Reaching Out — — One to One
by Neal Lemery
(published in the Tillamook County Pioneer, 1/8/2022)
I like the quiet of January. All the holiday activity ends, the decorations are put away, and the social calendar slows to almost nothing. There is clean, empty space, not only at home but in my life. It is time to breathe.
It is a time to be quiet, to connect with a friend, to have time for those serious and deep conversations that live deep in our hearts, to say what needs to be said and to put life in perspective.
The last few weeks have been marked by those quiet, almost sacred moments with someone close, to give some thinking time to a recent experience, or just getting to know myself better.
A friend who’d moved away a year ago unexpectedly showed up at a coffee shop where I catching up with another friend. He crashed my time with my other friend, yet he clearly needed to talk. Moving and retiring from a long, demanding career had been hard for him, giving him a much-needed space to rest and to find himself. No longer identified by his job and his responsibilities, he was reconnecting with his wife and finding that he was enjoying life and putting together a new way of living. He was discovering he liked himself, that he enjoyed his friends, and he had a new purpose.
I listened, giving him space and time, being a friend. He needed to vent, to simply be heard. My time was a good present to offer him.
A while ago, I picked up a young man getting out of prison. He was making that life-changing drive from a prison cell to a half-way house. Two years “inside” had nearly snuffed out his soul. It was a long drive through beautiful, wide-open country with no bars or walls.
We talked of many things, me trying to be quiet, to listen to someone who hadn’t had many people listen to him throughout his life.
We spotted a cormorant on a riverbank, drying its wings in the sunshine. He’d never seen a cormorant before and didn’t know about their lives. We talked about freedom then, the freedom to fly, to fish on the river. Comfortable silences filled the rest of our trip, both of us finding our friendship quiet and easy. I thought of the healing power of solitude and nature, and the simple joy of sharing an experience with a friend.
I recently reconnected with a good friend, who reached out to me after one of her dear friends died by suicide. She had deep pain, and I was the ear she had sought. I listened; we cried. I gave the gift of listening, of not judging her friend, not advising her how to grieve, of not assuming or condemning. I held space for her, and acknowledged her pain.
We reconnected after the funeral, she wanting to talk about death and life and the hereafter, the messy mystery of what she was feeling and not easily understanding. I gave her time and permission to feel.
These quiet one on one conversations go both ways. Often, I need to be the talker and a friend be the listener. And, sometimes, it’s looking at the stars or the waves on the beach, or picking my guitar all by myself, but knowing I’m not really alone.
I’m hoping I always have the time to reach out, or be the friend with the ready and willing ear and simply be there.
Other Stories from Neal