Tuesday, July 21, 2015


I had an I-94 moment today.  

There is a point on Interstate 69 in southern Michigan where you reach I-94, a major east/west highway. You can take a left for Detroit, or a right for Chicago.  Both, clearly, vastly different cities, vastly different outcomes, different directions. One takes you to the Motor City, one the Windy City.  Life is full of I-94 moments, where your choice takes you one way or the other. We face them in careers, we face them in relationships, we face them in friendships. Today was a friendship I-94 moment.

My day started at 5:30am, with a long work schedule. One of my friends texted, asking if she could come visit. I had an hour break for lunch, so it worked. She came over, vented a little about life, then started asking some questions and giving some unsolicited opinions. She shared with me how it makes her uncomfortable to see me do what she considers to be "man chores." She thinks its odd that I mow the lawn, wash my own car, chop and stack my own firewood, etc., etc., etc. And it went on from there. With a lot of......advice.

I try to be a person of tolerance, but I was annoyed. At that moment, my close knit neighborhood felt far too close. And even though she is retirement age, and I should give her the age-get-out-of-everything-free card, I didn't want to. I wanted to tell her all the things she didn't have a clue about. That I like to work. That if I don't do those things, frankly, they won't get done. That I choose my situations because I have thought everything through and am doing what is best. That I do some things that aren't my favorite thing to do instead of bitching about them. That I am essentially alone here, in ways she can't imagine, without family support. That my life, quite honestly, is my business and no one else's. That I'm doing the best I can.

And I probably would have been fully justified in saying all of it. 

Except for the outcome of that conversation would have sucked.

I could have said all of those things. And we would no longer be friends. At least, not to the degree that we are right now. I would feel better in the moment, but unhappy with the permanent result.

I have a lot of long term friendships. I am still friends with people from high school. And elementary school. And pre-school.... Maybe its part of growing up in a small town.  Regardless, there is one thing I have learned about long term friendships:

They require grace. A tremendous, unbelievable, ridiculous amount of grace.

The longer you know someone, the more of that person you see.  You get to observe their responses. You get to know their strengths and their flaws. If you listen, you hear their history and why they are the way they are. And at some point, their flaws, their insecurities, their snarkiness, their pain or shortcomings will be directed at you. Its inevitable. And that is where the I-94 moment comes in. It happens in every long term friendship. The moment where pedestals and rose-colored glasses cease to exist. We can be taken aback by the abruptness, the sting, the utter humanness of the other person. We can mentally step back and walk away from the friendship, deeming them undesirable. Or we can choose to forgive. To acknowledge our own shortcomings. To give allowances and grace. To push through the discomfort into something far more authentic and honest.  Its the moment where the friendship becomes real. Where the particles begin to solidify into something long lasting.  Something that is tough, if not impossible to break. Something incredibly valuable. 

I'm not saying every friendship should be saved. Some marriages are unhealthy and irreparable. Some friendships are as well. But some friendships are worth the work.  

And most people are worth, at the very least, our respect and kindness. And my friend definitely was. And is. 

So I made a choice to hear the heart behind the words. To hear her statements as care being expressed the only way she knew how to express it. To value and respect her opinions, not be offended by them. To embrace humility with the knowledge that I need to receive grace as much as I need to give it. 

She and I are going out to dinner Saturday night, and she's coming this weekend to a bar to hear me sing. Life goes on. 

But life goes on with us knowing each other a little bit better, and being better people for it.