I am a child of the 80’s. I grew up when our daily soundtrack was Madonna, Michael Jackson, Run DMC, Prince, Wham, and Culture Club. We loved men who dressed like women, women who were sexually assertive, and the more skin tones in one picture the more accurate representation of who we were, what our world looked like and who our cliques were. Growing up in a progressive inner city, with 60’s parents, provided me with an environment that nurtured my empathy on many levels. I was tuned in to the emotional frequency. I listened to how friends felt, how they loved, why they hurt. I saw through the “assholes” and got to know the person inside. I heard what made them complete, feel appreciated, and knew what they needed, etc. Our differences were obvious in most cases. We were all over the globe racially, spiritually and culturally but the longer we grew up together, the more similarities we shared and the fewer differences we noticed. I always listened with my heart. For most decisions in my life, I rarely used logic to guide me (I know, I know…. it was and has been an issue at times). Being passionate was an understatement. While others applied logic to their lives, I followed my heart. Always. Yes, always.
Like many children do, I was drawn to the adults who shared their own emotional journeys with me; who told me their own personal stories of spiritual exploration and emotional growth. As I matured, they shared more and told me why they loved they way they loved and why love mattered. Their connection to the human spirit was a magnet for little open-hearted me. I felt a physical gravitation towards them, turning to those grownups for approval, and found myself swayed by their outlooks on life and personal priorities of what made them happy. I felt the most nurtured by the older cousins, aunts, uncles, friends of my parents, who not only knew I was emotional, but who accepted me for who I was and continued to ignite the part of me that had a deeper understanding of others.
Not everyone is an open book. Not everyone wears their emotions on their sleeve. And not everyone is comfortable meeting me at that soft squishy place. So I received the negative feedback as well. Most of the men resisted the emotion on that intense level. It was difficult for my dad. When I was sad, it was out there. Tears, choking on my words, lots and lots of feelings. But it was too much. Too much reaching down deep into that awkward place. Where we show our vulnerable, weak and sensitive side. It didn’t work for Dad. He expressed to me often when I cried, that he wasn’t there for that. Didn’t want to sit through it. His words were, “You know I don’t do well with emotion like this.” If it was about something in my life that required feeling it, not making a judgement call or decision, he didn’t know how to respond. It was uncomfortable for him and eventually for me. My takeaway was that I could not talk to my dad about anything personal, because I was an emotional person. I could essentially cry at any moment. The risk was too great. And since I had never found comfort from him when I tried to connect on that level, I learned to not seek comfort from him at all.
Mom went deep with me most of the time, listening to my feelings explode and talked about love and passion with me. She shared moments of her own life where she had fallen in love, been hurt, felt alone, etc. Right up until my teens. Right up until I fell in love for the first time. And then my sharing and feeling things became too much for her as well. I understand now in hindsight that I was extremely sensitive, and it was difficult to tell me to simply snap out of it. I was also very stubborn. I was always pushing, stretching my wings and at times it was too much. She felt she was losing control while I was finding my strength. At 17 I was falling in love for the first time and following my heart, not my mind – at all. She understood the passion of a young girl in love for the first time, but wanted to pull me back in. She based her mothering on her own mother. She wanted me to have rules that she had in the 1950’s. The problem was that it was the 1980’s and I wasn’t having it. So I pushed those boundaries. Pulled away emotionally. And then when I started to feel big things….feel what it was like to be “in love”, to be physically involved, intoxicated by the love drug for the first time, with raging hormones, I found out early on that she wanted to be close, but she wasn’t comfortable talking about all of that.
Sex was taboo. I should be ashamed of myself if I was having it. I came to her after I had gone to Planned Parenthood by myself. I could never lie to anyone, and I so desperately wanted us to be close, so I told her. She was disappointed in me. I thought she’d be happy that I was being responsible. But she was disappointed that I had become sexually active. She couldn’t be there for me, and still try to keep me in line. She didn’t want to hear about the boys, the broken hearts, the jealousy, the emotions, or the girlfriends and friendships that were everything and then nothing, once she knew I was sexually active. To be honest, I don’t really know what else she was feeling, other than the disappointment. I did feel a bit of jealousy coming from her? I know that’s weird but I also know it’s common. I was choosing boys over my mom. I was listening to girlfriends over my mom. I was becoming friends with my boyfriend’s mom. I was pulling away. I learned how to hide emotions in my home right around the time those hormones and emotions started to rule me.
