I have learned that being in love doesn’t necessarily make us stronger, or even happier, but having love does. I don’t mean the kind you have from a significant other. I am talking about the love you have from true friendships. The kind that last a lifetime. The kind of friends that include family or feel like family. I didn’t realize I had some of these friends until a few years ago. Friends I grew up with that I still connect with. Friends I may not see or talk to every day, for whom I would drop everything for if they were in need. And they would do the same for me.
I recently had dinner with one of my best friends we have been together since she was born, three days after me. we see each other two or three times a year. and, get this, we live three or four miles away from each other. The truth is, life can get in the way. At dinner, she aplogized for being out of touch. My first thought was, “no need to apologize because I am just as guilty.” We are at different places in life. She is married and has kids at home. I am single and live alone. But that does not make me value our friendship any less. We do less things together, but the love has not changed. And when asked about my best friends growing up, her name always comes up. And my response following that is, “and she is till one of my very best friends.” She is one of those friends that when we get together, we pick right up where we left off. I have a few friends like that, whom I can pick right up with.
I just went camping with another of those friends. We went camping together last weekend. Not glamping, not with an air matress or portable gourmet kitchen. But good old fashioned camping. Sleeping on the ground, cooking on the fire, peeing in the woods and no shower. Yeah, didn’t shower for a day and a half. We played games by the fire, we saw a bear near the campsite, and we fought off yellow jackets. But the weekend was fun anyway. Well, except that I shared my sleeping bag with my 68 pound dog. I think I need to invest in a double sleeping bag so I can share with Marshall. It was amazing to spend the weekend with a friend that I talk to on almost a daily basis, but hardly get to see. We talked about our kids and life. He is one of those friends I have known since high school, but didn’t realize how important he would be in my life until a few years ago. We have seen each other through some tough break ups, tough times raising kids, and exciting times raising kids. We have cried a lot together. I am so grateful that we were able to really reconnect and grow such an amazing friendship.
I have written about my tribe before, but I have been truly blessed to have them in my life. These women came into my life in the last year or two and it’s as if they were always there. When FaceBook pops up and says, “It’s your Friendiversary” I am surprised when it says 1 year, or 2 years. How is that possible? I can’t picture my life withouth these women. There are very few days when we don’t talk. These are the women I turn to when something happens with dating, being a divorced mom or dealing with an ex. I turn to them for so much more, however, they are the ones that completely understand the trials and tribulations of being divorced and single again. We straighten each others’ crowns and speak the truth, even if it hurts sometimes. We do game nights and girls’ weekends. An impromptu text to have a quick lunch during the work day. People always say that the challenges in life are not a sprint, they are like running a marathon. You have to go slow and steady to maintain strength for the full run. These women, they help me sustain my strength. They give me strength. I hope I return that for them. When one of us needs strength, those of us that have it, give it willingly.
I cannot write about friends and people that give you strength without writing about my family. There is absolutely no way I would have gotten through all the things in my life without family. I am, without a doubt, loved beyond belief. I may not always deserve it, I may take it for granted, but I know it’s there and I do know just how blessed I am. My parents have helped me through a divorce, buying a new home, totalling a car, getting a new job, helping me with my dogs and thousands of little things around the house that add up to tons and tons of love. And let’s not forget two surgeries. My mom slept on a little chair after my last surgery so I wasn’t home alone. She helped me shower and had to help me take care of my incisions. Not a pretty job at all. While I may not always show how appreciative I am, I do know exactly how much they do for me and there’s not a day that goes by that I’m not thankful for them and that I don’t think about how much I love them. And my sister…She has no clue how strong she is. She has been this incredible rock for her family. At the same time as she was being so strong for her family at home, she was helping me through a divorce. She would come to my house late at night and soothe me as I cried myself to sleep. She and I have gone through very different challenges in our lives. I don’t pretend to understand what she has gone through. But I have seen how she has handled it. The grace with which she has handled it all. She has not been through the same challenges as me. But what she offers me is a listening ear. Not suggestions, not a knowledge of what I feel, but someone who accepts me for my challenges and supports me and just hears me. She is too humble to even see the impact she has had on so many lives. Girl, I know you’re reading this. The strength I have found, the strength your family has, it’s you.
I can’t talk about family without talking about my kiddos. So here’s the thing, when I realized divorce was the only option, I knew I wasn’t the only one that would go through it. My kids were going to have to go through it too. Their challenges were going to be very different from mine. I also knew I wouldn’t understand what they were going through. My parents are still together. What I did know, was that they were not going to be burdened with the challenges I faced from the divorce. I was not going to burden them with having to take sides. They should be able to love both me and their dad equally, without having to feel guilty or like they are hurting us. I never wanted them to feel as though they would need to be my rock through this difficult time. I needed to be their mom and love them and get them through their challenges. The kids didn’t talk much about the divorce. I didn’t force it and I tried to always make it clear that I was there for them no matter what. It took me a long time to really be able to look at my relationship with them and appreciate what I have. You see, teenagers are tough. Whether they are part of an intact family, a blended family, or with single parents, they present challenges because they are going through their own challenges, that they are not quite mature enough to handle all the time. I had to learn to not take everything personally. Now, I can gain strength from them too, and they don’t even realize it. When I get a first day of classes picture it melts my heart that they thought of me. When I get a surprise that one of them is home and wants to spend time with me. When they ask me to come to a college game to get that experience, I feel like a million bucks. The phone calls and text exchanges I have with my kids are becoming something I look forward to. I used to walk on eggshells being afraid to say the wrong thing. Now, I can let most things roll right off and not take it personally. I will say, my kids expressed to me a little over a year ago, that they wished I had opened up more to them about the divorce. I don’t know if it is because there dad was very open with them about his feelings, that they needed my “side” to balance it out so they didn’t feel pulled in one direction. I have stood by my choice to not share that with them. That is their dad. I will not say bad things about him to make me feel better. They are welcome to vent to me about him just as they should be able to vent to him about me. However, I will not join in and perpetuate the frustration for my personal gain. It doesn’t help them. I will support them and protect them and be their strength, but I will not talk bad about him to them. In sticking with my morals, I have found such a happiness, and the kids seem truly happy for me. And when I see them enjoying school, I am thrilled for them. Seeing them happy brings me so much joy.
This, this is what I have been craving my entire life. To have such amazing friendships. Everyone is so completely important to me and I am truly blessed to have them all in my life. I can only hope that I bring them even half the joy and strength that they give me. Because of them, I can live my life free from anxiety, free from fear of being hurt by an intimate relationship, without putting up walls. I can be my true self with anyone and I don’t have to give a flying fuck if someone doesn’t like it. I’m surrounded by people who love me and do like me, so others are free to walk away. People may come into my life that make me very happy. And I will not put up walls and I will let them into my life. And I can go into that without fear of getting hurt. Because I know if that happens, I’m surrounded by love, and my entire tribe will pick me up and I will be okay. Having friends is powerful. Probably one of the most powerful super powers. You don’t have to have a lot of friends. You just need to have the ones that will let you be unapologetically you.