On the fifth of this month, I received an unexpected and shocking email from an old school-mate from college. We were anything but friends. My friend Joe used to call this guy "The Anti-Russ". Where I was extremely (to a fault) introverted and bubbly, he seemed to be extremely introverted and sarcastic. Where I was relatively intelligent, he came across as calculating. I never spoke to him after college, except after my son passed away. He tried to offer me sincere condolences. I returned the gesture with a cold reminder of what I felt his nature was years before.
This email I received from was a genuine heart on an electronic sleeve. I don't know what possessed him to send it. He told me how he read this blog, how he occasionally digested the content, and encouraged a self-belief that I feel like I've been lacking for quite some time, reiterating that, in some way or another, I'm still the same man I was ten years ago, despite whatever else has happened to me in my life.
I haven't blogged anything of any serious depth since then. It's such a mind-job to get one of the most empowering notes I've read in years out of the blue from such a person. I haven't journalled or written any real letters. It's sent me into a severe self-evaluation of sorts. To this man, someone who I wouldn't figure waste spit on me if I were on fire, I never thought he would even care if I were alive or not, much less care so much about the quality of my life.
The conclusion I have come to, which has been sort of simultaneously numbing and liberating, is that so much of what I percieved as this man's disdain for me and others is, in reality, a manifestation of my own offense, hatred, fear, insecurity regarding him. Everything I felt for him, in my mind, was wrapped up with his name and responsibilities. It's an ugly realization, to see a sick part of yourself in such a way.
I have yet to send a reply. I started to draft one, but I didn't feel that any words on my end could either match his grammatical eloquence nor sincerely capture or describe any of the emotions running around in my exposed heart and suddenly obviously self-harmed mind.
Still, I feel compelled to reflect on an article I had read months ago in the Church of the Larger Fellowship's publication about forgiveness and how it's not remotely enough to forgive one another. It's finding the constitution to forgive yourself that's the most difficult yet most truly awesome spiritual and emotional experience.
To this man who gave me so much to think about, I say this: I have been lucky enough in this life to meet and have very strong friendships with many more people than what's considered averaged. I'm very blessed to have a path that has taken me into so many noble and honorable lives. However, you, sir, have made me realize that the path I'm on becomes intertwined deeply with more people than I ever realized, but more importantly, your path, and the direction you have taken it, has the potential to do more good. Yours has the potential to change the world, and for that, I'm honored and privaleged that you have chosen to, however briefly, share a small part of your core with me. Thank you.
Maybe I'll put that in an email or something much more personalized. Perhaps by the time I feel ready to do it, after days, months, years, it will seem to be as much of a shock to him as his note was to me. But I am certain that from my point of view, I will be deeply considering it every single day.
I feel the moral of this story is obvious, but just in case this tiny keyboard for thumbs hasn't allowed me to convey the simple truth, I'll reference a cliche. "Keep your friends close. Keep your enemies closer." The part that people forget to go on and tell you is, "Your enemies, after all, may have been your best friends the whole time."