Friendships are the other “family” in our lives. But they are the family we choose and when we’re young it serves a purpose in our heart. But as we get older, our friendship needs change. The friends who stick around and become part of your emotional DNA based on loyalty, commitments and unconditional love, become family. Those friendships bring as much love to our lives as our solid family, but they also bring commitment, drama, heartache, healing, progress, dedication, patience, nurturing, understanding, loyalty, strength, acceptance, and passion. And if we are true to ourselves, we start to understand and appreciate that friendships can vary and land in different circles. Not everyone fits in every circle. But for the inner circles, there is a responsibility to contribute to the upkeep of those relationships.
Friendships float throughout our lives. They are not stuck in your life; they stay because they want to be there. For example, when you marry someone, you have just created a new family bond. You’ve formed a link. When you have a business relationship, you are committed to the success of both of you, your team. You’ve created a link. There is a commitment there to one another for the sake of the business, but it’s clear. Marriage is a pretty clear commitment, or it should be. Siblings, cousins often come through family but sometimes the connection goes very deep. And with the connection of both blood and a choice to develop a friendship, it can be some of the most powerful relationships. My mom had this kind of friendship with one of her sisters. Out of four daughters, Mom was #4 (youngest) and as adults her best friend was also sister #2, her older sister. Their friendship made them more like twins. They also looked more alike than any of their other 3 siblings. They went through divorces at the same time. Moved from a small town to a nearby inner city as newly single moms together. Their individual friends were THEIR friends. They were part of the same clique in their 30’s. They shared work groups, traveled together, with ALL of their friends, attended one another’s work parties, double dated and had dinner together at least twice a week at my aunt’s house or at our house. Because of their closeness, I felt as though my cousins and I were more like siblings, rather than cousins.
But a friendship is 100% voluntary. With family there is often an expectation that you’re going to work things out, or just deal with not being fond of one another, if it comes to that. Especially if the family has any common interests. You will get along for the sake of the entire family. Luckily I do like my family, so there’s more of a desire to get along. I love them and care about them deeply. Being an only child of my mom’s, with most of my cousins in multiple-child families, there have been times where I’ve felt more needy to have a friendship with them. And I’ve probably been hurt more times than they have, by being left out of things. But as I’m learning, even family has limits and it’s ok to set boundaries. To be honest I think the entire reason I ever started blogging is to help myself set, establish and nurture my own boundaries. So take it from me, you can start living the life you want at any age. Such a Hallmark thing to say, but there it is.
Not only are our friendships 100% voluntary, but if there is a desire to keep someone in your life, it’s also voluntary to put the work in if things get funky. Not everyone knows what they want in a friendship, nor what they are capable of giving. A meaningful friendship should never be taken for granted.
I had never had any expectations in a friendship until my best friend R asked me once while we were literally, “getting back together”, after not speaking for about 6 months, what my expectations were for our friendship moving forward. We hadn’t had a falling out, but more of a separation for personal needs. She instigated the separation. I misunderstood it. I started connecting with her again via text like, hey, what’s up? Why are we not talking every day? I was hurt. Thought she had left me because of my depression. Thought she bailed on me. Thought I was too much for her. (There is still a part of me that feels I was….but I’m trying to work through that self-conscious/insecure/PTSD). But according to her, she needed to find herself and get her own head together. We were both struggling financially and emotionally. Our lives had both hit individual dark places where we were both holding on as best we could, putting one foot in front of the other. We were living two very different lives, but suffering the same. She was fighting daily to stay optimistic. I was fading every day. Could NOT pull my emotions together. Every day made me feel that I was never going to see a better day. We were both driving for a ride share service at horrific hours of the night, driving about 55 hours a week to make a part-time income. Both being spoken to daily by entitled, arrogant, rude passengers, pulling us down emotionally and challenging our inner strength. Every once in a while we’d have one of those incredible connections with some random passenger that made us thank the universe for putting the special spirit in our car, at that moment, when we needed a spiritual boost ourselves. But for the most of it, it was hell. Constant hell.
