The day I met my best friend was rather ordinary. I can’t remember exactly what it was about her that intrigued me—but I do remember thinking that I needed to learn more about the woman sitting across from me at the café table.
I knew we had one thing in common. After all, we were at a foster and adoptive mom support group meeting. But what I discovered later was that we were strikingly similar—type A, determined, and knowledgeable in our areas of interest. We both have big, multiracial families, including children with special needs.
It’s been almost a decade since we met, and we’ve had countless conversations over tacos and margaritas or our kids’ birthday cakes. And, when life was busy—as it so often is, we’d communicate via text. Her kids and mine would be bickering in the background while we solved our latest challenge—together.
What is true friendship? How does it sustain the test of time? Relationships of any kind are complicated at times, but finding and keeping authentic, in-our-corner friendships is beyond difficult. We talk about this issue all the time. Many of us have never had the village that some of our parents had “back in the day.” This lack of support is heartbreaking and lonely.
So when we find that person whom we’re pretty sure is our soul-sister, we hang on for dear life. If we’re lucky, we might find several people who become our nearest-and-dearest.
The older I get, the smaller my true circle of friends becomes. Not because I don’t like people, but because few people can be trusted with our roughest edges. I no longer make time or expend energy on anyone petty, selfish, dramatic, or needy.
That’s right. I’m really, really friend-picky. And I’m not ashamed of it.
My BFF is the first person I call when the proverbial shit hits the fan. Like when I found out the lump in my breast wasn’t a cyst, as we had hoped for. It was—instead—breast cancer. Or when she found out about a newborn boy with Apert syndrome who needed a forever family and had to decide whether or not to consider becoming his mom.
We give each other permission to feel as we do because there are no right or wrong emotions when we’re facing a life-altering decision. There’s no naysaying. We listen and support each other, period.
That doesn’t mean we don’t speak truth. Our closest friends know what our next step needs to be, sometimes before we do. Yet they give us the time and space we need to figure it out. And when we make the wrong choice, as we sometimes tend to do, they don’t wag their fingers and deliver a lecture. They just pull us up—again—and remind us of what we need to do. Of course, they don’t show up empty-handed. Wine and chocolate are often involved.
In real friendship, there’s a lot of listening. But unsolicited advice is welcome—because the deliverer knows exactly what to say and how to say it. Every conversation is a sacred, judgment-free dance where both partners leave better off than when they started.
And with a close friend, one who knows you inside and out, one who has seen you elated and depressed, there’s no apologizing, explaining, or excusing. You co-exist, supporting one another through thick and thin, sickness and health, great and terrible. Sounds a lot like traditional marriage vows, right?
The best friendships are give-and-take, but not always 50/50. Weathering the storms of life mean sometimes a great friendship is 30/70—like when I spent two months in bed after my mastectomy. I was a mess—physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. I had absolutely nothing to offer anyone, because I had been broken and pieced back together. I wasn’t sure who I was or where I was going next.
My best friend showed up—texting, phone calls, gifts, dinners for my family, and visits. I didn’t have to pretend to be anything I wasn’t. I didn’t comb my hair, brush my teeth, or wash my face. With surgical drains snaking from my chest, we sat in my bedroom and chatted. I was a hot mess and 100% enough for her.
The reason we work is because we aren’t trying to take up someone else’s place. We aren’t each other’s therapists, mothers, sisters, or bosses. We’re friends. We stay in our friend lane. We aren’t too much or not enough.
I have certainly made mistakes. There were the women who just didn’t understand my multiracial family and constantly prodded me for explanations on why something was racist. There were women whom I thought were my real friends, but when my cancer diagnosis shook my world, these women were nowhere to be found. There were also the all-about-me friends—the ones who never asked how I was but would call me the second they needed a listening ear.
As I got older, I learned to say goodbye to some of these so-called friends. Not in a dramatic exit kind of way, but quietly. I let them slip away, or maybe I was the one who slipped away from them. I decided that I am worthy of relationships that contribute to my life. High maintenance people aren’t my thing. Not every person is for me—nor am I for every person.
Real friends are those who recognize each other’s value, but also each other’s strengths and weaknesses. They don’t expect equality at all times, but they do anticipate a commitment to mutual respect. And they withstand the test of time, not letting circumstance shake their friendship foundation. We trust each other’s judgment—because that judgment has nothing to do with judging each other.
Sounds like a tall order, doesn’t it? Well, it is. But I’m worth it. And so are you.
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