I could barely understand her in between the heaving sobs and the words tumbling out quickly, but I did catch enough to know she was alone and feeling unseen and unwanted. My ten-year-old, Elly, was at a middle school event that included an overnight and she was the only one her age in the “girls room” and she wasn’t connecting with the older girls, add to the mix that it was nearly 11pm and she was over tired and the recipe for a meltdown was perfect. We talked about what she was feeling, what she felt like she wanted to do and she decided to hang up with me and lay down to sleep and hope that the next morning would bring the chance to feel like part of the group and possibly make a new friend.
Relationships are grown when we see each other and choose to walk towards one another, crossing the emotional bridge that lays between us, to meet in the middle.
What keeps you on your side of the bridge? I am assuming that you agree that the space between you and me, you and another is like a bridge. In a healthy relationship, we meet in the middle often and on other occasions I may come further across and vice versa. Sometimes during a difficult season one of us is willing to come across the bridge often while the other rests and heals.
And, in an unhealthy relationship one of us is making the trek across the bridge time and time again while the other rests in a lounge chair sipping sweet tea and reading a magazine. (Ok, so maybe it could be a bit more depressing, busy or distracted than that…but you get the drift, someone is doing the work to come across and the other person isn’t working much, although they’re probably super glad you trekked across to meet them.)
I’ve been thinking about my bridge.
I spent a lot of years being quick to cross it. I think there’s a myriad of reasons why and truthfully, I have not always run across thoughtfully or with care and intention, often I’ve done it because somewhere a long time ago I internalized a message that if I didn’t cross the bridge no one was coming for me and I would be left alone.
As is true with most of our childhood survival tactics they only ensure that what we are trying to avoid is actually what we experience. While always being the one to cross the bridge creates a lot of energy and movement that mimics connection it doesn’t address that deep place inside that wonders if anyone sees me, knows me, and cares enough to come find me. That place that Elly was in touch with at the overnight when no one was seeing her or coming over to invite her into their group.
As women, I think this dynamic is very real. We are ambivalent about our relationships with one another. We love being seen and we dread being seen. We love to find that we share the same tastes in clothing and home décor and we tirelessly compare ourselves. We celebrate one another and we can be vicious to one another. We want to rest in our friendships and we resist resting in our friendships. We want to walk across the bridge because we hold so much love and gratitude in our hearts for one another and we want one another to walk across to prove that we are worthy and that we matter and that we are chosen.
There are neglected places inside of us that ache for attunement, care and the companionship of a fierce and tender hearted friend.
Nearly every day I drive across the spectacular Capital of Texas Highway Pennybacker Bridge.
It’s becoming a sacred thing as I sit in traffic waiting to cross the bridge to consider my relationships and where I am walking the bridge and where I am finding others walking towards me.
I want to be a woman who leans into the reality of my ambivalence and chooses to love with fierce tenderness, I want to rest in the reciprocal love of my friends who show up and do the same for me. I want for those friendships to be inviting and inspiring to other women.
I want to meet in the middle of the bridge often and with joy.
Let’s become women who cross the bridge to meet in the middle, imagine what could becomes possible if we do.
Tracy Johnson is a lover of stories and a reluctant dreamer, living by faith that “Hope deferred makes the heart sick but when dreams come true there is a life and joy” (Pro. 13:12). She is the Founder of Red Tent Living. Married for 30 years, she is mother to five kids. After a half century of life, she’s feeling like she may know who she is. She writes about her life and her work here.