Surfing the Tide Forces you to Adjust to the Wave
I have a longtime girlfriend, let’s call her Mary, who has found herself in an uncomfortable place in her life. I must refrain from going into too much detail out of respect for her privacy. I will tell you however, that Mary, on a normal day, is a person who is very in control, aware, and extremely focused. All of these attributes are not part of who she is right now. Because of that, it’s incredibly frustrating and quite frankly scary for not only her, but also for me.
Mary and I have been besties since we were 19 years old. That’s a long time! To say we have been through “thick and thin” is not only cliché, but also an understatement.
When we were single with no kids, we would get ready for a night out at one or the others’ apartment. This meant, she either went through my closet for something to wear or I went through hers. Her shoe size is a 6, as is mine. It took us forever to put on makeup and do our hair because we emulated each other and waited to see what the other was doing. We were bookends (although she’s brunette, I’m blonde) and we loved it. Apparently, others did too because when we walked into a room, it lit up!
Why I love Mary
She’s that friend who will finish my sentences. Conversely, I can do the same for her. We can go for weeks without talking on the phone and nothing changes. We can go months without seeing each other and when we do finally get together, we still look the same. It’s as if we only see our souls shining brightly in one another. Mary is still who she is and I am still who I am as if the hands of the clock have stopped, but our hearts beat as one like a stopwatch.
She knew my mom very well and they loved each other. More like best friends, but they were also very much like mother and daughter. Sometimes I think their relationship was a happier one than my sister or I had with our mother. At one point, Mary lived with Edna for a while until she found a new roommate and a new apartment. This brought them closer and, in typical form, she sat with Mom for hours just talking and learning more about her. Mom loved this about Mary because Mom loved to talk—well, and so does Mary!
When I had difficult times with Edna, Mary was always on the other end of the phone to give me a perspective on how I could view the situation differently. I loved to resist because I just wanted to be mad. (Don’t we all just want to be mad sometimes? Especially with our parents!)
Mary would encourage me to see things from a different vantage point. She wouldn’t tell me how to see, she would just offer a different view. She always knew how my mind worked. What a gift to have a girlfriend who can help pull you off the ledge in times of need! That has been Mary for the past 35 years of my life.
Tough stuff for Mary
Through the years I have watched her absorb some traumatic pain:
- Her mom likes a nice glass of wine (or two) once the clock strikes five! We all probably know that type of mom who probably should put the bottle away and not speak her mind with a burgundy-stained tongue right?
- Mary has two sisters. One she shares with both parents, and one she shares only with their maternal side. The half-sister struggled with drugs for decades. During that time, she had two children, one of which has found themselves a homeless addict. Mary has undyingly tried to help, but the damage runs very deep. You can imagine the torment on Mary’s heart.
- The half-sister who bore this now-damaged child was killed in a car accident. We think she was looking down at her brand new puppy and swerved at a turn in the road—a turn she was accustomed to making. She over-corrected and flipped. She had driven that road hundreds of times since the day she could drive a car. Each time was the same as the time before, but that day was different. The puppy survived unscathed, but she did not.
- Two weeks prior to her sister’s death, one of Mary’s best friends passed away from an unknown medical condition. It was unexpected and shocking to everyone. He was healthy, young, and vibrant and gone in a second.
Death takes control right out from under you, but when it’s unexpected, it can have an even greater impact. So, you can imagine how Mary must be feeling when one of her strongest characteristics is control.
The responsibilities of friendship
I have watched Mary try to process these tragedies and it brought me great concern.
I have asked intermittently through the months how she was doing and her reply always seemed to be genuine when she said, “I’m doing OK”. I took it at that, OK.
We get wrapped up in our lives. We have children, jobs, parents, friends, animals, finances, health, and ourselves: all to monitor each day and try to manage successfully. How was Mary handling all of it? Deep down, I suspect she wasn’t.
A few months ago, she seemed to be searching for a new method to help her make sense of it all. This backfired, and she has found herself in an uncomfortable place. She has no control and it is unfamiliar waters for her. She’s surfing the tide, but isn’t a great swimmer. You’ve been there right? Me too!
I had a conversation with her on the phone last night and what I could hear in her voice was resistance. (Now, I will be the first to admit, I am the queen of resistance. Like wearing a mask on this plane I’m on right now while typing this blog. It’s absolutely killing me!). For Mary, her resistance is losing control. She is out of control and is fearful. Fearful that she might not get back to the Mary who I can look in the eye after months of being apart, and I know she is still the same woman who walked by my side into every nightclub weekend after weekend.
I, too, am afraid. I am afraid I will never get back to that same nightclub-kind-of-girl that Mary can look in the eye and know it is me. I have Lyme disease. I have had it for 21 years. And I, also, feel out of control most days of my life.
Last night when we talked, I likened my disease to her situation. I wanted to offer her a different perspective on life. I know how her mind works and I wanted her to see a different view. I could hear a heavy sigh on the other end as if she had an epiphany about her physical absence in my life while I have been suffering with this debilitating disease. She apologized for not being by my side more often. I said, “No need to apologize. You have always been by my side. I have felt you here with me all these years. Just as I am with you now. I will always be with you and you will always be with me!”
Mary is craving love and support from “her people”. She has her husband and her kids, but I am a special kind of “people”. I feel things that others don’t feel. I see things that others don’t see. I love her the way others don’t love her. Because of circumstances in my current life, I am unable to be with her in person right now. In her current life, she is unable to be with me in person right now. We are together in spirit and sometimes that’s all we get, and that’s OK. We all have to learn how to adjust because we are not always given the luxury of being in control.
Mary and I have ridden tandem on this same “control” wave before, and we are doing it again now. Maybe now we can learn to be better swimmers.
I love that you were with me today. See you next week!