I have posted a few (okay, several) times about my abiding sense of awkwardness and loneliness. This was particularly true at last year's UWC reunion. Nonetheless, I felt compelled to go again this year, largely because I wanted to see my first-year roommate, of whom I have fantastic warm memories. I am very glad I went. At the end of the weekend I said goodbye and embraced everyone, relishing the knowledge that twenty years and thousands of miles have not diminished our friendships.
This year has been one of transformation for me. Having begun my personal fitness odyssey, I am no longer as overwhelmingly ashamed of my physical self. I have revisited my priorities, and am working to take care of my emotional health. I have learned to speak in the gibberish of self-help gurus.
Perhaps that's why with this group I didn't feel the need to try so very hard to impress. I was delighted to meet up with my roomie and several other people I really liked then, and still like now. We laughed, we wrote together, we reminisced. There were many hugs. It was good. I also spent time alone, enjoying the beautiful weather and some much-needed solitude. And I danced until my feet ached, joyous in the company of dear friends.
Like last year there were a number of scheduled activities, most of which I skipped this time around. One in which I did participate was a remembrance ceremony. Walking to the garden felt like approaching a funeral, especially when I saw boxes of tissues at the end of each row of folding chairs. Still, there was a certain peacefulness sitting under the pine trees, listening to the low murmur of voices dulled by the wind in the top boughs.
Below the bright blue sky we honored benefactors I never knew, and mourned classmates I wished I'd known better. Mourners spoke of the friendships forged at the school, and the lives changed by them. And, during a passionate speech in which he expressed his gratitude for the school, his now-deceased parents, and the twenty years of students he has taught, a marvelous teacher spoke about how honored he has been to love and be loved his students. One line rang through me like a bell: "it is easy to give love. It is difficult to receive it".
For more than twenty years I have mistrusted most affection I have been offered. Believing that I would be mocked or somehow humiliated if I responded, I practiced diffidence and deflection. I was fine offering myself, giving of myself, but I read sinister intent behind the most casual, unintentional slights. And I have missed out. I I know now that my fear came from a lack of self-worth, and I am trying to change my thinking. I will continue to give. Now I must learn to receive.
This morning I woke from a dream in which I was hurrying to catch a bus for which I was desperately late. Instead of feeling frantic and guilty, though, I grinned and hurried and just managed -- awkwardly dragging a suitcase and stumbling through doors -- to make it on board. I looked around and saw dozens of people I have known (including those I'd just seen at the reunion), all smiling. In the past I would have understood them to be mocking my ineptitude. In my dream, though, as I searched for an open seat, everyone was gesturing eagerly for me to join them. As I flopped down in the nearest available space I laughed, filled with delight at the love and friendships that surrounded me.