While I was in Houston yesterday morning, I had the opportunity to visit briefly with a dear friend that I’ve known for over a quarter of a century. He was hosting/facilitating a support group at a faith-based picturesque retreat center in Houston not far from where I was working. As I made my way to the area, it was raining heavily. I’m crediting the rain with my failure to locate the retreat center the first time I passed it. My friend had told me, “If you get to Memorial Drive, you’ve gone to far.” I didn’t write down the directions when my friend provided them, but I didn’t think for a minute it was possible for me to get lost or become disoriented. How hard is it really? After all, I was on the correct street and I knew the address. When I reached Memorial Drive, I connected the dots and recognized I had obviously passed the address. So, how hard was it to find the location? Obviously, it was more difficult than I thought.
To be on the safe side, I opted to engage the GPS on my iPhone and did an illegal U-turn in the street to return to the direction I had come. When the automated voice on the iPhone subsequently announced that I had reached my destination, I turned into the driveway on the right. The canopy of trees and vegetation lining the roadway obscured the view. Perhaps that is why I missed it before. At the same time, under the auspices of full disclosure, the signage at the entrance of the driveway should have garnered my attention. I’m not sure how I overlooked it.
The retreat center was like discovering a haven in the midst of an upscale family neighborhood. It was heavily wooded, beautifully landscaped and represented everything a person would anticipate for a place to refresh, regroup and get in touch with God and nature.
I arrived before my friend. When he arrived the rain had mostly subsided. He provided a quick tour of the retreat center including two different larger chapels intended as places of Worship. We opted to set on the out-door porch in two rocking chairs like a couple of old men. Perhaps we appeared to be lost in conversation. In short order, a priest asked if we’d prefer a private place to visit. We indicated that we were fine with the outdoors.
When the priest asked a second time, the unspoken message seemed to be to move to somewhere less conspicuous than an outdoor porch to visit. I was curious about both the thought that we needed a private place to visit and the second invitation for privacy. My friend responded that we were in a retreat setting. He replied, “People generally come here for private conversations and healing. That is true in regard to both God and man. The invitation for a private place to visit was simply sensitivity to the need of many for privacy and confidentiality.
My impression of the place was very positive. One, it was in the midst of the city, but the natural beauty of the surroundings provided a sense of serenity uncommon with being in the midst of a concrete jungle. Secondly, the beauty, privacy, snapshot of nature and a sense of God’s presence made it seem like a Holy retreat.
Moving into one of the chapel areas away from any pedestrian traffic, my friend said to me, “I’ve been reading your blog. That poor woman! How many times do you choose to rearrange the furniture? Twenty-five years ago you were doing the same thing.”
In the quietness and privacy of the setting, I had the thought, “Is this an intervention?” Without uttering a rebuttal, I didn’t add, “Moving furniture isn’t a character flaw,” but it certainly crossed my mind. My friend then said, “I noticed you are now referring to Treva as the “Honorary General”. I explained that I previously opted to announce that I was doing away with the designee of “General” because some folks thought it was denigrating. In response, many others interpreted it as a term of endearment. Someone said, the blog would not be the same if I changed the designation. How do you turn that into a WIN/WIN?” Consequently, I then softened it to “Honorary General.” I was hopeful that would be a neutral compromise.
My friend then asked, “How does Treva feel about your using the term? I assured him that she didn’t mind. I hastened to add, “Trust me, I know this gal like the back of my hand, if she found it offensive, she certainly would articulate her opinion”. Of course if she thought it inappropriate, I would never use the term.
My friend subsequently said, “When I read you blog I generally find myself sympathizing with Treva.” Where did that come from? He went on to say, “You have absolutely no idea how incredibly lucky you are to have a wife like her.” So this really was an intervention! I thought interventions had a host of people present. Not this one. This time it was just my friend and maybe God.
I generally hate to be a sore loser, but how do I turn this conversation around? He said, “You don’t recognize how rare it is to have a wife who would actually want you to slow down, live longer and spend more time with her. Most of the folks I’ll be talking with later today would honestly tell you they’d prefer their husbands stay at work. You have a wife that would prefer shared time. Do you know how rare and fortunate you are?
In a sense of panic I truthfully asked, “Do you think I’m a real jerk?” (Of course, I see myself as a loving and devoted husband). What was my friend telling me? The alarm was going off in my head. He responded, “You are not a jerk”. What more validation could I need? I have the good fortune to have a friend who cares enough to challenge me on some issues. Actually, knowing him as I do, he is probably God’s spokesperson to get my attention. How do you not love a friend like that?
I can’t argue with some of the advice he voluntarily offered. He is younger than I am. So how did he know that a person my age needs more than four or five hours a sleep a night? Perhaps he and the Honorary General compared notes. I get the same message from home.
I didn’t emerge from the experience feeling beaten up. Instead I felt validated, honored and loved. However, there obviously are a few areas were I need to invest more work. One of the things my friend shared that put a smile on my face was the similarity between my daughter and me. We obviously are cut from the same cloth. It is his impression from reading my blog that we both generally get our way. He didn’t suggest that the outcome was because we are demanding. I think he sees as subtly manipulative and senses that we somehow circle the wagons where we are always the winner. Maybe he’s right. On the other hand, what’s wrong with knowing what you want and not being willing to accept any substitutes?
All My Best!