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Dear Chris:

I seldom give up on old projects or hobbies; sometimes they just get pushed to the back burner for a while. So, #29 in a series...

Dear Chris:

Life isn't supposed to be simple, or dependable, or predictable. If it were, what would be the challenge? And yet, in most adult lives, there is a great deal of simple routine. Get up, go to work, come home and eat dinner, go to bed. We mostly notice and remember the changes and challenges, because they are different. In some ways, my friendship with you has been a condensed version of life. It's been full of challenges, in all sorts of ways. It's almost impossibly complicated to explain to anyone else. At the same time, most of the time it's also predictable and dependable.

One of the most dependable things is that with you, more than with anyone else I know, I trust that if I need you, you'll be there. That's a little odd, since I haven't ever tested that. You aren't usually the person I would think of turning to when I need help or support, for whatever reason. Nonetheless, I have this faith in you and your support, and that itself has sustained me at times, perhaps more than actually calling on you would have done. I don't know if I ever told you about my grandfather's funeral. I had been numb, but stable, letting my mother lean on me so she could hold my father together. In the middle of the actual ceremony, it started to hit me. I wished desperately for someone, anyone, to help me. And then I felt you put an arm around me and give me a quick hug. You weren't there, you didn't know about it, and I hadn't even talked to you in more than a month at that time, but there's no question in my mind that a part of you was there to help me. I know it sounds a little strange.

Then again, a lot of the ways in which you've most affected me haven't involved much active participation on your part. Since I met you, you've often been the test case for my personal changes, in actions, choices, ethics, and so on. I guess that's because I don't worry that you'll think any less of me, or that it will change our friendship. You're also the mirror in which I see myself reflected. It's always easier to see someone else's problems and faults than it is to see your own. For whatever reason, when I see faults in you, I remember to look at myself for those faults as well. That's no less true of the virtues.

It isn't all peaches and cream, of course. One of our similarities is that we are both moody and irritable people, with the tendency to shut out the entire world for extended periods of time when we are depressed or annoyed. What's more, your moods and my moods are seldom synchronized. So, between the times where we interact as friends, there have been periods of months or even years when we barely spoke at all. I have a great deal of pent-up guilt over times when I avoided you, or ignored you, when I disparaged you, when I discounted or underestimated you, and when I used you for what you could give me without being considerate of you. My only consolation is that I can't have been too rotten, because you keep coming back.

That's something I remind myself of on my bad days, when my self-esteem bottoms out and I wonder how anyone can bear to allow me to call them my friend. I know I've been actively and even intentionally rotten to you at times, perhaps more so than to anyone else I care about. But you keep coming back, you keep actively seeking out my company, and telling me you value my opinion. That must mean that there's something worthwhile about me, some reason to be my friend. As long as I can be sure there's something, I can cling to that and keep going. You have always given me that reason to believe in myself.