One of the best things about my office is that it's next door to Weez's--which enables lots of shared music, knocking on walls, and other neighborly things.
A few years ago, we were both in our offices at the same time when a foreign student stopped by to talk to us about classes. He looked in my office, which was brightly lit, and piled high with papers and books and gadgets--the regular clutter of my chaotic professional life. Then he looked in Weez's office, which features incandescent lighting, strategically placed art, and a calming sense of feng shui.
He stood there for a few moments, clearly trying to find the right words for what he was thinking. Finally, haltingly, he said "You two are...friends?" Weez and I both nodded. There was a long pause, and then, "You are...VERY different." We laughed for a long time about that, and it's a line that's been repeated many times between us. A few months ago, our mutual friend Matt said to me "None of us really understand how the two of you are still friends," and when I reported that to Weez yesterday it resulted in more shared laughter.
On the other hand, when I shared both of those conversations with another friend, David, on Thursday, he shrugged and said he didn't think we were really all that different. And Alex, who was there when I shared Matt's comment with Weez yesterday, also expressed bewilderment at that observation.
On the surface, Weez and I are indeed very different. We have different aesthetics, different communication styles, different (but overlapping) sets of friends. And a lot of people focus on that--especially the communication styles. I'm an open book, for the most part--you don't ever have to wonder where you stand with me. And while I can be quick to anger, it's because I let negative emotions bubble up and out, and then I let them go. Weez, on the other hand, is gentler, more nurturing to an extended network of friends and students and colleagues, a mostly closed book when it comes to inner feelings, and very slow to anger...but just as slow to let that anger go.
These are not good things or bad things...they're just true things. And focusing on that can result i people seeing us as dramatically different. But David and Alex weren't focusing on that. They were thinking about the many things that Weez and I share. A fierce loyalty to the people we care about. A sophisticated and often wicked sense of humor. A love of music and food and friends and family. A collection of outspoken and often troublesome monkeys in our heads. A joy in teaching and in learning, in making and in playing.
So yes, we are very different. And also not so much. The similarities are what define our friendship...but I'm grateful for the balance she provides in my life, the reminder that a well-lived life takes many forms and that the best friendships are not just mirrors.