When I was young, maybe 9 or 10, I can remember sitting next to my mom on her bed and crying over another disagreement with a friend. Looking back, it’s easy to only remember these times, because they seemed so frequent. I was a sensitive kid, I was new to the neighborhood, I had a little brother on a street dominated by girls. Whatever had happened this particular instance doesn’t really matter, and I don’t even remember it. What matters and what sticks with me is the suggestion she shared as I sniffled and snotted in her lap during bedtime.
She said that maybe it was time for me to branch out. A tree doesn’t have just one branch, it has many branches, and maybe I should expand my surroundings and find some new friends. This was a hugely novel concept for me at the time. New friends?! No way! I had a best friend, and when you are 9 or 10, best friendship means everything. I hated the idea, but eventually I did that. I spread myself out a bit and found new friends in new places and so when trouble arose with this best friendship, I had other places to turn to for companionship.
Fast forward about a dozen years, and I am again crying to my mother. A friendship seems to be broken, fallen apart. I’ve got my own small child, but my mom continues to offer me a spot on her bed to sniffle, snuffle and share. This woman has been one of my best friends for years. Age and maturity, and that wisdom my mom shared, mean that I can have more than one best friend without the world crashing down. She came to me during a dark time in my life, and I shared with her things I couldn’t tell anyone then, my shame and fear, my hopes and dreams. We were there for each other through pregnancies and relationships and all these major life changes, but I felt like a divide grew between us, one too deep to cross.
My mom, again, shared her wisdom. She told me that just because this friend was moving out of my life doesn’t mean that she wasn’t meant to be in it or that anything was wrong, just that sometimes we only need people for so long and then things change. These people, these friendships, do not lose their importance in your life because the friendship has ended, because we are forever changed by them.
That last conversation with my mom happened several years ago and I can’t stop thinking about it. The truth is, this particular best friend is in the process of moving many states away. We said our goodbyes the other morning, with lots of memories and a few tears.
I listened to my mom both times. This friend and I lived with distance, going months (I think it was only months) not even talking at all, being purposefully absent from each others’ lives. But eventually, we grew close again. Life happens and people change, and I realized that the universe still wants us together. For lack of a better way to say it, we’ve still got purpose together.
Are some of those things that caused that gap between us still there? Maybe, but it doesn’t even matter. Friendship, even best friendship, doesn’t mean that you never disagree. It doesn’t even mean that you don’t disagree on some big things. It means that at the end of the day you realize that this person is that important to you, you love them that much, that these differences don’t even matter. The love and the memories and the years that you share create a bridge between you, and if they’re supposed to be in your life, they will be.
My son is still little. I hope some of this can be transmitted to him, though I know that he’ll struggle with friendships anyway. I hope I’m prepared when he comes to me in tears, and that I can handle it as well as my mom did. He’s had fights and disagreements and upset feelings with friends already. I sometimes ask him if this argument, this disagreement, these hurt feelings, are worth losing someone that he’s loved for so many years already. You know, trying to keep it in perspective. Being six can be really tough, much like being in your twenties.
I think the answer to that question for me and this friend is definitely no, it’s not worth losing. I’ve branched out, I’ve got lots of friends, even lots of best friends, and I know in my heart that she’s supposed to be one of them. Our friendship changes as we change, as our lives change, and that’s a wonderful thing.
Thank you Kim, for inspiring this post. I look forward to sharing so many more years with you, and I could not have made it without you.