Twelve years ago, I was not a good friend. I was horrible at it. I was young and naïve and had put all my energy into a guy who turned out to be an assface. I let him control my time, and me and I let my friendships go to the wayside. And then I really screwed up and got married which only separated me from my friends more and then the assface tightened his grip even more. Things were rough and I needed my friends (or just a friend) and I’d all but physically pushed them away because he wanted me to and it was easier to do that than put up with his abuse (which I got regardless).
Eventually I mended some of those friendships and I attribute my finally leaving to the strength that those friends gave me. Ashley, Alison, Sharon, and Max… they helped me realize I was not alone and wouldn’t be if I chose to stand up for myself and walk out the door for good. So I did, and they were there for me when I needed them.
I wanted to be the girl they’d laughed with and had memories with, and for a short time I was. We laughed. I went to (and met up with them in) L.A, Vegas, Disneyland and Chicago. We danced a lot and drank too much and sat up late into the early morning talking. I relocated to a new city and got to live with my best friend and her best friend and we three became sisters. Those first six months were great. But I struggled with who I was, with the things I hadn’t done. I was insecure. I made a lot of mistakes and put myself in stupid, dangerous situations. I struggled with suddenly having people who cared about my bad decision making when I’d been so used to standing on my own. I felt smothered. I was like a teenager from hell, and I was 27.
And then I met Daniel and he was this calming influence on me. He had such a good, kindhearted spirit and being with him made me want to be a better person. I felt stronger with him and he had so much faith in me. It was refreshing to meet someone who had no preconceived notions about who I was; who I should be. I was a better person when I was with him and I found myself wanting to spend every waking (and sleeping) moment with him. I wanted to share him with my friends, but I didn’t feel like they understood. Some did understand and embraced him. Others worried I was making a big mistake and warned me against moving too fast. I did not take this well. I took their caring as controlling and I cut myself off from them. Bad things were said, feelings were hurt, friendships ended.
For a time, it felt like it was just me and Daniel and a couple friends who (even if they did think I was moving too fast) supported us. We tried to branch out. We got more involved in theatre. Eventually, we made some great friends who we love like family. We felt less alone. After some time, the friendships I’d lost were repaired: not the same but evolved. There was forgiveness and understanding and tears. Grudges and anger slipped away and my heart felt less heavy.
I don’t think I’m the best at being a friend. I can be quiet and hermit-like. Daniel is the only person in this world who I can stand to be with 24/7. We compliment each other because we understand that we’re still together even if we’re not talking every second or sitting right next to each other. Sometimes I want to be able to just be alone. I’m not a phone talker- I actually hate the phone. I email and text and I’m great in person. I get impatient with people complaining for years about the same thing and doing nothing to fix it.
But if a friend needs me in an emergency, I am there. If someone needs a shoulder to cry on or an unbiased ear, I will be that person. I will lend the money I can to help in an emergency. I will defend you. I will be honest with you. I will give you whatever I can to help. I will be your cheerleader. I will try to make you laugh and I will let you cry. I will not hold grudges and I will forgive you. I am not afraid or too proud to apologize. I do my best to be the best friend I can be and I love my friends like they are family.
But sometimes a person needs a break from their family. I’m just sayin’.
Recently, a friend told us they really needed to know who their real friends were – who they could depend on. I understand where they are coming from but at the same time this frustrates me. Who is to say how much a friend has to give before they are reliable and a “real” friend? We do what we can, when we can. Why does it have to be black and white? I’m either a good friend or I’m not? I don’t feel like there should be obligation in friendship. Friends are the family we choose. If we can’t be there it’s because we have things going on in our own lives: baby, a cold or flu, sick parents, new house, stress. It does not mean we love you less, it just means life is hectic and we can’t be ten places at once.
I do the best I can. You can lean on me, but if you lean too much for too long I might fall down. What I’m trying to say is: sometimes I need a break – but it doesn’t mean I’m not your friend anymore. Is that awful and selfish of me?