Let me tell you about my Best Friends

When I was a senior in high school, I was the photo editor for my school’s yearbook.  My two best friends were also on the yearbook team.  I think my favorite high school memories are from that yearbook class.  As the photo editor, it was my responsibility to drop items off and pick things up from Felix Camera.  I had another friend who would loan me her car and me and my two best friends would drive to Felix Camera with the sunroof open and music blasting.  I loved those trips to Felix Camera so much that I would create a reason why we needed to go.  Mrs. Foreman, the yearbook teacher would give me a half smile and a look that only teachers who know you are lying can and would ask me why I needed two people to go with me.  With a twinkle in my eye, I would make up some reason that we both knew wasn’t the truth, but she would always say yes.  She really liked us.

I will show my age, but years ago there was a television show called The Courtship of Eddie’s Father, and the theme song, “Best Friend” had a line that said, “People let me tell you about my best friend.  He’s a warm-hearted person who love me to the end.”  Although the television show was about a single father and his son, whenever I think about my two best friends, this song pops into my mind.  I believe part of living a fulfilled life, we must have connections with other people.  Not just acquaintances we know and visit occasionally, but true friends who we love and trust.  For some, it’s their spouse, a parent, or a sibling.  For me, it is two women who I met in junior high school 40 years ago.

There are so many memories in those 40 years.  I admit, at my age, there are lots of things I don’t remember, but even in the big events, there are also hundreds of little things that really have no significance that I remember as if it was yesterday.  Like the time when I was a freshman in high school and I sat at the cafeteria table and, let’s call her “S”, said something really funny and I said, “That was 100% funny”.  A very insignificant moment, but one I will never forget.  Over the years, at times, I have continued to rate her humor – she has maintained a steady 97 percent.  And there is the time, let’s call her “R”, came home early from her family vacation so she could attend my mother’s funeral.  I didn’t want to tell her about my mother because I knew she would cut the time with her family short to be with me, but it never crossed her mind not to be there for me.  Seeing her there gave me comfort during a very difficult time in my life.  Throughout the years, my connection with these two women has only grown stronger as we’ve journeyed through life together, as we’ve faced good times and bad.

In Brene Brown’s book, The Gifts of Imperfection, she defines connection as “the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship”.  I love this definition.  I love the word energy because that is what truly happens when you are connected to people who know you as well as you know yourself, yet still loves and accepts you.  And that’s what it feels like, right?  This energy is so palpable that you feel it in the moments you sit around the table having dinner and drinks, in the car on a road trip laughing and singing to songs on the radio, and quietly crying together as we grieve the death of a parent.

It takes work and commitment to remain close friends with someone for 40 years.  All parties must agree at all times that it is worth the effort.  Because there will be times when it’s not easy – someone will say or do something that offends the other.  Spouses, children, work, and family life enter and suddenly time is limited.  Sometimes, one person in the friendship moves out of state and how do you maintain a long-distance relationship?  It was so much easier when we were younger.  We saw each other every day at school, participated in the same extra-curricular activities, had classes together, and hung out every weekend.  Once adulthood hits, priorities change and more importantly, we change.  We grow and mature and begin to have varying views and opinions on serious topics.  And we meet other people through work and social gatherings who become our friends too.  Maintaining that close relationship with women from middle school becomes harder and harder. 

Being single for my entire adult life has created easiness in me with being by myself.  I’m okay being alone because I’ve always lived alone.  I’ve been able to work as many hours as I want, eat when I want, and clean my place if and when I want.  I also don’t have to talk to anyone, ask permission or explain myself to anyone.  It can be a blessing.  But it can also be lonely.  It’s no easier for my friends with spouses and children.  Life is full of getting from one place to another.  It’s getting children to practice/games for sports activities, helping with homework, cooking meals, checking in on elderly parents, and doing laundry…lots of laundry.  In both cases, it’s easy to get into a routine of doing things in your own bubble, and in order to get things done, something has to go on the back burner.  Typically, what is put on that back burner is time spent taking care of ourselves or time with our friends.  And COVID-19 hasn’t made it any easier.  Now, we’re told that it’s best to stay in and limit time with other people.  And what is so great about lessons is the irony that happens within that lesson.  Now that we can’t have these close connections to the people we love, it’s what we now crave the most.  We found that we have a tendency to take our friends for granted, thinking they will always be around, and we will see them when our lives aren’t so busy.

What I have come to realize is that we need our close connections – we crave those connections.  We need that person who will help us fight our battles, listen when we need to vent, laugh at our jokes, and give us that pep talk when we feel down.  It reminds us that we are not alone, that there is a posse out there that we belong to and who will stand beside us no matter how big the giant.  Brene Brown says, “A deep sense of love and belonging is an irreducible need of all women, men, and children.  We are biologically, cognitively, physically, and spiritually wired to love, to be loved, and to belong.  When those needs are not met, we don’t function as we were meant to.  We break.  We fall apart. We numb. We ache.  We hurt others. We get sick.”  This is so spot on and explains what I’ve seen in my work with children.  Children who are isolated and bullied have a hard time functioning at school and can become numb and at times want to hurt others.

And it is how I would feel if I didn’t have my two best friends in my life – I would break.  I would ache and fall apart.

Friendships are crucial to our lives.  We need to connect to others.  And although it can be easy to isolate ourselves, especially now, it becomes even more important for us to pull our posse close and fill up on the nourishment of love, support, and strength.

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