A Year in the Life, Week Eleven: Prescience

This week’s exercise in A Year in the Life was to write about a word we’d learned from someone else, and the context in which we’d learned it. I wrote about the word prescient, which I learned from my best friend, Katrina.

I was sitting at my kitchen table in my studio apartment in Duluth, a full year after Katrina had moved out. She was in Vermont studying Environmental Law, and she’d sent me the denim fairy bag I still take with me almost everywhere, along with a several-page handwritten letter. The letter commented on the “European Adventure” concept album I had sent her, saying that she could feel the yearning and wanderlust of the story when she listened to it. She also was writing a response to something I had written to her, when we were still navigating the aftermath of the temporary fissure her relationship with Chris introduced to our friendship.

I remember cathartic tears running down my face as I wrote her emails trying to work out and articulate what had happened, and at one point, I told her that the hardest part was knowing that I would no longer be her primary relationship.

Katrina and me, modeling our “wedding quilts” at my wedding shower.

For years, Katrina was the one to pick me up from the airport, to hear my frustrations at the end of a difficult day at work, my emergency contact number, my first resort when I wanted a companion for watching movies or going to art exhibits and used bookstores. I was the same to her. But when Chris entered the picture, all that changed. Chris became Katrina’s first resort. And I could no longer count on Katrina as my primary relationship because I couldn’t accept that imbalance. But it would be years before I found anyone else to fill that role (although that forced me to become my own primary relationship, and to reach out in ways I wouldn’t have otherwise, until strangers became friends, so ultimately it was for the best.)

Still, I wasn’t there yet that summer of 2008. And when Katrina responded to what I’d said about losing my primary relationship, she said, “You were more prescient than I was, Lacey — I wasn’t yet ready to accept that that was what was happening.”

And I’d never heard that word she’d used to describe me, prescient. So I looked it up, and learned that it meant “foreknowledge of what is to come.”

Is it because Katrina taught me that word that it is still beautiful to my ears? Even though her usage of it confirmed the painful truth I knew at the time, it still struck me as beautiful even then. Perhaps because it sounds so much like “precious.”

Prescient. Katrina used to say she thought I was psychic, because of the little things I noticed, the way I was able to predict how various dramas in our own lives and our friends’ would play out. The truth is, I believe that we all have a certain level of prescience if we quiet ourselves enough to listen to it. This is one of the reasons I read Tarot, because it helps me still myself inside and uncover what I already know. To get back in touch with my prescience…

Most likely, what Katrina called “prescience” was the compounded pain of others I had loved and had to let go–my best friend from childhood as we drifted apart as adults, my younger sister as she grew up into a life path that no longer was just two steps behind mine.

So perhaps my prescience was not so remarkable, just a touch of cynicism and the sense of familiarity of having done this before. But never with anyone like Katrina. Perhaps I was the one with the prescience to know my role as her primary relationship had been replaced, but she was the one with the prescience to keep reaching out, to know there was something beyond our temporary pain; she was the one with the prescience to know that what we had between us was changeable–but absolutely irreplaceable.

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6 Responses to A Year in the Life, Week Eleven: Prescience

  1. G says:

    Damn, I’ve been going through the same thing for years now–it’s a killer. I only get to see my friend about once a fortnight these days; I have other friends, but my relationship with my best friend is like nothing else. Without her, I feel less connected to the world in general; life seems emptier and lonelier, and other relationships seem shallow and tenuous by comparison.

    I often find I have some piece of information or gossip I want to discuss with her in particular, but I’ll forget before I get the chance, or, if I do remember, it seems forced or barren because she’s not a part of my everyday life like she used to be. We’ll talk on the phone just to touch base, but sometimes it’s hard to think of something to say. We never used to have that problem. I don’t even mind saying nothing in another’s presence (as long as they also don’t mind), but one doesn’t do that on the phone–it’s not fully “presence”, after all.

    When we hang out, sometimes it’s like coming back to life. I resonate with her. It’s not just our shared history; she’s an unusual person. She’s intelligent and perceptive yet kind of an innocent. She is open hearted in a way that I am always looking for in people but seldom encounter. Very seldom. People are always vying for this or that–measuring themselves and each other. They can’t just be with you. Or they are restless and want you to distract them.

