I felt like she just "got" me.
And believe me there is no greater feeling in the world than the feel of "gotten."
~Rob Reiner, The Story of Us
When we drove into our campsite in Big Sur State Campground this August, first order of business was to stop by the site of our friends Lorene and Oceana, a mother-daughter camping team with whom we had made friends the year before. Camping is not unlike the first few weeks of dorm living in college. You get to know people well and quickly. (Having no walls and seeing each other cooking breakfast in pajamas is part of it.)
We had kept in touch with Lorene since last summer via texting and facebook, and when she brought her daughter down to SoCal over Christmas break, we had a great day at the beach and sushi dinner together. They had been enamoured with our "Four S'mores" sign which we hang in our campsite every year, and so I had made them one that said "The Happy Campers."
When Lorene came into our campground as we were unpacking our overloaded car, she gave me the once over. And with a penetrating and rapid assessment, she got down to the heart of how I'd been and currently was with a characteristic astuteness that I both love and am disconcerted by. In a moment, she saw that I had lost weight and was strung out psychologically. Two minutes later, I'd given her the rundown of the last three weeks of chaos, and the transition and busyness that I was planning to return to when the week in Big Sur was over. That was it. Three minutes, and Lorene knew right where I was coming from and what I needed for the next six days: rest, restoration, and adventure.
She gets me. I love it when someone gets me. And I think Lorene would say the "getting" is mutual.
My friend (I should say "our friend" because she gets Jeff, too) and I have different lives. I went a very traditional route: college, marriage, career, then kids. I have never lived outside of my home state of California, and I currently live in the same southern CA county I was raised in. Lorene, on the other hand, is a single mother, currently balancing work and school; she's a Zumba instructor and studying for an advanced degree in holistic health. She speaks fluent Spanish, and once spent a year living on the beach in Costa Rica with her daughter; they are currently living in Maui while she does an internship.
Our friendship, lived out intensely in two weeks over two years, has had a lot of influence on me.
Lorene observed during our week, for example, that Sophia is a very time-conscious child. While Oceana would say, "I'll meet you a little later and we'll skateboard," Sophia would try to pin her down: "In 15 minutes or 30?" Oceana, who is Sophia's age, barely knows how to tell time, while Sophia, raised by her extremely efficient and "productive" mother, likes to map out her days in 30-minute increments. Neither approach is wrong, but a fresh perspective born out of the camping experience and our relationship with the Happy Campers is... our family could perhaps use some loosening up.
A week after we got home, I received a text from Lorene. I don't remember why she sent it, but I have thought about it dozens of times since. It said something about how much alike Olivia and I are and that she is "like your heart walking around outside of your body." I have always thought that my eldest Sophia is the child most like me (which is why we often butt heads), but Lorene observed something in our family dynamic that I hadn't seen; meditating on it for a month or so, I see the truth in what she said.
In our beloved Big Sur, a river runs through the campground, and if you follow it upstream far enough, you come to a gorge where there is a deep pool and a high rock for jumping into the frigid water. This was the first year we made it that far up, as it requires a bit of water wading and rock climbing which we couldn't accomplish with Olivia as a toddler. All but Olivia took turns jumping from the rock this year, including Lorene and Oceana; and it was Lorene who skillfully empowered Sophia to literally take the plunge after she'd stood staring down at the water for almost 10 minutes.
But what I will most remember from this year's trip is an adventure Lorene and I had even further up the gorge. First, we swam a deep canyon, then picked our way up rocks and logs to where the river comes down in a series of small waterfalls. (If you look closely, you will see me under the log, above, at the beginning of our journey.) There was no final destination, no way of knowing when we had "accomplished" a goal in this part of the river. There was only the immense fun of finding new ways to get higher and higher, alternatively swimming and climbing, dunking our heads into new waterfalls, sitting atop rocks for new views.
In the last eight years, my adventures have been of a particular kind, like navigating Disneyland with a breastfeeding cover and a diaper bag; or sleeping in tents with toddlers; or dining out with two moms and five children. All intrepid and bold endeavors, to be sure. But my life as a mom of small children, among other mothers of tiny children, is short on adventures of the rock climbing and frigid-river forging variety. And so being with Lorene, a mother of a nine year old who lives a life of adventure, is as refreshing as diving into a salty wave (another thing I hope we will do together, as both our daughters are learning to surf). I rediscover a side of myself with her that was in danger of being lost.
Over the last few weeks, I have spoken to several mom's groups in Orange County about the importance of having a network of safe friends -- not just a single safe friend. As Bruce Willis' character in The Story of Us says (quotation above), there is not a greater feeling than the feel of "gotten." And because we are all complex beings, we need to be gotten by more than one person, I believe. No one, other than the Creator who made us, can accurately see the wholeness of who we are; it takes lots of different people to reflect back to us a true image of ourselves, and even more so to encourage us to become a fuller version of ourselves. Proverbs 24:5 says, "in multiple counselors is wisdom." I think, in multiple mirrors of many safe friends, we see a clearer picture of who we are.
So I'm grateful to Lorene, one of my favorite mirrors. See you in August, my friend.