It started at a pool party, progressed into pot luck dinners and transformed during a jewelery party. What started as my usual attempt to befriend like-minded parents to create an atmosphere of love surrounding my children has transformed into the most remarkable friendship of my life. Happy Birthday Tina, I love you.
I’ve had friends before, but somewhere during the seven years between a nasty breakup with my college besty and meeting Tina I decided I wasn’t really a likeable character in my own storyline. A great mother, yes, a fantastic spouse, for sure. Friend that allows the confines of my brain to be unsealed to another without fear of the friendship souring over honesty? No. Protecting myself from vulnerability feels like a full-time job.
Having a real friend requires shared vulnerability I wasn’t prepared to offer for a long time. Being a real friend means losing the fear of being honest, knowing that your relationship can thrive only with honesty. It took years of practice and many missteps to get it right in my marriage, and for a long time I was too afraid to do it again. But then I would see girlfriends, in real life and in movies like Bridesmaids, and would be overcome with sadness that my own self doubt regarding my worth, my own fears of intimacy, prevented me from opening up in friendship.
Around three years ago I met Tina, my BFF and the only person who I feel I could break out teenage acronyms for without a hint of irony. I met her and realized that I wanted to have a friendship that went beyond conversations of diaper changes and bedtime schedules. She really gets me, the me that I am now, the one that I thought no one would really like because my need for control and my fear of being vulnerable.
I once offered her advice on how to drive to my house, the house we had left from together a few hours before. I caught my foot on the way to my mouth and apologized, only to hear her say, “It’s ok. I know you know I actually know how to get to your house.” That is love. Once she asked me to plan a rare evening without children for us and our spouses. I sent an itinerary including timelines, maps, arrivals etc. It takes love not to call me out on my over-the-top planningness. It was in her acceptance of me that I realized I am totally the Marney of our 4-some, and that me as I am was still good enough.
Allowing anyone else to be in the driver’s seat, both literally and figuratively, causes me serious nerves. My life is a product of my choices, my control issues a central tenet of my personality. Opening myself up in friendships past wasn’t hard because I kept an exit option at hand. Learning to close the exit option, dig in, and find true companionship is a skill I never wanted to possess, not until now. Now that I do I feel grateful, grateful that I still have some decades left on this planet to practice vulnerability.
To you, Tina, on your birthday, please know that your friendship is the rock that grounds me into a new reality, full of honest and uncontrolled connection and companionship. You are an amazing mom, wife, business analyst, karaoke crooner and card partner. You accept even the worst parts of me as part of a package deal that you want to keep around. You make me laugh at myself instead of crawling into a hole of self-doubt. Spending the last few years as friends has transformed the fabric of my life, making it so much richer than I thought possible.
I love you, I value you and I promise to be your rock.