A friend celebrated her new beginning this weekend, as one celebrates a new birth, the coming of age. She invited her friends to witness, as one witnesses a union between a couple. There we were, almost a hundred of us, dressed in our fineries, small patches from different parts of her life brought together to form a protective quilt of warmth and comfort around her. We toasted her, holding our glasses of wine and champagne, warmed to the brim with our best of intentions and hopes for her new beginning.
She had emerged from a dark place. A year before, she found herself in the midst of a sudden separation and then a divorce that had seemed unfathomable months before. It had seemed so alien, that they should be severed, like facing the sudden loss of a limb after a tragic accident. After years of being part of a twosome, she found herself alone, facing the unknown future, questioning the past.
Even as we stood by her with our hearts and hands extended, the aloneness was hers to bear. She lived with the quiet, the unused pillow, the empty seat in the car after we went home. The weighty questions about what happened could only be raised - and answered, even if only incompletely and imperfectly - by her. We wanted so much for her to find a way out of the fear and doubt that could have easily consumed her. But with nothing more than a band-aid to offer after a tragic event, we stood by, waiting for her to emerge from this dark tunnel, not without changes, but unscathed and intact.
And it is this that we celebrated, a new beginning where she embraces life, not despair. A determination that says she will be okay. The sense of security that gives her room to be vulnerable. As we watched her beam, dance, and flirt throughout the evening, we knew she found her way out.
Then I realized that these are the moments we should celebrate, not the mere passage of time or the good fortune of having met someone, but the act of becoming unstuck from what could have suffocated us, of finding our way to the life we want to live. Not curling back into fetal position, but finding something to hold on to that helps us forge our way to a better place.
As we left at the end of the evening, I hugged her tightly and clung to her a tad longer because I wanted to borrow from her strength. I think she has a surplus now and would be happy to share.