I’ve always been a one-person friend. I may have had a number of girls I hung out with, but there was always just one girl I truly considered my friend at different times in my life. I also had a lot of guy friends, and at times I felt closer to them than I did to my one close girl-friend, whoever that may have been at the time. But I never had a “best” friend—that one girl who I shared everything with and she with me. I had a few friends that came pretty close (I’ll share about them in a later blog), but they always had someone else who seemed to be closer to them than I was. I felt like I was missing out on an important part of life.
I’m not sure why I never felt comfortable in a group of girls/women. Part of it might have been my upbringing (the girls-don’t-have-value upbringing), but the other part was the trust factor. Women have such a hard time not thinking about each other as competition that it makes us do horrible things to each other. We try to steal boyfriends from each other or talk badly about each other behind one’s back. I wish I could say I was innocent of doing those things or having them done to me, but I can’t. I think that’s why I always stuck with one person—fewer people involved in the betrayal.
A turning point in my friend-perspective came when I had my daughters; I had to learn how to be a mother to girls and raise them to love themselves and respect each other. Having girls helped to heal part of my soul as well; I realized what a blessing it was to be a girl: Only girls can express their love for the beautiful without being mocked; only girls can show their enthusiasm for life by screaming—whether they are happy, scared, in love, or in hate (what a grand way to release emotions); and only girls can openly cry for all the same reasons with the same results. Suddenly, I was surrounded with dresses, ribbons, flowers, hearts, giggles, screams, whispers, notes, and tears—and I loved every moment of it. Because I love my girls, and I finally loved being a girl, I was ready to be a real friend to myself and other women.
I am blessed by the four women who have chosen, for some unknown reason, to be my friend. Now that they know the Perils of Pauline, I wonder if they have considered running in the opposite direction when they see me coming; I’m grateful they haven’t. Jamie, Karyn, Sandy, and Sona have helped me through my personal struggles by being my stronghold. Without their presence in my life I would have surely fallen—and not gotten up. They have supported me through the tears, the anger, and the fears. God intermittently placed them in my life throughout the past nine years, knowing I would need their love and strength now. What’s interesting is that they are all so different; the only thing we have in common is that we are English teachers. They have different backgrounds and different perspectives, but their commonality is their immeasurable support.
Counting my blessings has been helpful beyond belief. I have found reasons to be happy in the midst of some dark times. I fear, though, that creating this list somehow presents the idea of a hierarchy, which couldn’t be further from the truth. My blessings surround my day-to-day living, and whether I write about my #1 or my #32 they are all important to me and help me get up in the morning. That concept is true with my closest friends as well. I could never rank them because they each help me in unique ways. I decided to write about them in alphabetical order to keep the list neutral.
Blessing #5: Jamie
Jamie and I have been friends for almost two years now, but we made a jump in our friendship last year when she started coaching my daughter’s tennis team. We worked on a fundraiser together, which did not do as well as we had hoped (Does anyone want to buy a Liberty bag?). Through that interaction we started leaning on each other for support in other areas.
One of the most endearing things about Jamie is how much she loves my son Ian. It goes beyond the children-are-adorable love; it’s genuine, and Ian knows it. He adores “Ms. Jamie.” She has helped me out a number of times by picking Ian up at school when I’ve had after-school meetings. Ian loves those days, and Jamie loves spoiling him. She treats him like family, and I cannot thank her enough for that. It has been very hard for me not having family near me, especially to help me with Ian. Jamie fills that void perfectly.
Of the four, Jamie is the friend whose personality is the closest to mine as well. Our emotions are out there for all to see: We laugh loudly; we cry openly. We also feel each other’s joy and pain so deeply that it creates knee-jerk reactions, like when she called me crying one night about a situation at school and I was trying to decide which person I was going to knock to the ground first. She reacts the same way; Jamie hates people she has never met because they have hurt me. She’s the sister I never had.
Jamie understands my passion for writing because she is a writer as well. She has encouraged my writing so much so that I have been able to share it in this forum. We also have a crush on the same man: Adam Levine. We joked about how we would turn into love-sick teenagers if we ever saw him out somewhere. That image became the subject of a script I just started writing called Searching for Adam. I couldn’t imagine sharing that fantasy with anyone but Jamie.
