“You see, I’m simply not a big enough person to introduce you,” I said. “Sorry.”
My days are seldom over before I have scribed a missive to a woman in New York whom I have never met. It’s been going on for neigh-on eighteen months, now, this thousand-words-daily routine. I’ll fight with somebody and resolve not to confront the issue until I’ve sounded it out with her. I’ll be walking through Indian markets or Russian snow or Derbyshire hills and reflect, I must tell her that. She’d understand. Good things aren’t as real until I’ve shared them; bad things not as manageable until explained.
This stranger, this woman whom I have never met, is one of my closet, most valued, friends. And yet, I do not know the sound of her laugh or the way she greets the barman. I don’t know if she stands for pregnant women on the tube (I presume, of course, that she does), nor how quickly her mood can change if she gets caught in the rain, or the deli has run out of her favourite snack. I don’t even know what her favourite snack is.
What I do know is what she dreams of; of what sticks with her and how she rises to the challenge of her intuition. I know about her job and her co-workers and her brother and parents and reliability and forthrightness. We share quotes and links, sometimes, but mostly simply address what it takes for us to get through our days. The better ones. The troublesome ones. The ones that we might otherwise forget.
When my old friend in Manhattan said he’d downloaded her new ebook on the back of my recommendation, that he’d love to meet her, that she is so very talented, I said yes, she is remarkable, and no, he couldn’t meet her. That he doesn’t get to do that. He doesn’t get to coffee across a table with my pen friend when I am yet to be afforded that luxury, because, quite simply, it isn’t fair. I’ve spent almost two years building a friendship yet to be consummated? Is that word? that doesn’t sound right, and I am fiercely protective of that. I don’t know if it is right, or wrong – it just is. I do not want to share something easily, when it has been so hard-fought for and worked for by her and I both, over several books’ worth of silent exchanges. To do so would cheapen it.
I feel how I feel.
She was kind, when I told her. Because, it’s exactly the kind of thing I would talk to her about. About the guilt over not wanting two of my buddies to meet. She said the word integrity. That our friendship has integrity, and that’s what it is: the effort it takes to stay in communication with another – no texts, or WhatsApp, no Skype or Snapchat, just day-on-day commitment to check in through thoughtfully-crafted letters. To see how the other is doing. To say, hello. Today I will be your witness. I see you.
Brené Brown said something about how social media makes us think we should all have this sprawling posse of friends, when in reality if you have two or three really good ones, that is enough. Meg’s friendship is testament to the truth of that. It floors me, really, that it was my good fortune she should email on the first day of April last year to say: hey you, keep doing what it is you do.
Me?! I replied, or an approximation thereof. YOU! YOU KEEP ON!!!!!
What Meg and I dissect is the goodness of others and the deservedness of us and the rightness of our rocky, beautiful, frustrating paths. We talk about doing the work and getting dirt under the fingernails in the trenches of real life, about hanging out in the room of love. Being love itself.
Meg holds me accountable to myself – to being my rawest, most authentic, honest and kind version – through her example. When I first discovered her blog I felt that, too: that by definition of having read her journey, and the everyday courage it takes to keep putting one foot in front of the other, I was implicated. Because she shared her story, I was inherently tasked as her reader with treating my own with the same loving scrutiny. What’s remarkable is that Meg has me feel like not only that I can do this, but that I must.
In a world of “U OK HUN?” blue messages, and empty promises on commuter train platforms, a friendship like ours – one to be truly invested in with the thing that matters most of all, time - is a rare one indeed. Even if we haven't actually met. Especially because we haven't.