We were all born into a family. Everyone’s family is different. Some people grew up with their family, some didn’t, but either way, we didn’t get to choose them.
On the other hand, there are some families you actually can choose. These are friends who are beyond friends. These are the friends who you may talk to every day, or maybe you don’t talk to them for a few years, but whenever you do talk, it feels like no time has passed at all. These are the friends who you can share almost anything with. They are there for you no matter what, and you are there for them no matter what. They are your family by choice, a term that I actually got from one of these friends of mine.
I have talked about close friends on this blog many times before, but this weekend was extra special.
This was a really shitty week. We had a lot of cloudy, rainy days, which wasn’t helping my seasonal affective disorder. On the fourth cloudy day in a row, I found out that my long term disability claim was denied. I gained 2 pounds in 2 days and felt bloated, which made me question if the gluten-free diet was no longer working. It was Pride week, and I knew I wouldn’t have the energy to do everything I wanted to do. I was invited to a wedding, and knew I wouldn’t have the energy to go to both the ceremony and the reception. And to top it all off, it was my birthday, which made me think over and over about my shitty health and about what the future holds in store. I still don’t know how I made it through all that.
As if that wasn’t enough, a friend announced that she was coming to town this weekend. I’d known she would be coming at some point, but they hadn’t set a date until just a couple of weeks ago. This was really lousy timing for me, but we hadn’t seen each other since last fall, and she’s one of the afore-mentioned close friends, so I wanted to be sure and see her. It was decided that everyone would get together Saturday night at one person’s house, and I would do my best to get there after the wedding. There’s never any need for us to do anything fancy – we just get in a room together and the entertainment takes care of itself.
The wedding was tough. When I got the main course and had trouble lifting the knife to cut my chicken, I knew it was time to go home. I hated to leave so early, but I just couldn’t take it anymore. I was thoroughly exhausted. Just making small talk with a bunch of strangers was enough to thoroughly wear me out. I wanted to head home, but I didn’t want to miss out on seeing my friends, so I went to see my friends. For any other people I wouldn’t have gone, but these women are different. We’ve be friends for more than 20 years. We’ve been through first dates, first kisses, fighting parents, fights with siblings, junior high, high school, learning to drive, having sex, college, grad school, first jobs, many jobs, deaths of loved ones, illnesses, marriages, having children, buying homes, and everything else you would expect to experience between 3rd grade and your mid-30s. Like I said: family by choice. My point is that these are the only friends who I let myself feel like crap in front of. They understand and they don’t judge. I don’t have to hide from them.
There were 6 of us there, plus two husbands who popped in occasionally but mostly stayed in the other room watching a ball game. They’ve known us long enough to know we need our space to be utterly immature. For some reason our maturity level drops down to adolescent level when we’re together, so maybe they were actually hiding from us.
It was the best time I’d had in ages. I was exhausted, and I knew I’d feel crappy the next day (I was right) but it was worth every second. It turns out, in addition to getting everyone together, it was also a birthday celebration for me! A second friend also came from out of town! They’d apparently been planning this for over a month. It was perfect and simple and a wonderful treat. I didn’t tell them that I didn’t want to focus on my birthday this year, but I guess they figured it out anyway. We talked and laughed and had a marvelous time, and then they sang me happy birthday and brought out the decadent gluten-free chocolate cake (above) and the homemade (!) ice cream. It was perfect. I hadn’t laughed like that in ages.
Now remember, I was coming from the wedding, which I left because I felt lousy. At the get together, no one commented on my looks for good or bad (other than my newly dyed hair, of course), and no one talked about my health. One friend asked about the insurance issue, but asked it as “Can I ask about it?” I said I didn’t want to talk about it and she dropped it, just like that. Fantastic. They must have known more than I said, because they fetched me water and kept offering to get me things, which they don’t usually do. The truth was that I felt really dizzy most of the time, and was glad not to walk around much. I mostly sat in a chair and talked, and when I needed to, I rested my head on the table. And no one said a single word. Perfect.
I went home that night tired, dizzy, achy, and so so happy. I was lucky beyond lucky to find these women early in my life, and I never take them for granted. We have always been there for each other, and I hope that we always will be. I couldn’t have chosen a better family.