My phone rang this week, and for once, it wasn’t my kids or my husband or my mother or my carpool partner or my in laws or one of those pre-recorded doctor’s appointment confirmation messages.
“Hey Lisa, what have you been up to?” she asked. I was dumbfounded. I had not received a purely social call in months — it was as if I had forgotten what to do. My mind raced as I tried to remember how to engage in idle chit chat.
Why on earth is she calling me? I thought. I mean, we only know each other because our husbands work together, and besides, I’m new here, but she’s lived here for years. She has plenty of other friends to call . . . there must be some problem.
“Oh, you know, the usual . . . busy, busy, busy!” I lied, waiting for her to ask to borrow money, or give her a ride to the airport, or buy overpriced candles for her son’s baseball team fundraiser.
“Well, listen, I really need some exercise… would you like to go on a power walk or something?”
You’d have thought I was a double winner on the Price is Right Showcase Showdown by the way I reacted.
“Really?! Yes! I would love to! What time?! Where do you want me to meet you?! I’ll go anywhere! I already have work out clothes on, so I am ready to go whenever you are, so just say the word and…”
“Nine-fifteen at the Park and Ride lot on Wonderwood Drive,” she interrupted my pathetic ramble.
“You got it!”
I arrived twenty minutes early, and sat desperately waiting to spot her mini van. When she arrived, I bolted from my car as if it had burst into flames.
“Hi!” I yelled and waved across the parking lot, startling her out of her morning haze. For the next hour, we did what housewives do so well – analyzed, pondered, proclaimed, opined, pontificated, empathized, chastised, gossiped and even listened a little bit, all under the guise of exercise. I thoroughly enjoyed myself.
Back in the parking lot, my new friend suggested that we make the outing our new Thursday routine. I eagerly agreed, and nearly skipped back to my car with a goofy grin.
On the drive home, I thought, Finally, a real friend. I can’t wait for next Thursday. Boy, I wish we could meet Tuesdays and Thursdays. But maybe that’s too much. I don’t want to scare her away. Hmmm. Come to think of it, maybe I did come on too strong. I don’t remember listening all that much, actually. I think I did most of the talking. Why do I always do that? She was probably wondering whether I’d ever shut up. I’ll bet she will call and cancel next week because she thinks I’m an annoying blabbermouth….
I pulled into my driveway, put the car in park, and looked at myself in the rear view mirror. Not only did I realize that, on the walk, my bangs had fallen into that unflattering middle part that made my face look like a full moon, it also occurred to me that this had all happened before.
Suddenly overwhelmed with that bizarre déjà vu sensation, I tried to recollect the past. It didn’t take long for me to recognize that the internal conversation I just had with myself was the same one I had in 2008, 1998, 1996, 1994 and 1993 – basically, every time the military has ordered us to move.
After every move, I busy myself with setting up our new life – new house, new schools, new doctors, new dentists, new music teachers, new gym, new church, new pizza place, new routines — a daunting task which keeps me occupied for several months. But once the new routines are in place, there’s nothing left to do except live.
I don’t care whether you live in Poughkeepsie or Prague, boredom eventually sets in. You find yourself dawdling on the internet, throwing dinner together last minute, ignoring housework, and eating too much. You put on work out clothes every day, but never make it to the gym. You call your husband at work even though you know he can’t chat. You write long e-mails to friends from the past who are too preoccupied to write back. Even your own mother tries to get off the phone when you call, and your last resort, the family dog, has no good gossip to share.
You are bored out of your mind.
As I fixed my bangs in the rear view mirror, I remembered the story of Christopher McCandless, a young man who disappeared “Into the Wild” (the name of the book by Jon Krakauer) to live free from obligations and relationships. After spending over three months utterly alone, he finally realized that he had been wrong about life all along. Days before he died of starvation trying to make it back out of the wild, he wrote “Happiness is only real if shared.”
Remembering the quote helped me understand why I always get a little pathetic every time we move, and although I’m in no danger of starving anytime soon (quite the contrary in fact,) I realized that everyone needs a good friend or two to nourish the soul.