In good company

Sometimes I feel loneliest when I’m surrounded by people.

Although I have some good friends at work—and great working relationships with my colleagues—I don’t belong to any of the office cliques. So sometimes I feel like an outsider.

On my way home today I was thinking about this, when I remembered a passage in Po Bronson’s wonderful, inspiring little book, What Should I Do with My Life?:

[C.S.] Lewis asserted that the strongest of all human drives is to belong to an Inner Ring, or an imaginary circle of the important. He warned … though, that this ring is an illusion.  … Status is like an onion, comprised of endless layers, and no matter how many rings you crack, you are still on the outside. “If you follow that desire, you will reach no inside that is worth reaching,” [Lewis] insisted. … The true road lies in quite another direction.

Soon after this small inner monologue, my friend Jim called. We had plans to meet for sushi, but he wanted to know whether I’d mind also helping him bake some cookies for a grieving friend. (Of course I didn’t mind.)

Actually, it turned out to be the perfect antidote for my soul-sickness. As we stood in Jim’s kitchen measuring flour and cracking eggs and scraping the zest off lemons, he told me about his recent trip to Paris.

I was charmed by the story of the lovably cranky octogenarian expat who gave Jim a private tour of Versailles (the old fellow has his own set of keys). Jim also told me about meeting Patricia Wells and accompanying her to her favorite market, and about the restaurants he and his travel companions most enjoyed.

I felt as if I’d been to Paris with him.

On the way home from Jim’s tonight I found myself thinking about how lucky I am to have a few friends—like Jim—I truly adore. When I’m with these cherished people, it’s impossible to feel lonely or excluded or misunderstood.

That’s the thing about true friendship: It exists for its own sake.

Maybe that’s the “true road” that C.S. Lewis was talking about. I don’t know. But I am truly grateful for the wonderful friends who so enrich my life.

Merci bien pour une grande soirée, Jim. Faisons-le encore bientôt!

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