Have you ever laughed and cried at the same time? I am not talking about laughing so hard tears spill down your cheeks or even the rare cries that end in laughter when a friend or loved one cheers you out of your funk.
I am talking about the simultaneous explosion of two polarized emotions where you genuinely feel both the ebullient joy that springs out of your heart in a wide smile and spontaneous laughter and the blighting sorrow that stings your soul and pushes diffident tears out for public display.
Before approximately 12:40 on Wednesday I never would have thought this possible. How does one feel such antithetical emotions simultaneously? Is there a word for this experience?
My week was progressing at a similar pace to last week, meaning I am still working a lot. At the exact half-way point, I had scheduled a lunch with three good friends. Three busy lawyer friends. Despite all working within easy walking distance of each other, these lunches take a lot of schedule juggling and rarely accommodate all four of us. On Wednesday morning I was looking forward to it but unsure I could get away, especially to the location that was further from my office than usual (meaning a 10-15 minute walk instead of a 5-8 minute walk away). I almost cancelled. But the morning was so chaotic and I hit a lull at just the right time so I darted out of my office telling my secretary I would only be about 45 minutes.
I was wrong.
I was a little late getting to the bustling cafe and hurried to the deli counter and selected an avocado and tomato sandwich and waved to one of my waiting friends who signaled toward the table she had selected as I waited in line to pay. As I was paying, a second friend stepped up to greet me with a hug and a compliment - the perfect greeting in my opinion. The three of us settled into our table and laughed about Ruby's tardiness - a not-so-endearing quality of hers, but a familiar and tolerated one. Before I could take the first bite of my sandwich, Ruby bustled in to deposit her bags and jacket before ordering her lunch. I teased her about carrying three bags out for a lunch break and in her typical way she responded with a list of errands she had to run post-lunch. The girl runs more errands in a day than I do in a month.
After she stepped away Joo commented that Ruby was practically engaged.
Wait, what? I was confused.
While I had not seen Ruby in nearly two months, we had exchanged voice and text messages and a handful of emails. Most of them trying to coordinate a dinner that never materialized.
In January she had broken up with her boyfriend of approximately ten years and had asked me to be there for her when she was ready to be social again. I felt her heart break but was secretely elated to have one of my close friends single again. I find it increasingly difficult to find a single girlfriend upon whom I can regularly depend for casual play time. I no longer have an unattached friend who can run off to a movie or dinner or whatever on a whim. The single friends I have are scattered geographically or have schedules as unpredictable as my own which makes coordination difficult to impossible.
At our last lunch Ruby excitedly described someone her mom had set her up with but pushed it off as nothing with several affirmative declarations that she needs time to be single for a while and did not want to jump into another relationship. I really should try that sort of reverse psychology to see if it works for me because as soon as she returned to the table Ruby asked if any of us have vacation plans in August.
She followed the inquiry with the announcement that she is getting married.
She is engaged to the long-distance set-up and she is completely over the moon about it. For most Mormons the three-month dating and three-month engagement formula is not too shocking. But Ruby isn't Mormon. She is Indian and apparently that is a traditional approach in her culture as well.
I was immediately torn in two. I was unreservedly thrilled for her. I should say that I am unreservedly thrilled for her. But also . . . [sigh] Also, I am selfishly sad for myself. Sad for the loss of the vacations and casual girl time we anticipated would be in such abundance now that she was no longer in a relationship.
And this is the hard part to admit.
I was jealous.
Tears stinging my eyes as I laughed and congratulated and hugged her, jealous.
As this confluence of emotions washed over me, my three friends stared at my bizarre display. The tears were part self-pity, part joy. The laughter was part sadness and part awkward, cover up the sadness nervousness. Joo remarked that she had never seen me like this and wanted a video camera to record it. As Ruby responded to our many, many questions, I reigned the emotional show at the corner Cafe Europa in but struggled internally with my reaction.
How could I feel anything but happiness for a friend with such joyful news? Yet, how could I be expected to be prepared for such a blow during a quick mid-week lunch?
The real reason for my reaction? The selfish reason for my reaction? Ruby is one of my very last close single friends. Sure, I can name two others but neither of them live anywhere near me and as far as girls I can confide in, girls I feel myself around, girls with whom I can spend hours and never run out of things to say, girls who know and accept my faults . . . I feel they have all moved on in life and I am left behind to try and start over with replacements, an impossible feat.