I am blessed to have a friend who understands me and my inner child so well. I am thankful that in the short time we’ve known each other that we have let each other in to that guarded place not many get to see. At the end of this month, Jamie will be moving to Germany. I can’t stand the thought of losing her presence in my life, but I’m thankful that I got the opportunity to have her friendship, her sisterhood, even for a little while.
Jamie, thank you for your friendship; thank you for the strength you have imbibed me with; thank you for being my blessing.
Blessing #6: Karyn
Karyn was my first friend at Liberty. I met her at the English Department Christmas party a few weeks before I started teaching in 2003. I remember feeling overwhelmed meeting everyone at once. For some reason I immediately gravitated towards Karyn. I’m not sure if it was her congenial smile, the fact that she gave me her phone number in case I needed something, or that she was the most recognizable person in the crowd with her long, curly red hair. Whatever it was, I felt an instant connection. What I didn’t realize that first day was that my soul somehow knew Karyn would be an important person in my life.
Whenever something happens to me, my first thought is: “I need to talk to Karyn.” She has a unique combination of logic and compassion. She is able to understand both sides of an ordeal almost instantly, and not prejudge either side. She sees things logically, yet is compassionate enough to know that a difficult situation is more than who is to blame: She knows both sides are hurting. Karyn logically points that out to me so I can see things clearly. She has invaluable advice that has truly made me a better person.
Her logical mind never lets her get overly emotional about anything. It’s so nice to have someone tell me—who tends to have overly emotional reactions to everything—to take a deep breath. The one time I appreciated this more than any other was when my husband called me about Ian’s brain tumor. All I could do was scream; Karyn hugged me, made sure I was sane enough to drive home, and took care of my classes for me.
Even though she sees things so clearly, she never tells me what to do. She clarifies things, suggests things, and shows me love and support, but never insists on a course of action. She knows that ultimately, the decision is mine; Karyn will be my friend no matter what decisions I make. It’s comforting to have unconditional friendship like that.
Besides having her friendship, I am blessed by her intelligence. Karyn is truly the smartest person I know; she knows a lot about–everything. She is well-read and uses her knowledge in the classroom, as well as in every day conversations. I feel smarter after being with her. She is also very witty. A number of times I find myself laughing at something she said five minutes earlier. What happens instantly with her takes me about four minutes to decipher and another minute to realize just how funny her comment actually was. Another layer to our friendship is our devotion to the Denver Nuggets; we love our team whether they win or lose.
I am blessed to have such a friend. We are like yin and yang: The complementary opposites that are interconnected and interdependent. We balance each other and are greater together than we could ever be apart.
Karyn, thank you for your friendship; thank you for keeping me grounded and logical in illogical situations; thank you for being my blessing.
Blessing #7: Sandy
Sandy and I have an interesting start to our friendship. When Ian was going through chemotherapy, I wanted to find a substitute teacher who would cover my classes a week at a time every cycle to keep some consistency for my students. Two teachers came highly recommended from the district office: Joel and Sandy. I called Sandy first, but had to leave a message. I called Joel; he answered and agreed to be available for me when I needed him. When I hung up with Joel, Sandy called back. She was disappointed that I had already made an agreement with Joel, but she was kind and wished me well with Ian. In the few minutes I spoke with her on the phone, she left a strong impression. Three weeks later our department was looking for another full-time English teacher to start immediately. I thought of Sandy and gave the hiring committee her phone number. They liked her instantly as well. Looking back, the whole situation was perfectly orchestrated. Even though in the midst of it, Sandy felt like she lost an opportunity to be my substitute, by not answering my initial phone call she ended up with the better deal. Our English Department definitely did.
As the year went on, Sandy and I found out we belonged to the same gym and started hanging out by the pool. She has children close in age to Ian, so as Sandy and I grew closer, our children became friends as well. Becoming her friend was the easiest choice I’ve ever had to make; conversations flow so easily with her. She also has a calming presence that starts with her smile; it lights up the room and reveals her generous and kind heart. She’s the hospitable hostess, even when she is not at her house. Wherever we go she makes people feel welcomed and important.
Sandy was instrumental in helping me take the next step as a writer as well. Before things changed for me this past December, she was more confident than I was that my writing dreams would come true. She said she felt it would happen for me in her heart. She blessed me then with her assurance. Then, when I thought I had to give it all up, she wouldn’t let me. She encouraged me to stay on the path and to use the number 32 as a symbol for my dream. I have gladly taken her advice.
