Ivana and I do this thing. We’ve done it for years, especially since Josh and I moved to Texas and she and Ryan moved to South Carolina. It’s where in lieu of an actual conversation on the phone, we leave each other long messages. I mean, long. In fact, we fill up the entire 4-minute message capacity and then call back, sometimes twice, for a total of almost 12 minutes. Once I even left her 4. (But I thought she might kill me if I ever did it again, so to date, I haven’t. She does have two babies to tend to and all…) And if either of us ever happens to actually pick up the phone, a rare occurrence, we freak out a bit and tell her to hang up immediately and NOT answer when we call right back!
It’s our thing. And we do it well. No one really gets it but us. We’re introverts, we’re artistic personality types, we don’t enjoy long, awkward phone conversations with anyone, even each other…so we leave messages. It works for us.
Recently she left me a wonderful 1st message commenting on my blog, and life, and the world at large…but I could hear something else behind her voice she wasn’t saying. Then came message 2, again full of updates and thoughts and current books she’s reading…and then a minute or so in, she spilled. She said she was attempting to be shallow and keep things on the surface level, and then she paused, “…but let’s be real…let me tell you what’s really going on in my heart…”
My ears perked up. A silly grin spread across my face. My heart warmed.
There she is. The girl I adore, my forever friend, my Ivana.
She went on to share her frustrations and concerns, the things she’s working thru in her heart. It only took another minute or so, but in that moment she didn’t feel the literal thousand miles away, she felt a breath away. As far as I was concerned she might as well have been sitting in my living room sipping a hot vanilla chai. I could see her face, her blue eyes. I could peer into her heart.
Authentic relationships. Real relationships. Inspiring relationships, the ones that stir your soul and point you towards greatness again and again. They’re worth fight for, and boy do I.
Ivana can tell you we’ve had a few screaming matches. We’ve hurt each other, offended each other. Once I even blatantly walked out of a room and slammed a door while she sat sobbing. We’ve shared secrets and fears, all of our worst possible thoughts about being wives and mothers. We’ve disagreed, we’ve argued, we’ve even yelled at each other’s husbands more than once and then gotten upset at each other for doing so.
It’s a real relationship.
We’ve certainly grown and matured over the years beyond a lot of our early adulthood stupidity and opinions, but the secret to our success is simple: We keep fighting.
We keep reaching out, forgiving each other again and again. We keep reminding each other that we’re understood, that expectations within the context of relationship suck, and that we’re loved and celebrated every single day, if only by each other. We offer one another a safe place to say all the truly terrible things we fear saying out loud to anyone else, a place where judgment really is nonexistent, miraculously. We make the other laugh, especially when we most need it. We tell each other the truth, particularly when we don’t believe it. And we force ourselves over and over and over again, beyond the thin veil that separates shallow conversation from life-altering truth, the kind that requires prayer and thought and deep, scary, raw honesty. The kind that requires bravery.
And when we make it, sometimes by tiptoe or sometimes a brazen stomp that rips right thru the veil without a backward glance, we celebrate. She cheers, I clap, we let out sighs of relief and victory, perhaps a nervous, thankful giggle. And then most importantly, in the silence that follows, we whisper to one another one more time…don’t stop telling the truth. Don’t stop baring your soul. Because it helps me. In every way you cannot understand and in every way you do, it helps me. Keeping fighting for me, and I will keep fighting for you. We’ll do it together.
I fight for the people I love. And without question or exception, that means fighting with them. In recent weeks I’ve had difficult, gut-wrenching conversations with just about everyone close to me. Choking, fear-laden conversations that have forced me to gasp for breath out of sheer terror I’d walk away without them, having been rejected at the very soul-level. It’s required a lot of truth telling, a lot of second or third or forty-fifth chances and leaps of faith. But I believe it’s worth it. I’ve offended people, I’ve been wounded, I’ve told the truth equally about both the beauty and ugliness of my heart. I’ve apologized, they’ve apologized, I’ve cried and over-analyzed and felt entirely alone and misunderstood. Family, my husband, friends…no one seems to have escaped the shake-up.
And I know it isn’t over. In all honesty, it’s never over. As long as we move and breathe there will be offense and glory, death and redemption, hope dashed, and hope restored.
I don’t think I’m capable of shallow relationships. Really, I don’t. I just don’t know how to do them. I never have. If they remain shallow beyond a few conversations or if my probes for depth and honestly are met with constant resistance, you’ll soon see me silently exiting stage left, slipping out quietly, hopefully unseen.
And because of the intensity with which I do relationship, it isn’t unusual to see other people exiting stage left, sometimes quietly, sometimes not so much. And I get it, I do. I’m admittedly a bit of an extremist, there’s little middle ground with me, and sometimes people aren’t quite ready for that. However, I’m also not capable of suddenly not loving a person I’ve ever loved deeply, so in a sense, I’m still fighting even for those who’ve walked away from me with deliberate intention. I always will be on some level, whether they’re aware of it or not, and I’ve found a great deal of peace in that.
But for those who’ve stayed to fight like Ivana and so many others, you know who you are… thank you. I’m with you. I won’t leave this sacred ground. My feet are planted. Despite blood and tears and tragedy, horror and offense and fears realized…my feet are planted.
Keep telling the truth. Keep calling back. Keep arguing until we understand, until we believe. Keep encouraging. Keep laughing. Keep telling secrets and fears and hopes. Keep baring your soul.
It won’t ever be easy, but it’s what real relationships are made of. And in my opinion, those are the only ones that matter. At the end of the day I’d rather have one Ivana than a thousand pleasant acquaintances. That’s the simple truth.
Do you fight for the people you love? Do you press for depth and honesty, even when it’s painful and scary?