As I sat in the coffee shop writing, a young woman was getting settled at the table next to me. I could sense her frustration with the sun coming through the window as she tried to get her laptop in optimum position. She struggled as she tried to figure out where the nearest power outlet was for her charger. I could sense her tension without her even saying a word.
She sat for a while, tapping away distractedly, as she waited for a friend to arrive.
Before long, the woman she had been waiting for was there. As they began to settle in their chairs, her friend asked her how she was doing. Deflatedly, the woman said she was doing ok. But clearly she was not. This was the cue that the woman hoped would allow her friend to ask more; to help her to open up and get to the depth of her sadness.
As they discussed trivial matters, the woman gave short, clipped answers - this is not what she wanted from the exchange but she knew this was a necessary part of the dance. Eventually, the friend asked the trigger question - "so how are things going since the break-up." This was the sign, the permission the woman was looking for to open the gates to the sorrow in her heart.
Initially, the friend entered "look on the bright side" mode followed quickly by "devil's advocate". Neither of these were helpful to the woman and caused her to be defensive. But soon the friend sank into "holding space"; providing no feedback, no solutions, but just listening and empathizing.
The woman's relief was almost tangible. She could now release all of the feelings and irrational thoughts held inside for so long. And as she poured out the words, I could feel her energy shift, like a pressure release valve as she acknowledged her hurt, put language to the feelings and let it go.
I could tell the exchange was almost complete when the woman and her friend started laughing and poking fun at the "ex", releasing whatever pressure was left inside and closing the chapter signaling the end of the dance.
Soon after, the women left and I reflected on the snapshot of friendship that I had unconsciously witnessed. The ebb and flow of that exchange has surely been repeated since eternity. And it made me realize the power and necessity of friendship. The dance, holding space for each other, the pressure valve to releasing, and thereby allowing "a future" to seem like a reality again.
It was such a simple exchange but also so meaningful, showing the necessity of finding true friends who are willing to take part in "dance" and help shift some of the weight so you can move on.