We leaned on one another hourly, not just daily. And then she sent me a text about how we’re both struggling but in different places and she might disappear one day if it just gets to be too much. She might try to start over and leave this behind. I honestly felt like she broke up with me. It sent me into a deeper, darker depression. But my hurt and bitterness forced me to ‘pull a bitch’ at my rock bottom and head back up, whether I was ready or not. So I did.
I started focusing on my new-ish career. Started staying in the new office more, driving those ungrateful passengers less and less until I finally did not need that “side” full-time gig, and even without R in my life, I was getting through. But it was still dark. She was the only person whom I’ve ever had a connection with that never ever ever made me feel judged. Ever. I wanted her back in my life. She was my sister. Spiritually we were absolute twins. Emotionally it’s as if we were literally split in half at birth. From the highest mini manic moments, to our deepest hormonal crashes, we don’t need words to express what our hearts are feeling. I can see through her, she can see through me. And when we laugh, which is often, it’s always from our souls and bones. When we speak to the universe, we speak to our ancestors, together.
A few years ago, while all of this was going on, I called another friend of mine from childhood, who is one of those beautiful and soulful girlfriends that float in to your life via a phone call twice a year to have a deep conversation and catch up. Even though we don’t hang out, get together or talk often, our spirits always connect on that deep soulful level. I reached out to her because she’s a therapist by profession, and I wanted a referral because it was time to work on me and get help for my depression. It was time to get my life back. We chatted briefly one day and I told her what was going on in my life. Working, not driving as much, lost my ‘person’ and feeling like some things are improving, but I need to talk to someone. She gave me some suggestions regarding my insurance, etc. And then asked, “Was R your ‘everyday-person’?” That was it in one question. Didn’t need to explain the extent of our friendship and what R meant to me after that question. “Yes”, I said. And just like that, she knew exactly what I was experiencing. And I didn’t feel I needed to say more. “Yes, she was my everyday-person. And now I’m not so depressed and would love to call my best friend, and I can’t. So I think it’s time I get therapy.”
So yah, I wanted HER back in my life. There are two things that will stop me from following my heart. My ego is big and that does get in the way at times. But if someone has hurt my spirit, I will no longer be guided by my heart when it comes to them. She hadn’t hurt my spirit. Matter of fact she had always nurtured my spirit. But then she left me. And my gut feeling told me that I was supposed to be nurturing her spirit also. And as my head cleared more, and I could have rational thoughts, I realized that I might not have been nurturing her spirit when she needed it also. We were both struggling. The epiphany that resulted was that I needed to look at myself more and see if I was giving back as much as I was taking. So, fuck my ego. Fuck my stubborness. Some things you need to fight for. I was following my heart once again.
And since I still believed my depression was the cause of her going MIA, I was ready to be a better friend. I wouldn’t pull her down like I had the past few years. I was in a better place. I could listen more. I still needed the space to feel my depression when it hit, but I needed to check in with her as well. I hadn’t done that. I was so wrapped up in my own head, that I never looked up to what was going on around me. I honestly don’t know if it’s healthy to put expectations on ourselves like this, while battling depression, but it is how I felt. I knew that there had to be a balance in there somewhere.
So I stalked her via text like an old piece of ass. She would respond every once in a while. And then more. And then we started to talk and share. We talked about how life was better, for both of us. Eventually we were back to ourselves via text. She didn’t tell me right away, but eventually I learned that she had moved out of state during the months we hadn’t spoken. Her reasons for keeping it confidential were her own reasons, and had nothing to do with me personally, but she wasn’t ready to let the old world back in. She had her own things going on. But finding out she wasn’t here anymore? That was a hard pill to swallow at first…. (and unfortunately, I still have not seen her face to face since she moved away two years ago.)
