17 April 2015
It’s been a while, but I think I’m finally back in the Friend Zone. Not that one—the other kind: the period of life in which you find yourself with a posse you can hang with and rely on for help in a pinch. You and they might not even live geographically nearby, but that makes no difference to the closeness you all feel.
The last time I had friends who felt like extensions of myself was nearly twenty years ago, when I lived in Oregon. As young parents with kids of similar ages, we had everything in common. I spent hours on the phone with BFF Julie as we changed diapers and cooked supper. (I’m chatting with her now as I write this letter.) She understood my oldest kid and his issues better than anyone else; she was the first person besides family and hospital staff to hold my second baby. Julie kept me glued together when I learned I had to move away; once I was gone, we clung to our friendship through fledgling internet chat. Eventually, however, different time zones and busy schoolkids rendered regular contact impractical. Julie and I fell out of touch, rarely communicating more than once every year. I missed her and my Oregon posse so much. Despite every effort in my new Midwestern home, I failed to bond with even one bosom pal, never mind a whole posse. I came to believe I could never again replicate that closeness.
Familial trauma kicked in, driving away the few tenuous associations I had built. People who don’t know you well enough tend to shy from despair. I closed in on myself. Who can say whether a posse would have saved me from that, or perhaps mitigated the length of my recovery from it? I had no one besides parents, a therapist, and a keyboard to talk to, and each one of those heard only part of the story. The rest of it stayed locked deep within. I had no one’s advice, no one’s hugs or kind words, and no one to kick my butt off the couch.
I look back and don’t know how I even survived.
The journey back has been slow, undertaken alone in small advances and retreats. Scarred souls have rough edges. We use harshness to protect our soft inner cores, and we struggle to keep our feelings at bay. As refugees of chaos, we like to control our environment and all others within it. This approach isn’t conducive to building connections.
Over time, though, I’ve been lucky enough to strike sparks with a few people. Somehow they saw through the battle damage and armor, but mostly I credit them with bothering to try. The last several weeks have made something wonderfully clear: my Friend Zone is back, and for that I am grateful. This time around, my friends live in every corner of the country, but that doesn’t matter—I speak to each of them daily. Most of them don’t know each other, but each one plays a vital role in my life.
Cheryl brings me birthday cake, snark, and bottles of wine. Amanda brings a kindred eye to my writing and forgives me my trespasses. Elaina is my intellectual jousting partner, and yin to my yang. And Julie has been there for twenty-odd years, always ready to pick up where we left off; now she and I are clearing away the obstacles that have long sidetracked our connection.
So here’s to my posse and the friends who comprise it. Each one is the superglue that holds me together. Each one seals the scattered parts of my soul. Thank you, my dears, for tolerating my quirks and for just being you. I’ve missed the security of life in the Friend Zone. No one should ever have to go it alone.
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