This morning the sun is out and the coffee smells terrific and tastes strong. At work, glancing around my desk, I see that I have a few small stacks of papers to keep my mind occupied. A quick skim of Facebook prior to starting into my "busyness" informs me that today is your birthday; apparently I am even supposed to get you a Starbucks gift card. However, this belies the importance of this day because on this day you were born, Mike.
We have known each other for many years and have had the opportunity to see and do so much together -- exploring countries in Africa, winter climbs in the Smoky Mountains, hiking to Machu Picchu in Peru along the Inca Trail, skipping stones off the waters of the Rio Grande in Texas, gazing out over southwestern Montana from the top of Sacajawea Peak. While I surely cherish these big adventures, these big ticket items, what matters most to me by far is the constant chatter of our friendship. It is the 5-minute phone call in the morning on your drive to work to say hello or ask how I am doing. It is the text during the day of a joke, a picture of your daughter at a baseball game, or something you saw on your bike ride. I feel it is almost too easy to be friends on an adventure. The true acid test of friendship comes in the constant chatter because that tells me that you are thinking of me at that moment ... that I matter ...
Lately, I have been reading Brene Brown and had to smile when I read this quote the other night because it affirms what I came to discover myself many years ago and it made me think of you. In reference to Roosevelt's "Man in the Arena" speech, she says:
"... I learned that the people who love me, the people I really depend on, were never the critics who were pointing at me while I stumbled. They weren't in the bleachers at all. They were with me in the arena. Fighting for me and with me.
Nothing has transformed my life more than realizing that it's a waste of time to evaluate my worthiness by weighing the reaction of the people in the stands. The people who love me and will be there regardless of the outcome are within arm's reach."
Several times in my life, Mike, I have struggled mightily, lonely as a person and lost as a man. Then a door opened, the light came in, and there you were with your arm extended and your hand outstretched. I look back on those moments and I just don't know what I could have done without your unconditional support and guidance. Even when I fucked up, and you told me as much, you always respected my boundaries and never once made me feel judged and shamed.
Juxtaposed against this, you have thrilled to my greatest joys and triumphs, and have been a huge supporter and champion of mine. Youthful good looks, all the money in the world, all the finest possessions will fade away, swallowed up by the chasm of time. None of the aforementioned matters. In the end, the only thing that matters is to love and being connected with others in a way that makes them feel loved, pushing them higher and further up the mountain. That is what you have done for me, Mike.
Honestly, I would ask that you be mindful of the fact that you mean so much to me and to so many others. That is a reality that is true. To be sure, you are not without flaw or fault -- you worry too much at times and I believe I got upset with you one day last year when you kept teasing me :-) I do know, among so many things, that you are a wonderful father who dotes on his daughter. A man who has the rare gift of being emotionally available. Regardless of whatever life throws at you, Mike, never forget the great man inside you remains, perfect in your imperfection, as I sit here and reflect on our friendship on this day you were born ...