As our conversations progressed and we started needing to share more with one another as we do, she started to state what she needed in a friendship and what her expectations were. Basically, since I was the one to break the silence and come back to her, she wanted to know how committed I was to our friendship moving forward. She wasn’t sure whether or not I was that kind of friend. The life-term kind. Even though we had been friends for 19 years, she shared a bit more with me about her experience with friends in the past and how her own friendships weren’t always supported by her upbringing. She wasn’t raised to put a lot of stalk in friendships. Part of that was due to her religion, part of that was due to her surroundings. In her adult life, sometimes girlfriends got funky. They never had her back 100%. Or they walked, with no loyalty and commitment to her. I’ve experienced the same kind of struggles or disappointments. I’ve had friends walk away for so many reasons.
Heartbreak isn’t just from family or partners. Friends can do a pretty fair amount of damage to the psyche as well. I’ve had friendships where I realized after years and years that I was the “best friend assistant” who they asked to do everything for them because they felt they were superior due to income levels. I’ve had friends call me a “bitch” whenever we were around other friends, as a joke. I was the “annoying bitch”. I can have a raunchy sense of humor, can always laugh at jokes aimed at me, and don’t get easily offended, plus it was funny – in a shock-humor kind of way. But after a while, when you realize you are only the bud of the joke, and not respected when the laughter stops, you suddenly feel that it’s not that funny anymore.
I’ve had friends judge my life and take me out to dinner so they can ask me why I’m not more successful…. When I was literally at my rock bottom. They would ask why my business wasn’t thriving like so-and-so …. Why was I driving for a ride share company? (When they were buying businesses.) What I heard was, why can’t I seem to get rich like them? Why am I not good enough? It played right into the insecurities I have from lack of support throughout my life. I have often felt as though my value and worth has often been linked to my weight and my financial success. Of course they will say it’s not, but it’s where the focus always goes. In this case, it was all based on how I couldn’t build my business as quickly as other people.
I’ve had friends suddenly decide that I was the one they should all gang up on and talk shit about just after my mom died and while I was going through my divorce. I had just turned 40. My mom had just died. And I was now filing for divorce. I called the friend I thought was my best friend at the time at 1:00AM when I couldn’t stop crying. (For the record, she went to bed at 3am every night. Had her first client at 1pm every day because she was a night owl). I was literally told, “You call me at 1AM and act like you’re the only one who has ever gone through a divorce…….I mean I know you’re still grieving your mom, but we can’t all be there for you just because you have a break down.”
ARE. YOU. FUCKING. KIDDING. ME.? This happened 10 years ago with the women I thought were my closest friends at the time. And for the record, one of those friends had been divorced 3 years earlier, and I had no problem being there as she needed throughout the entire thing.
If I haven’t made it clear, R and I come from opposite sides of the country; with opposite upbringings. We are also different races, one was raised on the west coast and one in the south, brought up in different churches with very different beliefs and faiths. With such contrasting childhoods, we came away with a homogeneous world view. Our trust or mistrust in people, our childhood fantasy that everyone was good, our wounds from those who crushed our empath spirits, and our deep love of love, are what consistently bond us.
When R presented this question to me, I was like, damn, I’ve never been questioned like this before. At first I felt defensive, thinking this was putting me on the spot. Why do I have to prove myself right now? And then I realized that not only did I have some innerwork to do on myself, but I did have some expectations for my needs as well. So if we were going to do this, let’s do this. Let me find the perfect best friend by stating what I want in her friendship. And let me also hold myself accountable if I haven’t been the friend that she needed. I’m 50 years old and feeling like this is the first mature friendship I’ve ever had. It was good. I grew in the moment. And am still growing with this on my mind daily, hence this blog.
