Sunny afternoons tend to make me quite pensive, I’m sure I’ve mentioned it before. There is something about the sight of pale pink flowers and dandelions that remind me of other times in other places. I am reminded of magnolia trees on my college campus, of warm evenings spent on the grass, and of wishing for tomorrow as if growing older was someone else’s concern. I was never so ready for the future as I was then, fully prepared to walk straight into a world that could never live up to my expectations of it. Some days I long for that time, when I was naïve, and when the cruelties of others had not dampened my spirit, nor fed my cynicism. I wasn’t better off, but I didn’t know any better.

I was forty years old last week. I didn’t really celebrate, I don’t have any friends in this part of Virginia that I really spend time with, so apart from online thanks to friends for their well wishes, I didn’t pay much attention to my birthday in the least. I spent most of the day writing and editing. I have a few different projects floating about, and with a submission deadline approaching, I was a bit preoccupied. I came to terms with the Big 4-Oh a while back, so it was just another Thursday.

Like much of the country though, my thoughts this week have been on the occurrences in both New England and in Texas. Surreal is the word that comes to mind when I think back to being glued to the television during our country’s largest manhunt. It reminded me very much of a terrible day twelve years ago, when the nation watched in horror at the events unfolding in New York City.

I read a phrase the other day which grabbed my attention, and I haven’t been able to get it out of my mind. Honestly, I don’t even remember what I was reading when I stumbled upon it, I jotted it down on a little, yellow square of paper, and I have looked at it several times a day since.  “Coming out the other side.” That was the phrase. “Coming out the other side.”

The more I thought about it, the more it meant to me, and suddenly I thought, that’s what our country is doing right now, today. We are coming out the other side. Whenever there is a natural disaster, or an act of terrorism, or the horror of another mass shooting, the whole world seems to collapse around us. There is a shedding of tears and a rending of garments, and we find ourselves screaming, “Why?” to the heavens. But in the end, through our sorrow, through our pain and suffering, we still go on. We come out the other side. It’s what makes us human, it is what makes us strong, because it is all we know how to do.

In my life, there have been more times than I can count, when I honestly didn’t think I could take another step. There were so many times that I failed, times when I was sick and alone, when I was a thousand miles away from anyone that I knew, moments when I did not think I could travel one minute more. But I did. In the end, I came out the other side.

I’ve had a very trying year so far, and there were days, just recently, when I didn’t know how to hold it together. I didn’t know if I would be able to hold it together. And in my frustration, in the thumping of my head against the wall, there were friends who took the time to reach out. Friends who I have not been able to see for years, friends who I had regrettably let slip out of my life for far too long.

Friendships have always meant so much to me, but for a very long while, I was very alone. But we all need each other, you see. We aren’t meant to be alone. Our friends, no matter the distance between us, help us to hold it together. They help us to see what is real and to recognize the things that will surely pass. They are how we come out the other side.

And I am very grateful.

scott j