Staying Friends: The Magic of Growing Closer Apart

“If you don’t want to watch me fuck it up, then DON’T WATCH ME!” my best friend shouted at me as I hovered over her shoulder micromanaging her filling out an application for a Blockbuster card. This was 20 years ago, which you probably guessed by the video store reference.

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Kelly and Me, circa 1996, having just dyed our hair

Back in the college days I’d rather put a fork in my eye than admit I was wrong, but I walked away without another word. It’s hard to defend yourself when you’re trying to tell your super-intelligent friend which line to write her name on like she’s a kindergartener. (Maybe that’s why I majored in child development…hmmm.)

Kelly and I occasionally bickered, but we mostly got along. We’d been close friends since mid-high school, and by the time we parted ways in our mid-twenties, we’d lived together for almost five years. And we still liked each other. We were prone to long strings of free association that sent us into hysterics but baffled the rest of our friends who thought our fascination with Beavis and Butthead was juvenile and beneath them.

We were weird, we were sometimes (often) obnoxious, and we were even depressed together that first year living in Jester Dorm together. Who wouldn’t be? It was designed by a prison architect and looked like something out of the Eastern Bloc in the ’80s. We who lived there had a specific odor even outside the building. It was a uniquely horrific combination of industrial Lysol and urine.

Throwing Books

Kelly and I had a complex yet solid relationship. She once threw books at the inside of our dorm room door because I was sitting outside, talking loudly with a bunch of people from our floor while she was trying to sleep. While she passive-aggressively hurled literature instead of coming out to ask us to pipe down, I inconsiderately and passive-aggressively ignored the thunks on the other side of the door instead of taking the hint and moving somewhere else.

Constructive Criticism

She once confronted me (which took a lot of guts back then since I was never wrong) about the fact that I couldn’t take any criticism whatsoever and it made me hard to live with at times. She did it in the gentlest way. I was embarrassed, but I knew even then it took a lot of guts and a true friend to say something like that. And she was 100 percent right.

Best Worst Movie Choice Ever

We once went to see a movie together because we were both bored and a little depressed. We went to see Seven, because you know, Brad Pitt. Bad fucking choice. So then we were even more depressed together, which is a lot better than being depressed by yourself.

More Misplaced Literature

Once, bored again, we gathered up all the unread newspapers we had accumulated whilst paving our road to hell with the good intention of being more well-informed and dumped them on our former roommate’s doorstep, ding-dong ditched him and drove off giggling. We thought it was hilarious and promptly forgot all about it until we ran into him several months later. ‘Turns out we had really freaked out his new roommate.

Call Out the Cavalry

One time I ran off to San Antonio on a whim one Thursday afternoon with a boy and forgot to tell her where I was going. Running off with boys was a habit of mine, but it was usually just around the corner at a party, not two hours away. By the time I got back that evening, she had half the dorm looking for me. I had no idea she’d be so worried. I felt warm and fuzzy and also guilty.

Another Great Use For Fortune Cookies

When her boyfriend broke up with her, I drove her around while she cried. We went back to my house and stuck fortune cookies up our noses with my sister and took pictures until Kelly laughed. When that same boyfriend got back together with her and then broke up with her again, I almost killed him, even though I did actually like him, just not for her.

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Me and Kelly waiting for the bats to come out from the Congress Bridge this past Tuesday

Growing Closer Apart

Kelly and her family came for a visit last weekend. It had been four years since I’d laid eyes on her, but we’ve become even closer. We told our old jokes and made a few new ones, but we also reflected on who we were back then and who we’ve become. Somehow, we have grown together, despite being states apart. Somehow, we’ve both evolved into writers, feminists, people who are real about the not-so-shiny side of mental health and motherhood.

I do not know why this happened — why she and I are so alike and yet different and fit together so well on a primal level, why we are able to stay friends across the country, why I am always able to learn something from her — but it is one of the best things that has ever happened to me.

Where Did 10,000 Steps Come From?

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Photo by Clique Images on Unsplash

Ten thousand steps. That’s how many you’re “supposed” to get per day. But did you come across that article about bodybuilders who conserve their energy all day (take the elevator, drive the car to the mailbox) so they have plenty of fuel for their high-intensity workouts? Did you read that bit about high-intensity exercise being bad for your joints? Did you see the one about weight-bearing exercise being optimal for bone health? It’s a wonder we don’t all throw our hands up, go home to binge-watch Game of Thrones and eat ho-hos. (What are ho-hos, anyway? I’ve never had one, but they seem to be the ambassadors of junk food.)

