What Are Friends For?

“When you’re in jail, a good friend will be trying to bail you out. A best friend will be in the cell next to you saying, ‘Damn, that was fun’.”  ― Groucho Marx

It was a bad idea. A horrible idea. Nothing good was going to come from this idea. I knew it. I said it. I voiced my concerns quite succinctly and then I went along with it. I actively participated in a no good, horrible, idea. I was well aware of the potential consequences. The outcome was, most assuredly, far from nifty. Why? What came over me?

She said it would be fun! How could I argue with such irrefutable logic?

Does anyone have that one friend that can convince you to do things your rational mind would never let you do? I’m not talking gaslighting or hypnotic suggestion. There’s no coercion or blackmail. It’s not even the friends’ fault. It’s the two of you together, a combined recipe, that bubbles and boils over until you’ve made a volcano out of paper mache.

Messy but cool.

I have a friend that has a way of getting me into all kinds of trouble. To be fair, I think she might say the same thing about me, but I don’t want to put words into her mouth. Separately, we’re both sensible, rational, human beings. I tend to be the more cautious of the two. If there’s trouble to be spotted, I’ll spot it. If there’s no trouble to be seen, well, give me a minute I’m sure I can think of something.

My friend is my complete opposite. Happy, easy-going, and quick to say, “Come on, it’ll be fun. What’s the worst that can happen?”

Well for starters…Oh, that was a rhetorical question.

She sees the positives in any situation while I tend to see the negatives and work my way up to something that approximates positivity. I’m more rational, and she’s more of a dreamer. I prefer logic or reason, and she leans more towards hypotheticals or ‘what ifs’. She asks why not, and I give an alphabetized list that I had laminated. She jumps while I tiptoe. She’s quick to say yes and I’m quick to say no. She loves being around people, and I prefer four-legged creatures over the two-legged variety. 

I think we all need someone like that in our lives. Someone who offsets our natural inclinations so we balance each other out. I think that’s why we are such good friends! Without her, I might not have as much fun or laugh as often or as freely. I wouldn’t leave my one-bedroom apartment, try new things, or go adventures. 

Adventures that include me running away from a bear. Well, run is a stretch. I thought it was a stump until it wiggled and yawned. I panicked, backed away slowly, and yelled for her to unlock the car. I would’ve dived into the trunk had that popped open first.

I don’t think we’ve gotten too close to disaster, but we’ve come pretty close. The bear encounter was one. Getting caught up in a communist rally in a foreign country and saying hello to the riot police. Sliding down a rain-soaked sidewalk on my backside and coming very close to a painful stop. If it hadn’t been for that lap post…Worst slip and slide ever!

But we laughed about it for hours after! Just like we laughed about the bear, sympathetic riot cops, and a million other misadventures. The kind of adventures that don’t play well during story time because, “You just had to be there!”

She’s also the kind of friend that answers the phone at three o’clock in the morning. She drops everything to come and help me when I need it. She carried a tv, DVD player, and movies on three city buses because I had to spend six weeks in the hospital and I was going out of my mind. She’s one of the few people I trust to see me at my worst because she sees past it and sees me.

From casual acquaintance to social engagements, friendships come in many different shapes, varieties, and intensities. Some friends are in our lives for a few days, weeks, or months. Others flutter in and out. Each has value. Each is necessary and hopefully, they bring something to our lives that help us become better people. But nothing will compare to the unique, bizarre, and sometimes dangerous relationship between best friends.

I’m not someone who trusts very easily. I’ve been hurt too often by people who knew better but chose to ignore the angel sitting on their shoulders. Because of them, I’m very cautious, almost afraid, of who I let come close. I have so many walls up, and I’m not sure if any of them will ever get broken down. For someone like me, the importance of that one person who we can open up too, be ourselves without fear, is beyond measure. 

I’m not always that good at being a friend, being open, or vulnerable but I know that precious space exists and that’s a comfort. It’s hard for me to open up. I keep a lot in. I feel a lot and I never want to burden someone else, especially someone I care about, with these feelings. She wants me to. She’s offered, asked, begged me to be more open and I’m trying. 

Though I still fail more than I succeed. 

Knowing that there is that safe space is comforting. Even when I don’t visit as much as I should or could, it’s there. Having that space is a gift that’s more precious to me than words can express. I certainly don’t express it as often as I should and that’s a shame. These treasures in our lives deserve to hear how much we value, love, and even need them around.

Especially now, with everything going on, I think it’s even more important to find a way to express how much we love the people in our lives. There are a lot of people out there right now wishing they had one more minute to express a lifetime of love and gratitude. I can’t think of anything more heartbreaking than that. Not saying it. Not having them hear it. Wondering if the knew.

We don’t want to think about that moment. All of us pray that moment never comes. We never know when or if it will. It’s too heavy. It’s too macabre. I would love to stick my fingers in my ear and close my eyes, but I’ve seen too much loss to pretend people don’t leave a hole in our lives.

I hear that it’s better to have loved and lost but loving without saying it is a tragedy so take some time to say it. Tell the people in your life how much you love them. Tell them how much they mean to you. Tell them that you love them. Tell them you don’t have the words but if you did you wouldn’t stop saying them out loud.

It’s awkward and, if you’re anything like me, it’s a little panic-inducing. Taking the chance, the risk, to speak the words in our hearts? Be vulnerable? Do we risk it? What if they look at us like we’ve lost our minds?

Even when we know that we’re loved, putting those words out there feels like we’re getting naked and running with the bulls. That’s a pleasant image. It’s not a risk I’d normally take but given the alternative? Especially now that there’s a very real, very clear and present danger? Not saying it feels riskier than anything else.

Deep breath and here I go.

My friend, thank you for getting me in and out of so much trouble. Thanks for pushing me to go beyond what’s comfortable and what feels safe. Thank you for seeing me at my worst and not turning away. Thank you for forgiving my shortcomings, my failures, and looking past my quirks.

I love you like a sister. I can’t wait for this sh!t show to be over so we can go out and find some more trouble. No bears, please. Or lampposts! That came a little too close to becoming a very intimate problem. Oh, and if we end up in a jail cell? Well, at least we had fun!

Okay, that wasn’t too bad. Your turn?

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