“We’ll be friends forever because you already know too much.” Unknown.
My friend wraps her arms around me, it’s her 70th birthday celebration, without fail she always finds something so loving to say to me when I’m in her embrace. She is an awesome woman, lived an incredible life with so much dignity, grace and hard work. The smell of her perfume lingers on me for the afternoon as I race about picking up and dropping my kids from the school fair to basketball finals. For some reason, the fragrance gets me thinking about the incredible friendships I have in my life.
Odd how the brain works sometimes. Maybe it’s actually the heart.
As I move with the family’s events, I find different friends popping into my mind with love and appreciation. These friendships span a great number of years and over many, many life events. We’ve travelled, celebrated, grieved, laughed, danced, walked, partied, explored and spent endless hours talking and hanging out. There is a history binding us together underpinning who we once were and who we are are now.
Fair to say I’ve lost a few friendships too, that happens. At times, you just outgrow each other for a number of reasons and I’ve learned the art of letting go. Doesn’t mean it hasn’t hurt or I haven’t experienced the loss but, as I’ve become older I accept that not everyone is meant for the long haul.
And sometimes I’ve even felt enormously grateful they’ve gone.
Having children changed the way I experienced friendships too. There was no longer the time there once was. I’m pretty sure that cost me a few mates. Having four children in five years pretty much put me in ‘unavailable-just getting by’ mode for quite a time. Then there were the years of post-divorce survival and intense study as I transformed my life.
One friend left telling me I had changed. They were absolutely right, how could I not? I think they might have been saying they needed me to shrink back to the way I was to them. I actually didn’t ask, the attack came thick and fast and I decided to step back, let it all go to the wicket keeper and see what was left. Nothing apparently. As another beautiful friend always says, onwards sister.
These long-time friends have been the kind to not demand my time when I was running on limited output. They are the people who I can call at any time and I know they will not only answer, but have my back to the end of this earth, and then some. They can experience me emotionally unkempt and jagged as I grapple with what life may have thrown at me for that day, month or year.
They can distinguish my sobs on the end of the telephone long before I’ve thought to say it’s me.
Even as I unravel in tears they will at the same time have me gasping for air by making me laugh as we face life on life’s terms together. They can hold me in all my despair, joy and grief but also do not feel obliged to find my answers or solve my problems. We have learned to be there without co-dependency enmeshing itself to our souls. We are free to disagree, to share our wild and fierce opinions and dreams, and even if we don’t really understand why, we will back up in each other’s lives anyway.
These are the people who don’t think twice when I tell them about what my next adventure will be. They are the ones who believe I can do what I set out to do. We celebrate who we are: gutsy, wholehearted and true to ourselves. We don’t tell each other to stop, reign ourselves in, or roll our eyes saying, “you should have this sorted by now.”
There is a calm acceptance of where we are at, and sometimes that is at the seemingly bottom of the barrel facing a struggle, maybe a thousand times over. We know life is shockingly difficult at times, as we’ve faced destruction and deep loss, both unexpectedly and by the decisions we or others have made. We have never given up on each other.
We know we are messy as we strive to live this beautiful life, and we just hope it’s not all of us of the same day. So far, so good on that one.
We are an interesting bunch, all ages, spread across many places, with extraordinarily different education and careers. Some of us have kids and we understand what it is to parent day in and day out, to lose your stuff and feel like we’re failing. And we also get to share when we ace it too, and everything in-between.
Some of us were unable to have children, and we’ve walked with each other whilst facing the unbearable loss of both miscarriage and the opportunity. Some have decided to not have a family, and we’ve celebrated this decision as well. Us parents might have put them off!
The mix is rich, the variations are deep, and that is our bond.
These people are the ones I trust when I lose my equilibrium, when all about me seems unfathomable and shaky. We understand there are times where we find ourselves in the darkness and we call to each other so we know we aren’t alone there. Sometimes we pull up a seat and a coffee and sit there, in silent support. This can be enough.
We trust in each other’s goodness and ability to find our way through. We respect that sometimes one of us is not available, perhaps reached emotional or physical capacity, and there are times of retreat. Other than checking we are okay, we don’t take this personally, and if we do, we talk about it when the time is apparent.
We are not perfect, but I know we are no longer striving to be. We have ditched the rule book and found ways to be who we are in relationship, without drama and emotional chaos. Quite frankly, we have full lives and there isn’t much time for that. I am not talking about a hundred friends, but a good few who have become a part of me for all of time.
They are the ones who have left footprints on my heart and very bad jokes on my voicemail and inbox. They will tell me the truth, even if it hurts, but that same breath will be backed up with love.
These are the friendships I cannot live without.