What on earth is the comfort of strangers?
I heard the expression ‘the comfort of strangers’ for the first time about 20 years ago. I had just moved to Japan, my husband was still in Canada, finalizing the sale of our home, and friends of ours had me over. We rented a movie called ‘The Comfort of Strangers’. I remember it being disturbing and unsettling. The juxtaposition of the two ideas: comfort and stranger was jarring in the title. The movie was really sub-par as I recall despite having some seriously heavy hitters in it. Perhaps I just didn’t get it.
I can honestly say, the comfort of strangers is something I never had to consider until last week. Oh, you know, we all have those times when we meet a wonderful conversationalist on the bus and chat as though we’ve know each other a long time. There is definitely a comfort there. But you get to go your separate ways. The incident I’m about to explain is different than that.
Preparing for an out-of-town appointment
My husband and I headed off to my MRI appointment last week, completely oblivious to what would happen en route. We had checked off our to-do list weeks and days in advance as we prepared for our trip.
Program the GPS…check
We felt certain that we had handled all the necessary details and were even a little excited. Since I first started having symptoms of a Spinal CSF Leak, we don’t leave the house except for appointments and procedures. We were looking forward, in an odd way, to heading out of town.
I found myself particularly excited, as I had plans to meet some Facebook friends for the very first time. Women with whom I am connected by way of a shared illness. These warriors have seen me through many tears and heartaches. They have held me steadfast in their hearts for months and yet we are complete strangers.
About midway through our journey, I received a message from my Airbnb host asking if I could meet him at 1 PM or 5 PM instead of our arranged time. As we had arranged to meet at 3PM, clearly 1 PM was out of the question. We were more than 2 hours out and it was approaching 1 PM as we texted back and forth. We had plans to meet friends at 3:30PM.
Next, a text came through that was a little alarming. He asked if we could please not hover near the door as he was not allowed to be a host for Airbnb. In addition, he was asking us to lie and tell the security guard that we were family. Our host stated that he would not be hosting any longer and that we were his last customers because he was getting into too much trouble!
With an MRI appointment at 1:30 AM, we were not sure how we would elude security. Coming and going at that hour was sure to alert someone. We contacted Airbnb and I let my friends know that we might have to meet somewhere else.
Within seconds of my telling my Facebook acquaintance that there was something up, she offered for my husband and I to stay at her house. She insisted in fact and let me know, that as long as we didn’t have our dogs with us, we were more than welcome to stay (she doesn’t like dogs but we forgive her….she has a REALLY good reason for not wanting dogs in her home). We still like her!
Now this may seem like a no-brainer to many, as we all can relate to building relationships through social media. To be fair, she and I have spoken countless hours over the phone and have supported each other for the past year (honestly, she has been my rock on many occasions as I navigate this CSF leak). The kicker was that she and her husband were leaving in a few hours and wouldn’t be there during our stay!
And she invited us anyway!
The Delightful Comfort of Strangers
My husband and I ventured forth in our plan with a deviation of our route to get to my friend’s house by about 2 or 2:30. We hugged like sisters. We chatted like family. We learned of each other, we laughed, we drank tea (I could barely lie down I was so excited…and I actually wanted to stay upright as long as possible in hopes of the MRI showing some signs of my brain sagging. Being upright is the hardest thing to do with this illness as you only ever feel better lying flat).
She showed us the room we would stay in. We had our own bathroom. We learned the ins and outs of dealing with the house. We had supper once her dear husband arrived home (shell-shocked, I’m sure). And they were off!
We sat for a minute in the silence of this strange home. Feeling somewhat awkward and yet somehow so at peace. We turned off the lights and headed up for a sleep before the procedure with a deep understanding of the expression ‘the comfort of strangers’. Sometimes the grace and compassion of a stranger can bring such overwhelming feelings of gratitude.
My husband told me that in that first sleep, I spoke in my sleep almost singing ‘I feel so grateful. My heart is so full of gratitude. I am so fortunate and lucky to have such incredible people in my life’. He said that deep in sleep I was signing happily.
I feel so grateful
What did I do to deserve the delightful comfort of these dear dear friends?
Leaker sisters and brothers are SOMETHING WONDERFUL.
Love Ingrid x
P.S. My only real sadness about this trip is that the Airbnb debacle meant that I did not get to meet my other very dear Leaker-sister. We did speak on the phone but I just know, that for both of us, it would have meant so much to really ‘see’ each other for the first time. I hope my dear Leaker-sister knows that it must not have been our time yet and that I hope that day will come soon!
P. P. S. I want to tell you that the Airbnb people were gracious, caring, compassionate, and incredibly helpful in this whole ordeal and I would never hesitate to use them again. This is in no way a sponsored post and I do not get any compensation for mentioning their company.
**Photos are free stock photos from the internet…my friend’s house is far more gorgeous than these photos!