As we became closer, I discovered that we had a lot in common. We are devoted to our families; we are passionate about our profession; and we have a shared faith in God. Her faith is part of who she is; it comes out in how she talks to people, her dedication to everything she does, and her loyalty to family and friends. After years of being friends, we just discovered we share the same life verse: ” ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’ ” (Jeremiah 29:11). That verse helps us to walk in faith together, no matter what comes our way. There is immeasurable comfort knowing one of God’s warriors is praying for me during difficult times. I know when I can’t utter cries for help, Sandy is whispering in God’s ear for me.
Sandy, thank you for your friendship; thank you for your supplications on my behalf; thank you for being my blessing.
Blessing #8: Sona
Looking back at the last nine years, it is amazing that Sona and I are such good friends, considering my first two years at Liberty. At first, Sona was the last person I wanted to befriend. She seemed bossy, arrogant, and rude; but, of course someone like me would have had that impression of her. I was a push-over, insecure, and a people-pleaser. Over the years, Sona’s true qualities revealed themselves to me in the most amazing ways. Not only has she stood in my corner during my battles, but she has also helped me become a stronger person.
What I thought was bossy at first was really a strong, independent woman who was not afraid to show it. She is a natural leader; as our department chair she is the perfect liaison between teachers and administrators. She is not intimidated by their position, and she treats the department with respect. Sona knows how to take the reins of a new directive and make things happen; she delegates easily and knows who to ask to get the job done correctly.
What I thought was arrogance was really substantiated confidence. I was raised to believe that we lived in a man’s world and I had to know my place. (I guarantee Sona is rolling her eyes at that comment [am I right?]). Sona is brilliant, a great teacher, and the most organized person I know. She color-codes our English courses and can have the majority of our teaching schedule worked out before we look at it, making sure everyone in the department is happy. At one point in her life she wanted to be an accountant, but then switched to teaching; so it’s no wonder she created a financial budget that changed the way I look at my income. I was thrilled to know that we could pay our bills and save for the nonessentials, something we were never able to do before.
What I thought was rudeness was really a woman who has boundaries and knows how to establish them. Boundaries for me, a female child of an alcoholic, were a foreign concept. Sona showed me what healthy boundaries look like, and that it’s okay to form them. She lets me know when I’ve crossed boundaries too, which only serves to strengthen mine. Being a push-over is a distant memory for me now.
I am so happy she came to my house that first girls’ night over five years ago. She went from colleague to fierce friend in a few short months. Without Sona, I don’t know what I would have done during Ian’s Cancer treatments. While we helped Ian battle his Cancer, Sona helped us battle the financial war by organizing and participating in a number of fundraisers for us. She had a Lia Sophia benefit and invited friends of friends of friends—basically strangers—into her home to help us. She collaborated with another colleague and students to have a silent auction at school. Those two events brought in thousands of dollars to go towards hospital bills.
Sona and I also have the added benefit of having children who are buddies. Ian loves her son Reece; he was the perfect playmate when Ian couldn’t be around a lot of children during his treatments.
Sona is the woman who stands in the ring with me at the end of each round, encouraging me to stay strong. She can’t fight my battles for me, but she has given me the training I need to fight with confidence and strength.
Sona, thank you for your friendship; thank you for your strength and courage; thank you for being my blessing.
My Circle of Friends
All four women have made me a better person. I know I can count on them for love and support. We laugh together. We work together. We strengthen each other. They make me want to be a better friend. We haven’t always agreed about things, but our friendships are strong enough to withstand it. I wouldn’t change a thing about them. They are exactly what I need.
In my younger years I looked for friends who were just like me, so I could feel better about who I was. No wonder I was so lonely. No one could do that for me. I had to do that for myself. This awareness has made me think that having a “best” friend needs to be redefined. Best implies having one friend that fulfills all of my needs. I have learned that I have to be my own best friend. The greatest way to take care of myself is to surround myself with people who bring out the best in me, people who are willing to give the best of themselves to me, people I want to give the best of myself to.
Shouldn’t that be what all of our relationships are about?
These women have given me so much. I am a better person because of them. I have more to give to others because of them. I am blessed because of them.