At a concert last weekend, Jill Phillips’ introduced her song Mortar and Stone by explaining that she had written it about friendship. About how walking through life, especially the stormiest parts of it, is easier with others by your side. There were two women in front of me. One of them reached over and grabbed the other’s hand. They were both wearing hats, one of them was red. My writer’s imagination decided that Red Hat had survived cancer. That was their stormy part. Of course, this could be the furthest thing from the truth. Maybe they just like hats. Maybe they have both always been perfectly healthily. But whatever it was, there was a bond there, the same one that Jill was singing about on stage. The mortar was strong.
In the adult development course I took as a part of my Master’s program, one of the stages in one of the theories we learned about was called the “Age of Obligation.” While I don’t remember the finer details (like which theorist this belongs to) the general concept has stuck with me. The idea was that during one’s late 30’s and early 40’s they are focused on growing and sustaining their family and/or career. They take on great responsibility in their personal and professional lives– hence the name: obligation.
I’m in the thick of it now. As are most of my friends. And this part of Jill’s song worries me a little:
And the mortar within
Is the time that we’ve spent
To set it in strong
How often do I think of an old friend in the middle of another task and make a mental note to reach out and then promptly lose track that well-intentioned thought. Or I mean to follow-up with that person I met, who I think is amazing, as soon as I finish this one thing. And then just this one other thing. If I don’t make time, the mortar never sets. I’m left with a pile of stones.
Sometimes I have answers here on the blog. Pithy little truths I’ve uncovered in my 30 some years of living. But I don’t have an easy answer to this one. Sometimes I worry that I won’t have a hand to squeeze during the lovely song about friendship. That I’ll climb ladders and publish books and be mostly lonely. I think that the way to prevent this is to stop making those mental notes and just send a text or e-mail (or crazy of all crazies, make phone call) when I am thinking about someone. To pull out my phone and schedule a “next time” to meet up with that super amazing person I just met before we are both lost in a thousand other moments. Easier said than done (cliché, but oh, so true).
Building relationships, like building anything, takes time and hard work. It takes getting some things crooked and not-quite-right before it’s all done. I think that maybe the people who get this, who stick out it out through the fumbling and ridiculous busy-ness, are the ones who are my mortar.