I was in my early twenties the very first time I looked around a room and felt like I was “the adult.” It was closing time at my favorite café, and there were a handful of older teens outside, smoking weed and getting rowdy, and showing no signs of moving along. The young woman closing up shop was a friend of my sister’s, and I could tell she was uncomfortable with the idea of being left alone, with them right outside. I asked if she wanted me to stay, she said yes, and just like that I felt braver. I knew there wasn’t much I could do if they actually tried to cause trouble, but there is safety in numbers, and comfort in togetherness.
More than a decade later, as I was driving home from work my phone buzzed with an emergency alert, a tornado warning, indicating that a storm was imminent. I didn’t live close by at the time, so I wound up at Susie’s apartment. Susie had just gotten engaged a few days prior to a young man from California, and with the excitement of it I had been in “Susie mode” all week, but hadn’t really had a chance to connect with her. Meanwhile, her fiancé had returned home, and she was thinking about how much it sucked that she would have to wait through a tornado warning by herself just days after getting engaged.
Each of us was happy to have the other there, and we had a great time huddling together, listening to the wind, telling favorite storm stories, and discussing whether ball lightning was real. It was an unlikely chance to connect. If a tornado came after us, there wasn’t much either of us could do to protect the other, but there is safety in numbers, and comfort in togetherness.
When you consider the acute fears people all over the world must face, it makes most of our fears seem silly, and yet, they feel so real in the moment. For most of us, the day-to-day gnawing fears that creep up on us are subtle, and we’re blessed that this is so, and yet, it’s so easy to give them the run of the house. Most days, it’s not storms or crime or looming medical diagnoses that get us, it’s the mundane wondering whether we’re doing the right thing, whether we’re making good decisions, whether everything will be OK. Then we worry about our nearest and dearest, for all the same reasons and perhaps more, because we feel we have no control, so we offer up our worry on their behalf. These are the things that really make me want to go find one of my people so I can hug and be hugged. I am blessed with a handful of friends to whom I can come as I am without needing to edit. It is rare to find people who are willing to come close and get involved, especially when things are messy. It is even more rare to find someone who will not let you sink. The friends who really see us, who help us navigate through our tangled emotions, who give us perspective. When we feel like we’re sinking below the waves, they rise above and point us to the horizon. They help us find solid ground. This is the kind of friend I want to be.
The thought came to me a while ago, “we’re not asking the right questions.” It was a general thought, and I’ve found it to be applicable in many arenas of life. I think learning to ask the right questions is one of the hardest skills to learn because there is no black or white. It is entirely situational. Here’s what I will tell you, though: The questions are not rhetorical. I’m still learning to ask meaningful questions and truly listen to the answers, but if I ask, I really want to know, because there is safety in numbers, and comfort in togetherness.
So let me ask, what’s on your mind?
(It’s not rhetorical)