According to one Guardian article, the ten thousand steps thing was originally an arbitrary figure used by a Japanese marketing campaign to promote the first wearable fitness device in the mid-sixties. The “research” was based on the fact that most Japanese citizens took 3,500 to 5,000 steps daily, so 10,000 seemed a good round number to shoot for.

Since then, there have been more robust studies about step count. Indeed, taking 10,000 steps versus 5,000 per day is correlated with a decreased risk of heart disease amongst other morbidities. But what about 6,000 steps? What about 8,000 or 12,000? Most studies to date only compare 5,000 versus 10,000.  Maybe 6,000 steps would be enough to improve some people’s health. This is important because telling people who are basically sedentary they have to take 10,000 a day or die of heart failure trying is intimidating. Why try? ‘Might as well fire up Game of Thrones and order pizza. More realistic goals might be more successful.

Another thing these step studies don’t take into account is intensity. A running stride is generally longer than a walking stride and takes more energy per stride. This means 10,000 running steps takes more energy than 10,000 walking steps, but you didn’t need science to tell you that; your burning lungs give you all the info you need on that one. What if your steps are uphill versus on a flat surface? That takes more energy too. The 10,000 steps target is more about marketing gadgets than a useful application of hard science.

Speaking of hard science, a recent Scientific American article referenced a study of our early human ancestors which found they (and we) need exercise to stay healthy, unlike our ape predecessors. They estimated how far early hominins traveled in an average day, and guess what they came up with? At least 10,000 steps or approximately five miles per day. This is largely based on observations of modern, hunter-gatherer societies in Tanzania.

Modern innovation has allowed us humans to be lazier. And it’s in our nature to rest when we are able. It’s part of what got us this far — the ability to rest when we could and conserve energy for the next hunting or gathering session. Now that we aren’t motivated to work hard by the sheer need to survive, we sit around a lot more.  Our bodies have evolved to need exercise, however, so in modern times, we are healthier when we make a concerted effort to get it. Ten thousand steps, however, which may be an admirable goal in some situations, is a gross oversimplification and overgeneralization of what our bodies need. In those hunter-gatherer groups in Tanzania, there are lessons for us beyond mileage and steps:

Beyond the copious amounts of exercise and whole-food diets, daily life for these cultures is full of fresh air, friendships and families. Egalitarianism is the rule, and economic inequality is low. We do not know exactly how these factors affect the health of hunter-gatherers, but we know their absence contributes to chronic stress in the developed world, which promotes…disease. (Pontzer, 2019).

It’s not useful to develop specific requirements (10,000 steps) and then apply them to every human on the planet. We are more variable as individuals than that, but we can make some generalizations that apply to most people. As a whole, we feel better when we move more, connect with friends and family in quality ways and go outside some. If counting steps helps you do those things and you don’t get obsessive like I do, go ahead and count. But remember, you don’t HAVE to. Your body, by and large, knows what it needs. If you listen to it, it will tell you when it’s time to get up from your desk and walk around. You’ve got a built-in step counter right there in your body. It’s free and won’t coerce you into the latest upgrade.

Sources:

  1. Cox, David. “Watch Your Step: why the 10,000 daily goal is built on bad science.” The Guardian September 2018. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2018/sep/03/watch-your-step-why-the-10000-daily-goal-is-built-on-bad-science.
  2. Pontzer, Herman. “Evolved to Exercise.” Scientific American January 2019: 23-29. Print. 
  3. Williams, PT. “Greater weight loss from running than walking during a 6.2-yr prospective follow-up.” US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health April 2013. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23190592.

Welcome to My Brain

fullsizeoutput_4440Sometimes I have the urge to write but not about any particular topic. It’s like when I was little and would say to my mom, “Let’s talk about.” She’d ask, “Talk about what?” Me: “Things!” I was in the mood for conversation about nothing specific.

Here I sit, typing away, stream-of-consciousness style. When I do this, sometimes something brilliant comes out. Sometimes it’s rambly drivel. Most often, though, it’s one or the other, I’m just not sure which.

Sometimes when I’m editing my own writing, I read it for so long, I lose sight of what is great and what is crap. I cease to be able to tell the difference. It makes sense, really, since it’s all subjective, and my moods can at times be less like a rollercoaster and more like the heart monitor line for a particularly erratic patient.

