the soul-quenching depth of myself.  She’s been with me in the dark as we have struggled to figure out how we came to be who we are.  Whenever I am lost, I know I can find my way back because I am tethered to Naomi.

Perhaps it was random chance that the coolest person on earth would be my roommate.  Perhaps she was gifted to me by the divine.  Perhaps we grew that love in a dessert, watering our friendship with tears.  I’ll never know.  But I am grateful.  

Today my soul opens to gratitude like a flower to the sun.  Thank you, for Naomi.





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