“You’re Fired!” bellows Donald Trump across a boardroom table. I summon that vision as I yet again reach out to my long lost friend only to feel let down. And this time I reach out more from annoying duty than true concern. I’ve called – to only get voicemail – I’ve texted – to hear crickets – until finally she summons a pathetic apology of being a horrible friend. “Yes you are” I quietly agree as I throw my phone down to get on with my one million other to-do’s of the day.
If we lived in the same town I would consider putting a pink slip under her wiper before peeling out of her work parking lot leaving no question as to whether I was ticked off or not. But I don’t. And when I see her response that she really will buy a plane ticket and come see me (now in my 3rd home she’s promised to visit) I scan through her laundry list of work related reasons why she just can’t leave right now followed by her reasons surrounding more homeless pets she has acquired. It’s truly never a good time.
So why don’t I tell her to sock it and count my blessings this song and dance of “are you mad at me?” and “do you hate me that I never come to see you?” is finally done?
I don’t simply because true friends are hard to find. Although she is not acting like a true friend to me in this season, she once was my rock guiding me through a nasty and abusive divorce. She had been in my shoes 15 years prior trying to escape the legal institute of marriage and as my work mentor she picked up on what I wasn’t saying. Until that day she heard him screaming at me through my cell phone because I had agreed to go with her to the jewelry store after lunch to pick up something that I don’t even recall at this moment. A watch? A ring?
Whatever it was as we stood outside the store, I realized she heard him calling me every name for not vetting through him what I was doing. Mind you this was in the middle of my work day as a high-level director while he was at work across town doing God only knows what. She saw right through me and the “perfect life” facade I had put on. That perfect life crumbled right there and my truest friend for that season in my life was given to me by the grace of God.
She never judged. She never pooh poohed my feelings – as erratic and emotional as they got. Instead in the midst of her busy VP life full of work, homeless animals and more work she showed me what true friendship looks like. Because I had to plan my “exit strategy” with military precision under a controlling and abusive spouse, our talks could only be held during work hours. I still had to play the role of the good wife after hours and on weekends while cataloging my items, changing credit cards, deleting him from my credit history and securing an apartment and attorney on the sly. My friend walked me through each tipping point giving me her historical perspective along with great doses of humor over lunch every day for a month.
Her wisest words were “you can endure anything for 90 days because there’s something magical about 3 months when the healing starts.” At the time I’m not sure if she made that up or knew that was the time-frame for separation in our state, but it worked. I’m a goal oriented gal and my friend set me straight every day at lunch asking what I had accomplished, what was on the docket next, what I needed from her. When I did present the divorce papers to him my friend sent along her big burly special forces husband to stand in my doorway and monitor. She used her pick up truck to haul things of mine out to the storage unit she had helped me set up. She paid for many things so I didn’t throw a red flag using a credit card always knowing I would pay her back, but saying I didn’t need to.
She walked that time in the lowest of low valleys with me. Afterwards she was there checking in as I mended and started a single girl life giving me guidance that the dating world would look differently at me now. Boy was she right. Or how to professional change my name back to my maiden name with decorum and dignity even though I had never felt more used and gritty in my life!
I ended up changing jobs and even careers and she was there to cheer me on, giving great career advice and being more overjoyed at my wedding years later than I could have hoped. She stayed until the end, tossing petals as we exited and waving like a crazy woman as we drove off. Years after she met up to hold my new son and later my daughter before we moved utterly thrilled that I was a mother. Our paths drifted different directions so we’d very rarely catch up but when we did it was talking for hours at dinner and shutting the place down always with the promise to do better next time keeping in touch. And then my family moved across the country. And then back again. Oh life.
I’ve had friends who became acquaintances or friends who unfriend me from Facebook after we moved away because I suppose they thought “why bother.” Maybe you truly have a person for a season in your life and although you think it’s for your personal development and character building, it may have nothing to do with you. It may have been for them. Or for someone who was brought into your life because of that person. Or a job. Or a partner. Or a homeless animal. I’ve learned to stop questioning the “why” in relationships and just appreciate the “how” that person worked into my life story in that chapter.
And now my absent friend is struggling with depression. I’ve known that for a few years. She carried me through a dark chapter in my life and now she’s engulfed in sorrow missing her mother. Evidently my badgering texts of “why aren’t you calling me back you big dork?” and “when are we going to visit together goober?” make her smile and remember our endless lunches planning my new life together over a decade ago.
So if she can’t be my friend right now, I can still be hers. And although I want to throttle her – and yes even fire her – I can honor who she was in my life back when I didn’t know where to turn. I believe that God has shown us how to be a friend in the fact that He still woos after our hearts and begs for our attention despite ourselves.
So who am I to turn my back on someone who showed me her love every.stinking.day of that hideous time in my life?
“A friend loveth at all times.”
Even when we are the most unloveable creatures imaginable.