It’s cold outside right now. It’s early November in Austin, and it is like 30 degrees — highly unusual. Of course, Texas weather by nature is unpredictable, just like my moods or that suffering heart patient, so really “highly unusual” isn’t highly unusual at all. In two days, it could be 85 degrees, and we’d all be like, “yeah, pretty much.”

Our heat isn’t on yet, partially because of the aforementioned possibility of imminent summer weather and partly because when we turn it on for the first time each season, it smells musty, dries the air and clogs all of our sinuses. So I’m sitting here, cross-legged in my office chair, bundled in my robe and a scarf, drinking ginger tea mostly for the warmth of it.

I can see a gerbera daisy blooming outside my window. That’s how ridiculous the weather here is. A few days ago, it was warm enough for flowers to poke their heads up and bask in the sun. Now it’s cold enough to kill them.

There’s a squirrel sitting up in the tree over the shivering red daisy. It’s very still (for a squirrel), huddled for warmth, maybe munching one of the millions of acorns that cover our yard and driveway and force me to wear shoes so I don’t impale my feet.

So this is why I bother to free-write like this. I’ve just realized the metaphor between my ephemeral mood swings and the Texas weather — can’t believe I didn’t see it before.

I recently applied to a program that helps authors write, publish and promote their books. Some of the questions on the application asked what my motivation was for wanting to publish a book. The application was completed and submitted over a week ago, but it’s caused me to ponder the intricacies of my relationship with writing.

One of my favorite things is when someone tells me they read a post of mine and they connected with it. They thank me for writing it because it cheered them knowing other people have the same struggles as they do. Or just knowing that other people struggle at all. With social media, sometimes you feel like you’re the only one not going on fabulous vacations and getting your shit together.

That’s what I want. I want to connect people. I want people to realize they don’t have to play perfect; we can like and respect each other, warts and all. No matter our backgrounds or how different we may seem at a distance, up close we all have fears, weaknesses, confusion. And that’s not a negative thing; it’s part of life. What makes life good is that we can share our problems with others and find support and sympathy instead of judgment. That interconnectedness is what bolsters us to pick ourselves up and move forward after a fall.

No one is an island…or rather, no one thrives as an island. It’s not about our ability to make a lot of friends. Whether you have one close friend or twenty, it’s more about our ability to view other people as nuanced humans instead of one-dimensional labels. Woman, Liberal, Republican, Gay, Catholic, Transgendered. Those are infinitesimal pieces of an identity.

We are all humans who laugh and cry and worry and meander through daily existence no matter where we live. When we can see that human-ness in the forefront, before we see the labels, we can truly work together towards common goals that will make this world better for all of us. See, I told you this stream-of-consciousness thing turns out well sometimes.

I considered editing out all of the free-associative stuff at the beginning of this post, since the meat of it doesn’t start till halfway down the page, but I decided I kind of like it. It reminds me of writing a letter to a friend, where you touch on topics from the mundane to the mystical. I’m all about being real and real isn’t always a neat little post with nice transitions and perfectly-related sentences. My real brain is much messier than most of my writing. Don’t worry, though. I won’t let it go to my head.

 

Adventures in Ragnar

 

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Post-race, with our medals/forks/spoons/bottle openers/saws

Several months ago, my friend Jasmine said, “Hey, let’s put together a Ragnar team!” I’d had a couple of glasses of wine, so I said, “Yeah, that’s a great idea! What’s Ragnar again?

Ragnar is a 24-hour trail relay race. Eight team members take turns running three different loops at three, five and seven-and-a-half miles. I’d maybe run five miles once when I committed to this, so I was way out of my comfort zone. And as our team came together — a formidable group of marathon runners and Crossfit champions, I began to worry about holding up my end of the bargain. We each had to submit our “10K road pace,” and since I’d never run a 10K, I guessed. I was quite obviously the weakest link, which made me uncomfortable.

I’ve been pretty good at almost everything I’ve ever done. Yes, I’m a coordinated, talented person, but what I realized as a part of this all-star team was that I gravitate towards things at which I can excel reasonably easily — activities where I can be in the upper echelon of ability. Being more introspective than I was in my younger years, I decided that being the weakest link was good for me in a “get comfortable being uncomfortable” kind of way. I did repeatedly make sure no one was intent on winning this thing. My goal was to complete my loops without hurting myself, especially considering two of my loops would be run in the dark.

