If there is anything I can impart to my daughter, it’s to find her best friends.
The temptation in adulthood is to believe that that’s not possible – that it was easier on the playground, with skinned knees and a shared love for making mud pies under the slide. “Do you want to play with me?” is so much simpler when you’re 8. We’ve been led to believe adult women don’t do friendship well – that we default to cruelty and competition, that we prioritize children, spouses and careers over friendship. That there isn’t enough time.
But it’s not true.
I’m writing this from Gate 1 at the Grande Prairie airport. Fifteen minutes ago, my best friend leaned across the gear shift in her car to hug me goodbye. It was a quick hug, hovering on the brink of tears, fighting not to. She’s moving – a decision that came quickly, seemingly without warning. One minute we were planning for how we’d spend the spring, the next we were planning when she’d leave. In the whirlwind of the last three months, we’ve crammed in all that we could, stealing away for lunch dates, shopping trips, and a farewell dinner with a dozen friends at our favourite restaurant. She’s called me in a panic, needing help to breathe through the fear of the unknown, needing reassurance that this is the right choice. We’ve blinked back tears, fought hard for the bright side, and known this day hovered in the distance, coming closer with every moment.
I don’t remember the first time we met, or the moment we went from friends to best friends. Friendship love isn’t like romantic love. We don’t mark milestones and shine a spotlight on love at first sight, there’s no fervent urgency to being together. Friendship love happens in the subtle shift from waiting till 10 am to call, and calling first thing in the morning, even when you know she was out dancing until the wee hours.
Until I found her (and the rest of our amazing little tribe), I’d never had an adult friendship like this one. Sure, I’d had friends. Most were tied to my former husband or my children in some way, women I was friends with largely because of social proximity. This friendship was different. She’d call me at the same time every morning, right after she dropped her son off at school, as I turned left off the highway towards my own children’s school, and always asked “What are you up to?” She never needed me to tell her how I was, because she always knew – could tell by the sound of my voice – but she still checked in. The grace of her friendship let me believe I was hiding my emotions expertly, no matter what they were. We shared the darkest parts of our history, and found common ground that we’d never wanted to share, but that only tied that bind so much tighter. We understood each other – the joy, pain, and rawness of each other. That unstoppable drive that propelled us both forward into each day, ready and open.
This was the first time I’d ever felt pulled to drop everything and just go be there, showing up on her doorstep unannounced, a cup of coffee in each hand, and the paper bag of cookies clutched between my teeth, not a word needed as she opened the door and exhaled a deep sigh of relief. The first time I’d learned how to ask for help, and then take it, breaking tiles off my floors alongside her, covered in dust and aching from the work. The first time I’d learned that sometimes we have to insist on helping, even when that person doesn’t want our help, taking a heavy box away from her as she tried to lift it with one broken hand, because she didn’t want me to hurt myself.
She’s taught me about being me, by being unapologetically herself. She’s followed me around stores putting on every silly hat and shirt, and shouting my name, just to get me to crack a smile. She’s stopped for dance breaks in the middle of the street, convincing passing pedestrians to join in. We’ve debated our sometimes vastly divided politics, and she taught me how to really listen – to hear the other side, to let it shape and reshape my opinions.
When she announced her move, other friends came to check in on me, quiet whispers asking if I was okay. It took me a while to find the words to express that I was, and I wasn’t, all at once. Of course if I could choose it, she wouldn’t move away. But this is the tension of adulthood – saving a space for joy inside of grief – knowing that the hardest things are often the best things, and that the best thing can also be the worst. I was excited for all the possibility opening up to her and her family with this move, while selfishly sad for my own loss.
This week we drove up together, to her new home. We set up an epic road trip play list, stocked up on junk food, and set out on another adventure. We spent three days soaking in the best parts of friendship, uncontrollable laughter, new inside jokes, quiet moments of silence. We walked into her new home together, explored every corner, imagined where she’d put her piano, her desk. We took deep breaths as the reality of it all sunk in. When your best friend moves away, this is what you do. You help her pack boxes, you help her make lists. Today is no longer hovering in the distance, instead right where we can touch it. She’d stay, I’d leave. I’d go home and she’d build home here. She’d settle into new rhythms, and so would I. This is the tension of adulthood, that life will barrel forward even when we want nothing more than to pin it down, and freeze it in time.
Say what you will about this digital world we live in, about our devices emanating blue light into our faces and turning us into addicted zombies, but if there’s anything I’m grateful for, it’s that in spite of the miles, we’ll still have each other at a moment’s notice, within reach. It’s still just a quick drive and an airplane ride from my front door to hers.
Yesterday, as we drove into her new town, we took a video, singing an old Bryan Adam’s song at the top of our lungs, not caring about who saw us, not worried about our off key voices. This was our “Remember that time we…..” moment, our spark of joy inside the grief. This is what friendship is when you’re an adult, the delicate balance of the best and worst parts, all at once. This is what makes the hardest parts of life more bearable. Neither of us needed to say that our stomachs were tied in knots, that we sang past a growing lump in our throats. It could remain unspoken, but understood. I’d go home, she’d stay here, filling a new house with memories, building a new tribe to steal away for lunch dates with. I’d get off the plane today n a city just a little emptier without her.
So yes, for my daughter I wish for her to find her best friend. To let that person teach her new things about herself and the world. From my best friend I’ve learned all about giving, about loving without condition, being willing and able to truly see each other, at our best, and at our worst, and love each other through it all. I’ve learned to laugh at myself and smile more, to stop trying to hide the moments when I can’t smile. I’ve learned that the deep contrasts between us are often born from the same place. I’ve learned that there is nothing more powerful than organized women, ready to roll up their sleeves and get dirty for each other.
And I’ve learned that it’s not entirely untrue – there really isn’t a lot of time. Kids, careers and spouses definitely eat up the extra minutes. But we can make the time for the things that really matter, and this really matters. Friendship is a thing worth making time for.
I’m a communicator. That’s a PC way of saying I like to talk, but I also spend a lot of my time listening, and over the years, I’ve developed a sense for subtext – how one or two words can change your entire message, what people are really trying to say and how to weave the varied layers of your story into one cohesive brand message that your clients fall in love with.
When I'm not acting as editor in chief for Vivid & Brave, you can find me geeking out over words here.
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