For the next few Wednesdays in Lent, I’ll be talking about Jennifer Dukes Lee’s book “Love Idol,” which released on March 25, 2014.
The other night I ran into Cindy (not her real name), who was walking her two chocolate Labs. She called out my name, but I didn’t recognize her until we were face to face, right in the middle of Austin Street.
Did you catch that she was walking two Labs? I walk two tiny terriers that together weigh only one-third of what each of Cindy’s Labs weighs. She’s a woman of unexpected strength.
But I didn’t know that when I first met her. I misjudged her.
Cindy asked me how we’re doing. Usually, I hate that question, but I don’t mind when she asks. Even though she’s not a close friend by any means, even though I go months without talking to her, even though she is the last person I expected to care about our situation, much less to be an ally. It turns out, she’s a true friend.
Over the last year, I’ve found support from unexpected sources. The supportive folks usually have a story of their own — like Cindy. The woman going through a divorce has been supportive. So has the friend who’s dealing with an alcoholic mother. The lady at the gym whose son was on drugs, ditto. Those people have been wonderful.
It’s the one percent who haven’t been wonderful who have absolutely killed me. The man who turned away from me at the frozen yogurt shop, the woman who avoided me at the donut place. The people who pretend I’m not there. I didn’t think I had a huge need for approval until I was suddenly on the other end of crushing disapproval.
And I hate to admit it, but if I hadn’t been in the midst of my personal yuckiness at the same time Cindy was going through hers, I might have judged her, too.
Instead, we stood in the middle of the street and talked about giving up control of those we love. We stepped aside for the random truck meandering its way down the road. (It’s a small town.) We took turns petting her Labs, who got a little restless and tied Cindy up in their leashes, but she wrestled them free. We hugged. Then she walked to her home, and I got in the car and drove to mine.