We drove out on a Friday towards our destination, ironically named “Comfort, Texas.” It was pouring down rain, and we were all worried about spending 24 miserable hours wet and cold, sloshing through the mud. I was nervous but excited. It was an adventure.

As we got settled in our camp with a ridiculous cache of gear and supplies for one short day, I chatted and got to know some of the team members I hadn’t met yet. I began to feel reassured, as everyone seemed concerned about getting through the course sans injury, and no one was obsessing over their times.

My first loop was five miles. I was so jazzed, I made my typical, rookie mistake of starting off too fast. Then, half a mile in, that adrenaline abruptly ran out, and I was all, “Oh shit, I can’t do this!” But then I slowed down and hit my stride about a mile or so in, and it wasn’t so bad. The Hill Country views were gorgeous.

Back at camp, the rain was holding off and we were all grateful. Between legs, we sat, ate, drank coffee, told stories, stretched, laughed and slept as best we could. We also poured over Jasmine’s sophisticated spreadsheet which predicted our times remarkably accurately. I napped before my second leg, which started around 9:30pm. It was just three miles of smooth trail, so even though it was dark, it felt like a cakewalk.

Flash forward to 4:30am. I’m outside the ready tent, waiting for Laura to return. I am sleep deprived and standing in duct-taped rain boots in eight inches of squelchy mud, watching the screen that will alert me when Laura is a quarter mile out. People are sitting around a bonfire making s’mores to my right. Wonder Woman is playing on a big screen. I can’t hear the dialogue, but I keep drifting from the alert monitor over to the movie, where I get transfixed by Gal Gadot for a while before I remember I’m supposed to be watching for Laura. Runners keep returning, yelling for their next teammate: “Drew! Where’s Drew! Has anyone seen Drew?” (My guess is that Drew is fast asleep in his tent.)

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Duct tape is the best.

Laura rolls in from the 5-mile loop at 5:25am, and I take off for my last and longest run — 7.5 miles, in the dark, on little sleep, after having already run farther in the past 16 hours than I usually do in a week. I got my mind right. I intentionally started off slow, and I told myself to just make it to the one-mile marker. When I saw that one, it was time to shoot for mile 2 and so on.

I was tired. I tripped a few times and almost fell. I walked a lot because of fatigue and fear of stumbling over rocks and tree roots. The depth of the trail terrain was washed out in the glow of my headlamp. I felt cautious and also peaceful out there in the quiet night.

Mile 5, over halfway there.

Mile 6.5, one mile to go.

Mile 7, almost to the quarter-mile gate.

As I ran the final stretch around 7am, there were no people cheering at the finish, as there were earlier in the light of day, but I honestly did not care. As I approached the ready tent, suddenly it hit me. I did it. I wasn’t sure I could, but I did. And tears welled up behind my eyes. I tamped them back down, though, because it seemed embarrassing to cry over seven miles, amongst people who regularly run 26.

We finished up about 24 hours after we started. We were delirious and relieved. We broke down camp, hauling our gargantuan amount of gear up the hill to the parking lot in an ox cart, pulled not by oxen but our own, achy selves. On the way home, when it started to rain for the first time since we drove in, we stopped for food. I have never seen eight adults devour Whataburger so fast.

 

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It was exhausting, and I questioned my sanity at times, but it was also really fun. The bonding you do with people in a situation like that speeds the friendship process. It’s hard to put on airs when you haven’t showered in 10 miles and are so tired you barely remember your own name.

I noticed something else, too. The day after we got back, a Sunday, I was in a calmer, better mood than I’d been in a while. Perhaps it was hangover endorphins or maybe a much-needed break from the daily routine, but even a day later, all the stuff that had been worrying me — politics, the kids’ education, my career path — didn’t seem like such a big deal. Someone find me a new race before this wears off.

P.S. This part is probably only interesting if you ran the race:

Thanks to our captain, Jasmine, who got our team together and organized us right down to the minute. Thanks to Tammy and Josh for bringing the bulk of our gear and getting there first to get a good camp spot. Thanks to their daughter, Lucy, for being a good sport and shoveling mud from the walkways. Thanks to Laura for suggesting we stay up and shotgun beers all night (and then thanks to her for not actually doing it.) Thanks to the bad-ass Elizabeth for being a perfect tent mate. It’s not often you meet someone who knows all the requisite tent etiquette. Thanks to Christy for driving us and doing the very last leg of our race. Thanks to Tad for doggedly doing most of the packing up and hauling back to the parking lot. We made a good team, y’all.

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Broken – A Love Note

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When I saw Jason, I was broken.