    I think that this partial loss is asking me to go deeper and find a fulfilment that does not depend on others, but it is a big ask, and I often find I am stranded in dead time that I just want to while away. One day, I can go out and feel connected to everyone and everything; on other days, like today, I feel the world is so arid and people are so closed off, and I pine for my buddy, who makes life interesting and lovable again.

  2. I feel for you, G. Your friend sounds like a really special person, and I can see why spending less time in her company would be such a painful loss. I don’t envy your position but do feel that wisdom can be cultivated in these times of loss and transition. It’s hard to say how it will all turn out, too. I had one close friendship that grew apart, and I grieved it for years before I came to a place of acceptance and being okay with just letting the friendship go. In other cases, I’ve needed to hold on through the transition to see what will emerge on the other side. It seems like you value your friendship with this woman enough that seeing what’s on the other side of this transition might be worth the pain — but part of that will be accepting the loss of things never being “quite the same” again and welcoming whatever form your friendship takes instead.

    This is NOT a quick or an easy process. It’s taken years for me whenever I’ve had to go through it. Searching for quick fixes (latching on to other relationships, shutting the original friend out so I wouldn’t feel the pain of the change) have always backfired. I could say it was faith that got me through it, although it was more my friend’s faith than my own — she kept reaching out.

    I also relate to how hard it is to touch base once in a while, and the awkwardness of not knowing what to say. I video chat with my best friend once a month now, and it’s a poor substitute for the way we used to share our whole lives. But recently I heard a story about a group of friends who stayed in touch since college; when they were middle-aged, one of them needed a kidney transplant. A woman from her group of friends donated a kidney to her. That story impressed upon me that, although the “lulls” in friendships may last for years, you never know when you’ll need your friends again to get through the really big stuff — or when they’ll need you. So I think it is important to keep connected, even tenuously, during all those “between times” — I used to think that having a spouse or significant other would replace the need for friends, but it doesn’t. It just changes the configuration a little bit. So do hold onto your friendships and/or continue to form new ones — if the relationship means as much to you as it sounds like it does, it seems worth the risk. Also, if you haven’t done so already, voicing your sorrow about the way things have changed might clear the air and help you move to a new place faster and more smoothly. Sometimes it’s what goes unsaid that can wound friendships most.

  3. G says:

    Sometimes, in a ridiculous, maudlin way, I’ll imagine the friendship ending, but I don’t think that is really at all likely. It’s not fear of that that bothers me so much as the impoverishment of everyday life. It’s not entirely selfish, either–she’s been through tough times without the kind of support I wanted to give. I think we do help each other.

    I’ve heard stories of animals recognising and reintegrating with each other after long separations; I’m sure trust is valuable enough in evolutionary terms that bonding does last on some level. Obviously, I don’t see it only in these clinical terms; I just mean to say I think there’re various compelling reasons to believe these relationships seldom completely die once they’ve been established.

    Wait a minute–Duluth. Do you know Maria Bamford at all?

    • I do think it’s likely that relationships continue on some level throughout time. I’ve had friends that I haven’t spoken to in years, then I find out they’re passing through town and we catch up as if we never parted. I value those people in my life who are willing to always “pick up where we left off” and never hold resentment about how well we have or haven’t kept in touch in the meantime.

      I didn’t know anything about Maria Bamford before you mentioned her (so I googled), but now I’m curious!

      • G says:

        Bamford is apt to drive some folk nuts, but I think she’s very funny.

        Maria Bamford Show:

        And this guy helpfully uploaded them all in order:

        http://www.youtube.com/user/Tveir/featured

        The series (20 episodes) tails off a bit towards the end, in my opinion, but remains worth watching.

        I feel really guilty about contrasting my other friends with the untouchable value of my best friend; they’ve just been really nice to me, trying to cheer me up. What if they die and find out–they’ll haunt me!

  4. I forgot to tell you that I checked Maria Bamford out. I liked her style. I put a few of the shows that feature her on my Netflix queue. I look forward to seeing more!

    I wouldn’t worry about your friends haunting you; I think that everyone can understand the value of that one special friendship, to which no other friendship can quite compare.

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