My first day of yoga teacher training was more like my first day of elementary school. We got into a circle, we said our names and we found our friends. Or our future friends found us.
I was pretty nervous for the training. I mean I wasn't that good at yoga and I hadn't been doing it that long. Who did I think I was signing up for teacher training? These thoughts paired with too many caffeinated beverages meant sweaty palms, a beet red face and a hummingbird heart.
"Hi, I'm Mary Beth LaRue and I'm very excited to be here," I choked out.
A gorgeous red head across the circle looked me straight in the eyes and loudly declared, "We are going to be friends."
Enter Lindsay Jean Thomson.
Our first friend date was to a Potbelly's down the street from the magazine where I worked in Washington DC. We inhaled two huge ice cream sandwiches (the kind with a whole chocolate chip cookie on either side) and got "related." Soon after that we were cruising around the city on my Vespa, hitting up tons of live music, going to jazz on the mall and drinking a lot of wine. We were both twenty four and the world was our oyster.
Washington DC had been a tough transition for me. I didn't feel like myself. I missed Iowa. I missed my family. I missed who I was in Iowa and was confused by who I was showing up as in DC. It always seemed like I was playing dress up or faking it and that I'd much rather be in bed with a book or in my favorite coffee shop scribbling in my Moleskine. Lucky for me, Lindsay had the same introverted heart and for once I met someone who "got it." I could speak what I was feeling without being judged. I could belly laugh and know that laugh would be reciprocated.
Our friendship stayed strong even after Linds moved across the country to San Francisco. I soon followed behind moving to Santa Monica, a few hours south. We didn't see each other a lot but when we did it always an adventure, whether we were exploring, laughing, beer drinking, even a bit of arguing.
And about that arguing. Though we had similar hearts we each had a trait that could pit us against the other. Lindsay is quite stubborn and I'm rather defensive. Are these traits that define us? Absolutely not. But they are certainly things that come out with the ego starts to flare.
We've had many moments over the past ten years that have been tough and most notably the past few years that we've hardly seen one another and hardly talked. We've kept in touch through a text message here or there, a brunch date when she's in town, but things had changed. We'd had a big falling out after my wedding when I didn't plan well and missed her birthday party. This was really important to Lindsay and I knew that and I let her down. Sure, in the grand scheme of things it's small but at that exact moment we both thought "You want to hurt me and I'm closing off." So we did. And by doing that we lost a few years of memories, laughs and learnings.
A couple of months ago I saw I had a voicemail from Lindsay. I sat that it was more than a minute long and I just knew. I knew in my body in that moment that something wasn't right. I called her back immediately.
This time she was the one to choke out the words: I have breast cancer.
What? How could this even be slightly possible?
She's only 33. She eats organic everything. She doesn't even get a zit. I'm positive she uses organic deodorant. Cancer doesn't run in her family.
I do not understand, God. I really, really don't.
Suddenly it became crystal clear what I had missed out on by letting my ego get in the way the last couple of years. Sometimes grace is a quiet, sweet reminder and other times it's a massive slap in the face.
I wanted to be there for her but I knew that there were other people who loved her a lot and I should let them be there for her as they had been. I called. I wrote notes. I sent gifts. And then I asked if I could come see her.
Just a few days ago I stepped off a plane and once again felt a lot of the same feelings as the day I first met her. Sweaty palms, a bit of a red face and a hummingbird heart.
"Does she want me here? Have I overstepped?"
Then there she was, standing outside the airport, with her arms outstretched, her smile wide.
And just like that, we let each other back in.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
"I do not at all understand the mystery of grace–only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us." / Anne Lamott
Read about Lindsay's journey here.