Friendship Week (er Month?) continues! Friendship has always been a big thing in my life. It's brought me some of my most profound pleasure and profound pain. As a kid I struggled with playground politics. Never the class pariah, I still however, never seemed to quite fit in. I was accepted, but I didn't belong. And man, did I need to belong. Occasionally I would find that sacred Shangri-La of belonging, only to have it slip away in the currents of teenage intrigue. I believe it set up a dangerous emotional pattern, leading to euphoric highs when I felt I'd "found my tribe" followed by devastating lows if I got shut out of the group, or a once-best friend turned their back.
As you get older, friendships tend to get more stable, but also more complicated. We like to think, as grown-ups, we're beyond the petty drama of our youth, but alas - I've found that nothing really changes, it just wears a different face. And nothing throws my self-esteem off keel faster than trouble in my friendships.
But I'm not here to talk about those troubles, rather, this post is about several unexpected moments of grace I experienced lately at the hands of good friends. They came when I needed them most: I had recently suffered a major shake-up with a friend I considered one of my closest, most trusted colleagues. My foundation was rocked. Not just the foundation of that friendship, I was questioning all my friendships (always excepting Bustle), friendship in general, and even questioning my self-worth. That old insecurity from days of yore, installed since childhood, took hold. I felt like I was drowning. The first life preserver was thrown, of course, by Bustle herself.
A kind note arrived in my mailbox, enclosed with an exuberant little card that read: "You Don't Suck!" Bustle knew of my recent woes and was sending me a sweet little reminder. It might not sound as exciting as "You Rock!", but trust me, it was exactly what I needed. It was as if my best friend were saying "I hear that negative little voice in your head, and I'm here to tell you, it's wrong. I see you. You have worth."
A couple of weeks later I had lunch with a friend I hadn't seen in months. A long-time acquaintance, but new addition to the close friend tier, she and I met to catch up on what was going on in our worlds. And what was going on in my world was friendship drama. One tale of woe seems to beckon the next, and after a while I feared I was burdening my new, dear friend with too much negativity. That's when she surprised me by stopping me for a moment and saying something to the effect of: "I just want you to notice something. Every time you tell me about something that's gone wrong, something horrible someone did to you, you always stop and say, 'well, but they were going through this at the time' or 'well, they were probably feeling this', or 'but I did this thing to contribute to the situation'. You are always trying to see things from the other person's perspective. And you own your own shit. Not a lot of people do that." This kind and gracious friend looked at me and I felt seen, not with eyes lacking judgement, but with eyes full of grace. And it was like receiving another little card from the universe, to join the first: You Don't Suck!
Another moment happened during tech week for rehearsal of my latest show. An actor stopped me to apologize for a tiny moment of passive-aggressiveness. I was taken aback. I laughed, telling her that it was tech week, I was the producer and used to taking a lot of crap, being the target for everyone's frustration - really, this minor moment barely made my radar. I hadn't even noticed this slight, or taken it as such - no apology required. Her eyes widened, and she continued her apology, undeterred. And in her expression I saw the question: "Do you really deserve to be taking crap from everyone? Maybe you shouldn't do that. You Don't Suck." And another little note slid under the door, and into place beside the others.
Last but not least, sitting on the sofa, my recent trials and tribulations having receded into the past, I received an unexpected text from a very dear friend. What on earth was she doing, texting little old me in the middle of her vacation? She told me she'd been thinking lately about who she really trusted in this world, and that I was one of those people. "I appreciate how fucking real you are. I always know what I'm getting with you. I love you." Wow. Showers of cards rained down from the heavens in an unexpected downpour of acceptance and love. You Don't Suck!
I've been trying to write this piece for a long time, but I've been blocked. Thinking about it yesterday, I was walking in my yard and saw a fortune from a fortune cookie laying in the grass. How it got there, I don't know. I picked it up and read: "The best mirror is a good friend". One last little nudge.
So...I don't suck, in fact, maybe I'm even pretty swell. I'm so grateful to those friends for letting me know that, when I really needed to hear it. And I'm grateful to God, or the universe, or whatever winds of fortune brought those reminders my way. And I'm grateful to you, if you're still reading this rather long post.
So find those good friends that are your best mirrors, and cherish them. You have worth. You deserve respect. You Don't Suck! Remember that.
Hysterically, I found this card floating in my cat's water dish. Which seemed kind of like a bad omen, but then again, the colors didn't run. The card is unharmed. I still don't suck.