My Tribe and the Things They Carry

You should know July was a rough month. I said no to several things and spent an inordinate amount of time watching television, something I typically don’t do. I’d slouched so deep into the chair in our bedroom that I started developing a backache. I felt sad in my mind and lazy in my body, yet I continued. I need this rest, I told myself. I need this time to do nothing.

And yet, something wasn’t right. One night on the phone with a dear friend from college, I started to cry and say, “I don’t know why I feel like this. I’m not sure why I’m crying but I feel so sad.” Taking a risk, he suggested I had retreated too far into my rest, that maybe I was doing too little and therefore felt no purpose. He knows me well, which means he knows that much of my self-worth is tied up in what I do. I went to bed that night considering what he said and woke up the next morning to realize he was dead right. I had rested too much and retreated too far.

My birthday was the following week, which meant we were just two weeks away from starting the new school year. I decided to get out of that chair and get to work. Sure enough, by the following weekend, I felt better. Purpose had returned and my brain was a little clearer. Indeed there is such a thing as too much down time.

In between my birthday and the start of the school year was a special weekend in Chattanooga. I gathered my oldest girlfriends together for a short stay at a rental house. These women have been in my life for more than half my life and have been present for all the important things. We each needed a reprieve from the daily dregs, so we had one last hurrah before the school year started.

The weekend was restorative for me – a time of total abandon. We laid around in our pajamas and ate a lot of cheese. We talked about all the things that troubled us or made us laugh or gave us pause. I swear to you – no time spent with friends is wasted.

(I had lunch with Kathryn on my way out of town and I so regret not grabbing a photo with her!)

We started school the week of August 16, and almost nothing about it went smoothly. In fact, almost nothing about this semester so far looks the way I thought it would back in April! You’d think I’d remember 2020 a little more clearly, the year that embodied “Expect the Unexpected.”

Classes are mostly going well, but I’ve hit an emotional road bump I wasn’t anticipating. As the month started turning from August to September, I spontaneously time-traveled back to this time last year when we took Dad to an appointment to discuss his progress post-treatment. Not only were there no more treatment options, it appeared as if Dad had suffered another stroke.

So, in a matter of minutes, we had a double-whammy. Dad was released into hospice care and told to go to the ER right away. Thus began a long weekend at UT Medical Center and the unforeseen countdown to losing him on September 10.

I’ve gone over the timeline repeatedly, and when I wasn’t sure what thing came next, I’ve gone back into the group texts I shared with the same ladies in the photos above. I read through them two days ago and cried and cried.

This is only a smattering things I texted my tribe over those 14 days, not to mention the months of texts prior to that. All of this started in December 2019, so for reasons of convenience I started the group text. Over time, it morphed into the place where I just typed whatever I was feeling at the time – good, bad, or indifferent. I cannot measure what their friendship and support has meant to me.

Tomorrow is September, and that means we’re ten days away from a year without Dad. Still, after all this time, I cannot believe it.

Despite the deep sorrow I feel, I am not blind to the good fortune and blessing right in front me – these strong, smart, amazing women and their friendship I’ve been so lucky to have. They’ve carried me through this year – together with Chuck, because God Love That Man. There is no way to repay that kind of loyalty. I only know that this year was my turn, and one year it will be their turn, because that’s how love works.

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