Guess what I did last night (on a school night of all things ...)
I went out with a friend.
It was the first time since Jeff's accident that I'd done that.
And do you know what? ... I had a really nice time.
I've never been one of those gals who pals around with a gaggle of other ladies. I can count, on one hand, the number of best friends I've ever had. That's just me. I prefer one on one or small group interaction. The dynamics of a big group are simply too much for this introvert. So when the opportunity came up to spend some quiet time with a friend, I made myself make the time for it.
The particular friend I went out with last night understands my situation. She's known my family for a few years, so she's gone through the transition with us. She knew the old Sachs family, and she's been there for the new Sachs family. She's also been through a lot herself the last several years, and our mutual struggles have drawn us closer. Simply put, she's one of the few who "gets it."
We decided to go out in the evening - after dinners were had and families were pretty much settled in for the night. As I got ready to go out, I pulled on jeans and a sweater rather than sweatpants and a pajama top, and I told Jeff how weird it felt to be getting ready at this time of night. First of all, it felt like it was midnight - and it was really only 7 pm. I was tired from a long day of working, driving around town to appointments and to pick up food, and playing with a 5-year old. Second, I felt like I was sneaking out of the house. Like what I was doing was forbidden. Jeff laughed at me and told me to have a good time.
Evie, of course, acted like I was leaving for a trip around the world.
"How long will you be goooone???" she asked as she tightened her grip around my waist. I told her only a couple hours. "So you'll be back before I go to bed?" Time is such a difficult concept to grasp at five years old. I told her she would be asleep soon after I left, and by the time she woke up in the morning, I would be back. "Oh" was her response accompanied by big, sad eyes.
This display was not helping get me out the door. But I was determined to not let it stop me from going out.
I fussed over Jeff, making sure everything was just so, and I would have continued fussing if he hadn't shooed me out of the room. I flossed Evie's teeth in preparation for Nana brushing them, and I was reassured by Nana that she would hold down the fort while I was gone.
So with everyone in a comfortable holding pattern, I stepped out the front door.
It was so strange driving at night. I hadn't driven after dark in so long. I actually saw one house on our street already beautifully decorated with Christmas lights. As I pulled out into traffic with headlights in front of me and the Christmas lights shining in my rear-view mirror, I was taken back to last year around the holidays when Jeff was still in the hospital. I would drive the 25 miles to Rancho los Amigos in the evenings after having come home for a few hours to spend time with Evie. The Christmas lights would light my way, reminding me that this Christmas would be so different from any other. Some evenings Evie and I would go to the hospital together to eat dinner with Jeff. On those nights, we would say goodbye to Daddy, hold hands as we made the long walk to the parking structure in the chilly night air, and drive home listening to Christmas songs on the radio.
Tonight, however, I smiled as I drove knowing that Jeff would be home this holiday season. Thankful that I was driving to meet a friend rather than to visit my husband in the hospital.
My friend and I arrived at our destination - a small, local establishment - and immediately fell into easy conversation over a glass of wine. Not that our topics of conversation were light. In fact, they were probably heavier than most. But when you have someone to talk to who genuinely lends you both her ear and her heart, the words seem to flow effortlessly no mater how heavy the topic.
For two hours we sat together and talked. We told stories that gave one another goosebumps. We listened to each other with big, glossy tears in our eyes. We did cheers to our triumphs, laughed at our absurdities, and shook our heads in disbelief at how we, as people, can bear and endure the enormous difficulties of life.
At the end of our evening, I gave my friend a big hug thanking her for getting me out of the house, for not being afraid to talk about the messy stuff, and for being one of the few who really "gets it."
When I got home, everything was safe and sound. Nana was just climbing into bed, Evie was fast asleep, and Jeff was comfy and happy to see me. My world hadn't fallen apart in the two hours I stepped out of it, and that was a good thing.
As much as I want to stay in my little cocoon where it's warm and comfy (despite being filled with the aftermath of a tragic accident), it's important to step out every once in a while. To see what lies beyond the insulating walls. For it's only when we step out, look around, even look at ourselves from the outside, that we truly grow.
I'm thankful I had the opportunity to do that last night for a couple hours with a dear friend.