Relationship

Friends are the Family We Choose

Sometimes a childhood friend can be an informed witness to our past. In a world where the narcissist wants to control us and flying monkeys often betray us, it’s important to remember that  the title of family can extend to those who are willing to show up in our lives.  Never underestimate the power of love between friends and when you find such a precious soul, make sure you adopt them into your family.

She was six and I was ten when I first remember seeing her and our ages stood between us at the time. We each had a sister who was eight. So our sisters were in the same grade at the little Christian school I attended, while I was in fifth grade. My friend had not even started school yet. At the time, there was no indication that we would ever be more than casual friends.

We only lived near each other for a few months and then my family left town before the school year was even out. Her family moved a lot too. The link that connected us was our parents who were friends in college. Since both of our families moved a lot, whenever one of our families was passing through a town, where the other resided, we would stop and visit sometimes for a few hours and a couple times overnight. With the exception of the few months we lived in the same town, we can count our childhood visits on one hand.

Our parents took different paths when it came to our education. Her mother was a teacher and found it inconceivable to consider sacrificing her daughters’ educations for a move or food in the cupboards. Her mother loved choirs and concerts and art. She even found a library which loaned out pieces of art. When a suitable Christian school was not available, her daughters utilized a home study course until they could find a way to attend a Christian academy.

My parents, on the other hand, asked me to pretend I was being homeschooled and encouraged me to lie to the church members who asked me about my education. Although we arrived by different routes, we eventually found ourselves at the same college. My secret was no high school education, hers was a darker and deeper pain that was nearly unspeakable. At the hands of a church leader, she had not only been molested, but her cries for help were questioned.

The first time I saw her planting flowers along the walkway on campus. I knew immediately who she was–she still had the beautiful green eyes and curly light brown hair I remembered from childhood. As she explained how she got a job working on the grounds crew, I remember noticing pain in her eyes and I immediately wanted to hug her. She was no longer the carefree little girl who sang songs with me and played house, through no fault of her own, she had become a wise soul.

She didn’t glance at me superficially like others had done. There was a depth in her conversation and empathy in her eyes and wisdom came out of her mouth. Oh there was nothing perfect about her—that was the beauty of her care and friendship—it was genuine. No airs with her—what you saw was what you get. I’m sure she saw my own reserve and brokenness too. I was unsure who I could trust, but I never questioned trusting her.

This spirit of empathy, kindness and authenticity is what drew us to each other. For a while, we shared a house with five other women until too much partying caused us to move out and seek other places, but there was never a breach between us. We even lived on the same floor of the dorm where sometimes we ran down the hall to cry on each other’s shoulders or commiserate about the unfairness of not finding the right guy.

In time we both found our own men and we grew further apart–not out of discomfort with each other, but because we began to dream of weddings and nesting and planning a future with our significant chosens. One of our last visits was at her beautiful wedding. She got married in the spring and I made the topper for the fruit tier she substituted in place of a wedding cake. By the time my wedding came in June, she had already moved on to domestic bliss. And that was the end of our friendship or so it seemed for twenty years—until Facebook.

I saw her on the social media page and sent a friend request. At the time, she was pregnant with her fourth child and we basically wrote a couple notes to catch up and then went on with life for a few weeks. It wasn’t until after the baby was born that we began to chat back and forth. One day she asked if she could call me. I gave her my number and our friendship began to grow and bloom over the phone as if we lived next door to each other.

We soon shared our bad days and good days. Sometimes we talked for hours. We’ve read poems and books to each other and when we write a blog, sometimes we run it by the other one before we post it. We found a safe place to share our hearts about God and family and all the wounds we have encountered through the years. We know the ups and downs and struggles in both of our marriages, yet we would never speak disrespect for the other’s husband. We accept these wonderful men for who they are and we know we too have a part to play in any conflicts. That is beauty of a good friend-one who knows your faults and won’t let you get by on letting yourself or your spouse down, but speaks with such gentleness and love that you cannot deny the truth.

And so we began to pray for and with each other. I don’t know if you have a friend like this, but when she prays for me, I know everything is covered, because she prays for me as if she is praying for her own needs. To be held up in prayer like this is the sign of a true friend.