You couldn’t tell.

I was married.

I got up and went to work every day, I went out with friends on the weekends. And sometimes, when I was driving home by myself after work, I would get a sensation — something’s missing. I hadn’t a clue what it was, so I stayed busy and ignored it.

I had friends but not really. Javier’s friends had become mine by default, and I neglected to keep up with my real ones. Javier did all the social planning, and I went along. Or not, if I was too tired and needed alone time. He never understood when I didn’t want to go out  — the plight of the extrovert and the introvert.

When I met Jason,

I had selfish thoughts.

I had dated a lot of people. I was always trying to fix them — make them happier, shore up their self esteem, give them the gift of me. In Jason, I didn’t see a person I could fix; I saw someone I admired,

a person who could help fix me.

He GOT me. And when he didn’t get me, he worked to understand. I’ve seen people look at me in confusion, anger, exasperation and complete bafflement when I cried for no apparent reason, but Jason was the first person to knit his brow as I tried, in my bungling way, to explain myself. I’ll never forget the first time I saw that look on his face, and I realized he wasn’t trying to win the argument, he was trying to understand my perspective.

At the time I left Javier for Jason, everyone in my life was shocked and confused. And now I finally have the words to explain it.

I saw a chance to reclaim myself.

Jason is always his true self, unapologetically; I wanted that. I needed space to explore who I am, and I knew he could help me with it. I could say Jason helps  me be the best version of myself, but more accurately, he helps me be the TRUE version of myself. I can own it all: I am a brilliant writer. I am a shitty driver. I love gardening, and I hate doing taxes. I am a feminist, and I don’t want to be a lawyer or an engineer. I am an artist who does art for the process of it. I am irritable when people interrupt my thinking.

I cry sometimes because the world is so confusing and beautiful.

Jason accepts it all without judgment. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t sometimes get annoyed with me, but I can feel that he doesn’t wish to change my true nature, whatever that is in the moment.

Someone told me once, to solve a problem, you must deconstruct it, step back, then reconstruct it. This is what I did with my life when I was thirty. I had flash of clarity while standing in the shower, shortly after my birthday. It said, in a convicted whisper…

 You don’t need these people. 

So, I stepped out of the life I had built, and the house came crashing down behind me. I left Javier, left our friends, and a short while later, left my job. I was in no doubt that it was the right thing, but to say it was hard is laughable.

It was excruciating

like child birth, coming and going in waves for years. When the pain would subside momentarily, I always knew it would come back. I was giving rebirth to myself — the person I am at my core, the person I was as a child, before I shielded myself from the harshness the world can be.

I am empathic; I feel things deeply and sometimes even mistake others’ emotions for my own. When you are that way, being in the world can be painful, so I built a shell to protect me and wore it for so long, I forgot it wasn’t really me.

In my reconstruction, I continue to discover more of myself every day. I have reconnected in true, deep ways with my family and friends. I’ve made new friends — ones I chose not by circumstance, but because I saw a kindred spirit in them.

Javier and I had tried to have children, but I miscarried no less than four times. Talk about painful. But I didn’t know…

how could I give birth to anything new, when I had yet to find myself? 

Now, I have two children. They are pieces of me and pieces of Jason, and they are their own selves, unique from anyone else in all the world. Maybe they will grow up knowing that, unapologetically, and not have to re-find themselves.

I am not filled with regret — not for blowing up our lives twelve years ago. I recently read some things Javier wrote, and it struck me that he and I have evolved into similar life philosophies. We couldn’t have gotten there together, though. We held each other back.

Javier was my friend before we were lovers, and my only regret is the loss of that friendship. When we first started dating, we were concerned about ruining what we already had, and in the detritus of our divorce, I used to joke through my tears that we DID ruin our friendship; it just took a lot longer than anyone thought.

I am writing this because I finally get it.

When I left Javier, everyone in my life was shocked, because I hadn’t shared my struggles with them — struggles I hadn’t even admitted to myself. When I left, it was my first intuitive act in many years, and as much as I tried, I couldn’t explain it to anyone at the time.

I left because, even though I looked happy, even though I told myself I was happy,

I was suffocating.

I was finally running out of air under that shell I thought was me. Jason peeked under the shell, offered me his hand and made me feel safe enough to come out.

What I always felt the worst about was blind-siding Javier — ripping the pretty bandage of our marriage off so abruptly and leaving him raw and reeling. He was better off without me, but the end doesn’t justify the means.

