Thursday, September 14, 2006

The Escape Club. . .

I call us the Escape Club. We got that name from our desire to escape from the office once a week or so for lunch. Off to exciting adventures that make the whole day worthwhile. OK—so it’s actually a little Mexican restaurant near us. Sharing thoughts over chips and salsa. Sometimes happy, sometimes just grumbles about the day we are having. Sixty blessed little minutes away from our desks, the phones that constantly ring and all the other things that interfere with our hectic days in even more hectic lives.

It’s not so much that we hate our jobs. Actually, I love my job and I don’t think the others mind theirs too much. Well, M does, but it’s not the work itself. We work in an office of eighteen people. People that we like, who work well with us and generally make our days and jobs much easier. Sometimes just a smile makes all the difference.

Sometimes it takes more than that. Sometimes it takes the Escape Club.

There are four of us now. But in the beginning, there were only two. N and I. We started here about the same time. Two new kids on the block, we struck up a friendship that has lasted a long time. She impressed me from the first. It was so easy to share confidences with her and we just seemed to compliment one another’s ideas. Sometimes we would laugh so hard I didn’t think I would ever stop. She was so determined to prove herself, in her job and in life in general. But there was also a look of apprehension that shadowed her eyes. We have all been there, coming from a place that we don’t want to remember very much. She and I both are refugees of our pasts. Fortunate survivors resolutely determined to make the best of things; yet still looking over our shoulders for what might come next.

Of course, when M came along we got to know her too. She appeared to be the quintessential independent and together woman. I admired her from the start. When we would talk, I was fascinated by her intelligence, by the interesting things she had to share. At that time there were very few signs of the underlying sensitivity and emotions that are so much a part of her and just a hint of vulnerability that makes you love her even more. We started sharing rides to work and I learned quickly how compassionate a person she is. But there is a bit of a fighter in her too, which makes her so much fun.

When L came into our office circle we were happy to have another buddy to share life and the office mini-dramas with. But what an enigma she was! The person I believed her to be when she first came here has very little to do with who she really is. She came to us after losing her mother and being stuck in a terrible job, so of course was a little wary of us. She was very bright and friendly (which she still is) but there was certainly a lot of reservation there. But bit-by-bit her personality came through. Kind of like peeling an onion; so many layers… the Golden Key Honor Society student working hard to get a degree, the dedicated Democrat with undeniably strong convictions, sharp-witted and funny and underneath it all, very caring. (But don’t tell anyone!)

These three wonderful women are so important in my life. Each one of us is a survivor and fighter in our own unique way. We have survived broken marriages and dreams, kids, financial hardships and jobs from hell. We each fought these trials in our own ways, but we got through them. We are all different in our outlooks, thoughts, ideas and the very way we approach our lives and yet we overlap a bit at the seams. Sort of like Neapolitan ice cream; separate flavors, each one distinct and so much better when blended together. How do we do it, make sense of our friendship, and more importantly why?

We do it because so seldom in this crazy world do you find people who make you happy just to be with, whom you can cry with, laugh with and trust. I am fortunate to have found three others who are just a little bit crazy like me.

I had lots of friends growing up, yet surprisingly few of those friendships stood the test of time. Maybe we just all grew up—but I think it is more than that, more than just the fact that we went our separate ways and grew apart. I am not the same person that went to school with those friends. Very few of them would recognize the person that I am today. I hope that I am more conscious of the world around me, that I make a difference.

We do change and evolve as human beings, a continuous process of transformation, which keeps us mentally healthy and maybe sane. So maybe that’s why the Escape Club is so great and works so well. Each one of us adds her own unique personality and attributes to the pot. It’s a sure bet that at least one of us can empathize with whatever situation we are dealing with. Whether the situation calls for a friendly shoulder to cry on, someone to share our joy or even a little magic, we are in it together.

All for one and one for all? No, it’s much more complicated than that. Each one of us carries a bit of the others around with us. Thousands of miles will eventually separate us, but we will never really be apart.

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