This post is dedicated to all of my true friends: Past, Present, Future.
When you come to a crisis in your health or the lives of your children, you might learn who your true friends are, but you learn so much more than that. You learn how people cope with sick friends. You learn how people react. You learn how NOT to have judgment when they can’t deal with your illness.
Throughout this illness, I have had to learn to let go of expectations. When I expect, it is so easy to get let down. When I let go, I get surprised by the generosity of new friends, and the care of virtual friends. Okay. True confession? I still struggle with letting go.
Grief over friendships is a big one. If I were to give advice to someone who is NOT chronically ill and who has never had a serious healing crisis, it would be to make sure you have a Bestie. You know. . .a BFF. Your go-to gal. The person who knows what you need without you even needing to ask. The one who knows how your like your tea, that you can’t have beer anymore and that you have to paint your toenails at least 5 different colors in order to stay sane. And, that person should be your partner/husband/wife, because chances are, if you are in hell soup, your partner is drowning in the same vat.
I have some great friends. I have some great neighbors. I have some friends that care about me that I haven’t known for very long. But I don’t have a Bestie. I have. In the past I had Kelly, the best friend/next door neighbor. She moved to Perham, MN, just after kindergarten and left me heartbroken. And then there was Cindy, who lived two blocks away from me through early elementary until I moved. Then there was Lisa, who moved to “the cities”, breaking my heart, again. Being an interloper in a new town was hard. I never really found a Bestie again. In college I had a few close friends, but the BITE happened my senior year, and that whole, “personality change”, trashed all hopes of a friendship lasting through hell. My sister was the Maid of honor at the first wedding, with Mary Beth as the Bridesmaid. Tracy was the second. I talk to Mary Beth once year, if I’m lucky. Tracy less. Mary, a little more.
I’ve been in one wedding. I met my first husband there. Turns out he was sleeping with the bride up until the wedding. (What was I thinking?) I wore a little bo peep costume with a big crinoline underneath. I have never been asked again. Perhaps it just didn’t suit me. Or, I just never had another Bestie that got married.
I’m not going to say that every lost friendship I’ve had in my life was lost due to my chronic illness. I will say that my over-emotional, over-reactive, sometimes fragile, sometimes irratic behaviors have been the cause of a few. I’m used to the friend shifts. As hard as they are, I’ve grown to expect them.
When I started doing summer theater and touring, I had short intense relationships that ended like most long distances loves end. Distance can’t survive busy lives. Or it couldn’t in the 80’s and 90’s. I just let friend shifts happen. Other than one family member (in-law) and one friend, I think that all friend shifts I’ve experienced, especially the back and forth ones, have been appropriate. I’m even friends on facebook with most of those friendshifts/relationship. With some, I’m rebuilding after many, many years of distance. I’ve had one family relationship and one friendship end over misunderstanding and judgment of my illness. One has refused to communicate with me because of this blog and the other called me a liar and told me that my medication was “clearly getting to my head”. Duh.
But friendshifts happen.
I have some fabulous friends, now. Some live in other states, some live here. Some, I’ve never met in real life. That should be good enough. Great, even.
But a crisis works best when you have a BFF. Works even better if your BFF is an extrovert. For some of us, especially those who haven’t had the strength or energy to nurture relationships the way most people do, we don’t have that. I have said “no” to just about every invitation I’ve gotten in the past 10 years. It doesn’t make you very popular. Eventually, people stop asking.
So, what does that matter, now, when I’m dealing with the greatest fight of my life? I don’t have a Bestie. Is that odd? I’m nearly 46 years old and I haven’t had a bestie for years.
The Bestie assesses the situation, and develops a plan.
She makes promises and she follows through.
The Bestie throws the benefit to help the sick family with their medical expenses.
She is better than a sister, because you never have to bitch about your other siblings with her.
My mom’s Bestie always tucked a $5 bill into an envelope when my mom called her. A little lettuce leaf to pay for the long distance call. That’s a Bestie.
With her, you never have to worry about repeating yourself for the fifth time.
You can answer the door in curlers and slippers when your Bestie is on the other side.
When you spit your tea across the table because you are laughing so hard at your own absurd life (or a joke she told you to take your mind off something else), she doesn’t care.
Your Bestie reminds you that no matter how hard your life is, you will get through this — each and every day, or at least when you really need it.
I wonder if it is too late, in my 46th year, to run an ad for a Bestie. There must be other women out there that are missing theirs?
I promise: No Barbie Dolls. No late nights. And no passed out drunkenness.
Oh, and if I actually HAVE a Bestie, and I’ve forgotten due to the “medication getting to brain,” feel free to remind me! : )
If you liked this post, please send it to your own “BFF” thanking him/her for their friendship. What I’m realizing, is that most people with Lyme (especially women) used to have BFFs, and for reasons of their illness, no longer due. Looks to me, that we have to be BFF for each other. Hang in there.