If I could do it all over again, I wouldn’t have been in such a hurry to grow up, to start my life, get married, have children. I was running on logic and hormones and had

forgotten I even had a thing called intuition.

My regret is that I didn’t know myself very well, that I didn’t make better decisions in the beginning. My regret is staying under that shell until I was gasping for breath so desperately, I couldn’t do anything but throw it off and run for the hills, regardless of whom I took out in the process. That was always my nature, though — to sit there and take it, to stay in the relationship until it sucked all the life out of me, and then abruptly leave, the need to get out privately overwhelming me. They were always left standing there in the aftermath, wondering what the hell just happened.

I am reclaiming my true self. I am being that person unapologetically, and it’s a good thing, not just for my own happiness but for everyone around me, who will no longer be totally baffled by my seemingly random actions — those bursts of self that only came out when I could no longer hold it in. Now I am all “burst.” And I am not a writer, a mother, an ex-wife, a spouse, an introvert, an organizer. I am me. I am April. I am a little weird, and you don’t have to like it. I’m okay with that.

 

Photo Credit: Copyright: <a href=’https://www.123rf.com/profile_freedommaster’>freedommaster / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

Who’s Your Squad?

Your “squad,” according to Jason, is any person or thing with which you feel a particular kinship. You can always count on your squad to comfort and put a smile on your face. Jason refers to his favorite chair as “my squad,” but he also addresses me as such: “April, you’re my squad.”

When I was in high school, I had a squad — a close-knit set of friends we not-so-creatively referred to as “The Group.” We walked into each other’s houses without knocking. We hung out every day and called each other up to ask, not, “Do you want to do something?” but “What are we doing today?” Theirs were the phone numbers I had memorized, back when that was necessary. I once spent three days straight with one of my squad. Kelly and I went back and forth spending the nights at each others’ houses, and during the day, we mostly drove around. Because with your squad, you don’t have to be doing anything special to be having a blast.

Your squad is always there when you need them. When one of our squad broke up with another of our squad, Kelly and I felt badly for the breakup-ee. So, without a second thought, we whipped up a batch of Rice Krispy treats, and drove over to comfort him. We ate half of them on the way over in the car and were not at all abashed to admit it when we got there. It didn’t occur to him to be offended, and he was grateful for the company and sympathy. THAT is the level of comfort you have with your squad.

In college, I had another encounter with squad-dom. That’s when Trey, Javier and I hung out. All we needed was a handle of cheap whiskey and balcony on which to smoke, talk and argue about politics, philosophy and modern social constructs. The next morning, I’d roll off Trey’s couch, smelling of the patchouli incense he liked to burn, and stumble my way to class.

The three of us spent formative time together, back in our 20’s, when life was one, big drunken (let’s drive to Mardi Gras at 2am) adventure. There is a particular incident in Boquillas, Mexico, just across the border from Big Bend – the kind of situation that only occurs with a squad like Trey and Javier. I’ll spare you the whole story, but here are a few highlights: moonshine sotol, falling into a cactus, stealing a boat to get back across the border and cutting some mules loose. No, that’s not a euphemism; one of us actually cut ropes tethering mules to a post.

Last night, I binge watched old episodes of How I Met Your Mother. I’m also fond of watching Friends reruns and, late at night after a few glasses of wine, I’m apt to pull up Stand By Me. These are all shows about squads – young people that have the kinds of relationships in which they skip the small talk. That’s why they’re my go-to shows when I feel a little down or nostalgic; they conjure a little of that warm, relaxed feeling of having a cohesive group of close friends.

As I reminisced over my coffee in the wee, dark hours this morning, I missed having a squad. I feel comfortable around many of my individual friends, but there’s something about a group dynamic – ease on a slightly larger scale – that is unique. I was wondering if it’s even possible to have a squad when we’re in our 40’s, with family and career taking up most of our lives. Then, 9-year-old Jack and 6-year-old Gage wandered down the stairs, sleep still in their eyes, messy rat’s nest of hair on the backs of their heads. Without a word, they joined me on the couch and snuggled in. I may get annoyed with my kiddos sometimes, but, being completely honest, I got exasperated with my squad people of old, as well. That’s part of the comfort level — the freedom to be irritated and express it, knowing the squad will still be there for you. I smiled and thought to myself, “Stupid woman. THIS is your squad, right here in your lap.” That’s the other thing about a squad; they fit with you so well, sometimes you forget they’re there.