Great Friendships often Lead to Healthier Lives

What is it about our friends that makes us feel like we are safe, loved, secure and grateful? I think in many ways our friends are a family. We have our ups and downs, our arguments and celebrations, and throughout it all, the truest friends stay a part of our lives even when we’ve been estranged from them.

One of my very best friends has been friends with me since we were twelve. We get told a lot that we share a brain and if that were really true, the world would be a very scary place. Yeah, we can finish each other’s thoughts but we can also call each other out when we need to and know that it comes from a place from love. She challenges me to research everything and while I may not do things the same as she does, I respect her tremendously. She raised her kids mostly on her own for years. And let me tell you. She rocks at it. She’s settled down with a man who adores her now and he loves her kids. But through all of it, I can truly attest to the fact that she has been a true friend, an inspiration on many levels and definitely a force to be reckoned with.

At one time we were both married to men who were a lot alike and they couldn’t stand each other. Her husband made a lot more money than mine but we put up with the marriages and leaned on each other. She understood where I was coming from and vice versa. When I lost my child, she was on the phone with me every single day checking up on me. She listened to my sobs, my anger, my confusion, frustration and hurt all tangled up in one very messy bow. She consoled me and told me that God had a plan for me and that even though we couldn’t understand it, that there was always a bigger picture than we could see. When her son was killed in an accident, I returned the favor. I knew exactly the pain she was feeling. Even though my child never made it to be born, I knew what loss was. No man or woman should ever have to go through that feeling. It’s a very hollow and unexplicable set of emotions. Yes, there are words. But those words rarely give you a clear idea of just how difficult it is to lose a child unless you’ve had to physically deal with it yourself. She still hasn’t really had time to completely deal with it because she’s been coming through for everyone else. What people don’t understand is that when you lose a child, you never get over it. You learn to exist in a different manner and learn to look at the world differently. I truly hope and pray that none of you ever have to experience this but if you do, remember you aren’t alone.

She has reminded me time and time again that I have to stop thinking about what I don’t have and focus on what I do have. I’m finally getting to a place where I can honestly say that I don’t really compare now. I’m never going to have a biological child. I had to get used to that and have time to adjust to the anger and hurt. Especially when my ex-husband replaced me with a look a like who could. And if he’s reading this, I really hope that he understands that he once told me that he “wanted to hurt me as bad as I hurt him.” But what he forgets is that he hurt me for a very long time. I just dealt with it by not dealing until I couldn’t take it anymore. I finally got the courage to walk away from a toxic situation. I don’t wish ill on him. I don’t wish him anything. His life isn’t mine to judge. I can only move on with mine. It’s through my friends support that I’ve had the strength to hang on when life didn’t seem fair. They have been the ones who supported me when my mental health took a beating.

I’ve written before about another friend of mine. He’s a lot like a brother to me. He has overcome many different disabilities and continues to inspire people with his faith in God. He was born having a stroke in his mother’s womb. He has a touch of scoliosis, cerbral palsy, and literally functions with half a brain. He had half his brain removed in order to stop epilepsy. He has been seizure free now for almost twenty eight years. Those seizures prevented him from living life to the fullest. He doesn’t process things like everyone else. He can be a jokester a lot of the time but he is the biggest Redskins fan you will ever meet. There isn’t much about the LALakers that he doesn’t know and he has a mannerism that is infectious. He loves to make people smile. That is his blessing. That and faith. When he worships, he gets everyone in a worshipping mood. He’s very smart with numbers and one of the most inspiring friends I have. Through it all, I’m grateful for his friendship. He struggles with recalling details in most conversations. If you asked him what was said in a sermon, I guarantee you he’ll say “I don’t know.” But he does remember the music and things that touched his soul in the services. But if you talk sports to him, he can quote you stats on the players and games that his favorite teams and players played in. He’s just like the rest of us. Very skilled in some areas and not as adept in others.

The next friend I’m going to mention is very special to me. She and I have been friends well over twenty years. I knew her when I was dating my former husband. Little did I know that he was having fun with her on the side. I think information comes to light after the fact but when she told me the truth, I couldn’t get mad. It had been over twenty years. She was a kid and I was in my early twenties. Nothing could be done to change the past but I didn’t have to let it ruin our future friendship. We lost touch because of my ex. But we reconnected ironically through Facebook and now we are in touch much more frequently. We have been through all kinds of issues. She’s had a lot of family issues to deal with just like I have. We’ve both had to deal with relationship problems and been able to come out on the other side stronger than ever. She and her boyfriend have shown me that real love is worth the wait no matter how frustrating or long it can take. If someone truly loves you, they will be there for you and not shut you out. When my dad got sick, she and the next friend I’m going to mention were there for me when a lot of others weren’t. They had both lost people to diseases. These two women taught me what caregiving was and things to do to help others who needed it most. Every day I’m grateful for them.

The last friend that made it to the closest friends list is truly an inspiration to me. She lost her mom several years ago and has been the glue that has kept her family together. She is a canning whiz and can cook you just about anything southern style. She has no problem voicing her opinion and telling you straight. She has no tolerance for games in a relationship and is looking for her mister right but most of the time she has been dating Mr. Man of the Moment. That doesn’t mean she isn’t selective. If you are a liar and a cheat, you better keep moving because she won’t put up with it. She recently underwent surgery for a bariatric procedure and is really doing well. She nicknamed her car “Bessie” and loves to say that she’s a big girl and needs lots of room. The best part is she isn’t afraid to be who she is and I love her for that. She’s honest, open, and a country girl. She doesn’t have time to play nice. She is the true epitome of the south and one of the most down to earth, kind, and open minded people you will ever meet. Just don’t cross her. She may be nice but she knows how to take care of herself.

I have other folks that I do things with but these are the people closest to me. They have been my rock and my sounding board. They have been there in the thick of things and have truly shown me that it’s okay to hurt. It’s actually healthy to have friends that no matter what life throws at you, then you can get up. You can start a new day. You can achieve anything. These folks have practically willed me to stay healthy. They have pushed me to do more with my life than just sit behind a computer. They may not get out there with me and do something like bungee jump, but I guarantee you that they would be among the first to cheer me on and make sure I didn’t break my neck or any other bones for that matter. True friendships make our lives healthier. They balance us and show us that love is unconditional. If you have those kinds of friendships, cherish them. If you don’t, then start building them. I can guarantee you that at some point you will need them just as much if not more than they need you. True friendships don’t keep score. They don’t go off what you can do for them and vice versa. They are there because they want to be. You can’t force someone to like you but you can be yourself. Be true to yourself. Learn to let others in. Accept people for who they are. In the long run, you’ll find yourself to be healthier and happier.