We walked by this on the sidewalk on our way out to a family lunch one Sunday afternoon. Seeing it was like seeing someone’s day get wrecked right in front of me, and all we really saw was what remained. An entire sheet cake (with what looked like a fruit filling) from a downtown bakery had met its untimely demise. Lovely plans, derailed. Expectations, dashed. Did I mention it was Mother’s Day?
What struck me was that it was entirely intact. There had been no attempt to salvage it. The box and the corrugated support had slipped out from under the cake with no sign of struggle, as if a robbery had been interrupted.
Once something is ruined in our expectations, all hope is lost if we think that it is. I’m guessing the pigeons and puppies on their afternoon stroll did not expect to be fed that day with cake. Sometimes life goes incredibly right.
Like that time when I was with my family, walking by a facedown cake, and all of us felt even more grateful, even hungrier, and that much more enchanted with our day – because that wasn’t our misfortune.
Expectations rest on beliefs. Before I’d ever seen a cake in that predicament, I never would have thought it possible. Really. I see that picture and I still can’t figure out how a sheet cake can land in one unbroken piece on a sidewalk. And before I had a friendship end, I never thought I’d ever be in that situation, either. On the dead side of a vibrant connection. There are times when it’s best to look down then keep on walking.
This usually comes up when a corner of a pivot story sticks out and trips you. On some level you already know that the two of you are arranging the furniture around it. There’s a piece of your history or hers that you skinny by strategically. You don’t want to be the one to expose that you have this in your past, or she thinks you’ll judge her.
As with the facedown cake, you can make certain assumptions. But unlike the facedown cake, there are witnesses. Ask for the story. This is another stretching step that shows you where the muscle is weak, but in the same way a hike shows us a vista we couldn’t see from lower elevations, you’re about to see things you’ve never seen before.
I never had a friendship end until just a few years ago, I honestly thought only hotheads lost friends. Then it happened to me. No, that’s not true. I did it. I performed the amputation. And one of the hardest things about it was having to be the kind of person who would go through with it. Now I understand essential things about myself – where more of my boundaries lie. The map of me is folded open and smoothed, and God has given me more territory. The air out here is clean and clear.
So ask her. Ask him. Find a safe time and place – choose the container for the conversation or recognize when you have it. Under normal circumstances (no laws were broken, nobody died) there are no heroes or villains when a friendship ends, just ways that had to part. Best to be ready with a box of kleenex or a pint of Talenti Salted Caramel Gelato.
You don’t need to slap together a perfect world for another adult human. What if being in hers is the thing you can do?
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