My sister came to visit me this weekend. I looked forward to it all week, having her presence with me. Then Sunday morning she woke up sick, and everything I had envisioned for the day—bringing her with me to church, venturing downtown to the bookshop, slipping into the ice cream shop, laughing together over a bowl of popcorn—couldn’t happen.
It strikes me that very few things turn out the way we envision them. I can’t be mad at my sister. Hardly even disappointed really. She can’t help it. I am compelled with compassion instead. So I join her for bits of the afternoon on the couch and we watch a movie. It’s not an intimate, joyful sense of being together, heads bent over common intrigue and experience. It’s more of a complicit agitation, me holding her feet in my lap while she tosses and turns on the other side of the couch. Me sitting quietly with my book on the next couch, just to be in the room with her, while she slips into another fitful sleep.
But we are together.
It strikes me that community is rarely what one expects. I tend to envision ideal relationships, as if I were an artist capable of crafting another’s response to who I am. It takes two to make a friendship which means there will always be factors of the unknown. Though what I am left with is never quite what I imagined, perhaps the point isn’t the trip to the bookstore, or the shared ice cream cone. The point is being together. The point is staying when I’d rather not be in a room that could make me sick, when it seems easier to slip out and find someone else. But that is just the moment when I can’t—when I shouldn’t—because my presence is not just a pleasure; it’s a need.
I’m not very often good at community. Sometimes I tell myself it is easier to be alone because I fear the sickness of being wounded. But the first step to staying in this place of relationship and forcing myself to engage is to realize that my ideals are just ideals. When it feels different than I anticipated, it doesn’t mean I’ve failed; it just means I forgot to take into account those unknown factors I can’t control. It means that God has something bigger in mind. Something messier. Something, I’m trusting, in it’s time, more beautiful.