A real friendship is a real commitment. I’ve explained to my daughters that it’s perfectly fine to have a variety of “inner circles”. Don’t have the same expectations for everyone. Some friends are perfect to travel with. Some friends are perfect to get together with once a month where you do something specific together. Some friends like the same movies, same books, and food. Some friendships are formed when you’re raising your kids. Some friendships are formed as couples and groups. Some are traditional friendships, where you go back and the history alone creates enough stories to keep you entertained when you spend time together. And then there are the soulmates. The ones who become your oxygen. The ones you need. Your go-to people. And then oftentimes, there’s the one, the “bestie”, the “bff”. For me, I’ve always had the one. My person. My daily person. The one that I don’t speak to for a while, but I can text out of the blue, some random phrase and they instantly laugh, and know the whole story behind it. That one person is usually also the one I need to talk to when life crashes. I would say I’m right down the middle with my needs…. I equally need 100% alone time — as well as needing patience and nurturing from my person, when life crashes. I might occasionally give off mixed signals. One minute I’m needy and crying to them, and the next minute I’m crawling under a rock licking my own emotional wounds, hiding out from the world. My poor husband just has to suffer through it all. But I have to say, he might be the greatest man in the world with his patience to understand me. Hands down. You know you have a good man when the only time your “bestie-person” screams at you is to tell you that you’re being a dumb ass bitch when you tell her about an ugly fight that you and your husband had, where you screamed some nasty shit him, and she literally scolds you because of how amazing your husband is to you. My husband absolutely loves her and she loves him. And, fortunately I love my husband’s best friend as well. I refer to him as my husband-in-law because they came as a package deal and I could not be luckier to have these two men in my life.
But I digress. A true friendship takes work, commitment, patience, unconditional love and a similar emotional world view. As we reach the grand age of 5-0, our needs change. Our priorities change. Those changes bring into focus what we really want to spend our energy on and with whom we want to spent that energy with. But the one consistent thing, is our hearts and how we love and what we need in return. It tends to grow with us. For those of us who are empaths, your “daily person” should absolutely be an empath as well, or someone who appreciates an empath without conditions.
One of my favorite “female bonding” movies was Boys On The Side with Drew Barrymore, Whoopi Goldberg and Mary-Louise Parker, 1995. It brought these three very different women together, and formed a friendship between them with such unconditional love and acceptance. One of my absolute favorite scenes was when Mary-Louise Parker’s character is on the stand, as a defense witness for Drew’s character. She is being cross examined by the prosecuting attorney who’s trying to paint the picture that these three women would lie and say anything to protect one of them. He questions her about why she didn’t think the abusive boyfriend was good to keep around for her friend (Drew’s character).
I don’t know why but this scene has always stuck with me because of how simply she described the bond between women.
“I know you think (that to) a girl like her, a man is the most important thing in her life but she didn’t need him. She had us…… I don’t know what it is…but there’s something that goes on between women. You men know that because it’s the same for you. I’m not saying one sex is better than the other…. I’m just saying like speaks to like. Love or whatever doesn’t always keep, so you find out what does, if you’re lucky.”
Our girlfriends are our oxygen. The energy that we receive from and exchange with our girlfriends is just as valuable and necessary for a complete life, as some feel family, a partnership or marriage is. Our souls need those connections. The love shared between best girlfriends can be like a happy drug for our spirits. It strengthens us, let’s us exhale, gives us power, boosts our self esteem and always releases tension from everything else we’re juggling.
At 50 I can honestly say that I’ve had a few soulmates in my lifetime, and I am now very specific as to what I want in my life today. Since I’ve always been the “one-person-bestie-at-a-time” for the most part, as I matured, grew, and progressed as a woman, my needs from a best friend have evolved as well. The energy has to work. We have to vibe more often than not. Understanding, acceptance and ability to nurture as needed, are my top 3 needs. But it is vital that I surround myself with like-minded people. And sometimes I need the broken souls around me, because they bring with them, the most understanding, the most accepting and greatest ability to nurture. And let’s not forget the same sense of humor. We can only work through life’s struggles by finding that twisted sense of humor that takes the edge off. I need to know we see one another eye to eye. Going forward in my life, I need the equal spirit, the twin spirit, the one who has absolutely walked in my shoes. I am one who bonds over heartache as well as joy, but there has to be admitted sorrow in there somewhere, in order for us to find our common language as soulful sisters.