I am pretty sure I’ve let her down sometimes, but she never holds a grudge and weirdly we have never had an argument even though we don’t always agree on religion or politics (although the current political climate both in the nation and the church we were raised in has united us.) We are mature enough now to know the sum of who we are is not about our votes or denominations, but much deeper–we know our views and opinions might even change over time. Our friendship is not based on agreeing with each other, it has been built by supporting each other on our journeys even when we take different paths.

Just as we began to solidify our friendship, we both began to experience dissonance in our families of origin. Different issues came up where healthy boundaries, empathy and respect were lacking at times. That’s when we realized we were offering the type of friendship we wish we had in our families to each other. We gave each other permission to share our messy life stories. These stories were not always about other people, but often about our deepest fears and struggles.  And that’s how we formed a sisterhood that was not from blood, but birthed out of our common goal to love each other unconditionally.

That was eight years ago. Since then hardly a week has gone by that we don’t have a heart to heart talk. She knows all my junk–all my insecurities, my failures mistakes and heartbreaks and I know hers. She is the kind of person Brené Brown says to call when you are having a shame storm. This is because she is so honest and authentic that I know I am safe to share my vulnerable side with her too.

No matter what she thinks of my irrational ideas or tears, she will always stand by me and never laugh at me or put me down. Everyone needs a friend like her and the cool thing is she would say everyone needs a friend like me. Our parents have often criticized us, our sisters have been judgmental, our husbands might not always understand us, but we can be there for each other despite what family members say or husbands think. We are there to build up each other’s confidence and courage despite the struggles we have endured. I believe both of our marriages are better because of our friendship.

So it was a moment I will always treasure that I finally got to see my best friend Lisa this week after twenty-seven years! She was passing through town and we got to look into each other’s eyes and realize we are still the same girls, same college students, same young brides but now we’ve just added more layers to who we are–both us wiser women who sometimes might try to hide our streaks of gray and smile lines, but when we are with each other, we know nothing else matters but how we treat each other. I can’t think of a better friend in the world outside of God and my husband.

I also enjoyed reconnecting with her husband and seeing her youngest two children. These kids are fortunate to be raised by a scientist/inventor father with my dear family counselor friend for a mother. It’s a testament to the marriage of these two people—one who works with logic and robots and the other who deals with human emotions and behavior, that their kids are full of intelligence and curiosity and well able to carry on a conversation with adults. I liked her family and I sure wish they lived closer.

For a few minutes we walked down memory lane and saw that Lisa in her heart and soul has never changed from the gold I remember from our college days. She won’t like that I am the one writing about our friendship because she will try to have her say and tell everyone that she calls me her “professor friend” although I never finished college, but because I read so many books, she says I help keep her on her toes. I like that she believes this. I like that she is interested in my stories and books. I love that she is still humble and honest and genuine and kind-hearted.

Lisa and her unconditional friendship and love, shine like a diamond among all the narcissistic fool’s gold in my life. I am grateful that her life has connected with mine over and over again through the years and that together we have forged a bond that no one but God could have given us and no one can take away. I thank God for the grace of this beautiful friendship!

Thank you for being my family.

I love you, Lisa!

9 thoughts on “Friends are the Family We Choose”

  1. Thanks usathroughoureyes!

    You two are doing such a wonderful thing by traveling and meeting new potential family. It’s sad that some family members are unsafe, but are we not all part of the human family? If only we could all treat each other in love!

    Peace and freedom!

    Cherilyn

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you Cherilyn. We try to treat others with love and respect and its been interesting to see the results. As we do this along the way we have been blessed to see the smiles and great conversations result. 39 years in social work and some pretty tough environments has taught me so much. There are a lot of hurting folks in this world and to us there is always someone wanting to be friends to stand in the stead of the family they never had. The great part is it doesn’t cost us anything.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi usathroughoureyes,

    What a beautiful way of being in the world, you two have chosen!

    That makes sense that you have been in social work. Some of my best friends are in that field.

    Peace and freedom friends!

    Cherilyn

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you Cherilyn. We love your insight into some very hard topics. Wouldn’t it be great if we could get people to read about topics like this early in life and at least plant seeds of what healthy/unhealthy relationships are and the cost of choices. I know we wish we could have been more educated/aware very early on. I guess we all have to touch the plugged in iron before reading the instructions that it’s hot.

    Liked by 1 person

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