to my faraway friends: I don’t miss you.

I’ve been home for exactly two months now, and I have something to say to all my friends in faraway places: I don’t miss you.

Toronto homecoming

Sure, I sometimes laugh out loud walking down the street, when I think of the time we nearly drowned bobbing for apples. Or the time we scoured the grocery store for mac and cheese dressed like someone’s fairy godmother in drag, then threw in some turmeric because the cheese wasn’t orange.

Every time I ride my bike, I think about how you sang at the top of your lungs as we pedaled through town with roadies. How we navigated our little pink rental car through the rain and fog.

It’s not that I forget the way you’d sit in silence on your balcony watching the boats in Darling Harbour. Or the way  your voice formed otherworldly sounds in the shed-temple in Goonengerry. I have no trouble recalling the way you looked, calm and smiling as a Buddha as the Indian ocean crashed around us at Canal Rocks, and I can still taste that last pavlova at the Augusta Motel.

But I don’t miss you.

That phrase has been rendered meaningless by overuse. Friends I haven’t seen in a week, because we’ve both been busy with work and life, text, “I miss you.” Don’t take this to mean I love you any less, but that’s just not true.  What really bothers me about “I miss you” is not so much that it’s often thrown about without meaning, but what a meaningful usage of the phrase implies. It implies that somehow my life is less than complete when I don’t regularly see all your beautiful faces.

I wish the time differences weren’t so extreme, so we could talk more regularly. I wish I could definitively say that I’ll see you again soon…or at all.  But I am my whole self, whoever I’m with – or without. One of you taught me that knowing you’ve got a loving group of friends, rather than tying you physically to the people you care about, instead frees you up to be a bit nomadic. Having good friends in lots of different places keeps your heart rooted as you move around.

Last week, I was driving home from the cottage alone on a Sunday evening. Bob Dylan’s “Mama You’ve Been On My Mind” came on – a song I’ve heard hundreds of times but never really listened to. I played it twice and really listened to the lyrics:

Perhaps it's the colour of the sun cut flat 
and covering the cross-roads I'm standing at. 
Or maybe it's the weather, or something like that, 
but mama you've been on my mind. 

I don't mean trouble please don't put me down or get upset 
I am not pleading, or saying "I can't forget you". 
I do not pace the floor, bowed down and bent but yet, 
mama you've been on my mind. 

Even though my eyes are hazy and my thoughts they might be narrow 
where you've been don't bother me, or bring me down with sorrow. 
I don't even mind who you'll be waking with tomorrow; 
mama you're just on my mind. 

I'm not asking you to say words like yes or no please understand me; 
I have no place I'm calling you to go. 
I'm just whispering to myself so I can't pretend that I don't know: 
mama you are on my mind. 

When you wake up in the morning baby look inside your mirror - 
You know I wont be next to you; you know I wont be near - 
I'd just be curious to know if you can see yourself as clear 
as someone who has had you on his mind.

That last line really gets me. Some of you helped me to see myself more clearly than I have in years. Since I’ve been home, I’ve been trying to keep that self-image in sharp focus before the light gets all blurry and warped with stress.

I hope my friends are as fully engaged in whatever they’re doing – be it working in an ADHD clinic, getting it on with a Dutch chick in the Balkans, or practicing violin in a campervan – as I am in my present life.

Here’s hoping we meet again…but in the meantime, you’re on my mind.


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