I confess, I judged each of you before I got to know you. Skinny, rich, probable Jesus Freak, Miss Perfect. I imagined lives for every one of you before we ever spoke and these were idyllic lives where your children never got on your nerves and you went on family vacations where no one vomited for any reason, least of all drunkenness. I made up these lives where none of you had room for me and my mess. I imagined that your collective worst problem involved not having enough time to address seventy-five personalized Christmas cards and I thought, well if that’s all they know of suffering then they will hate me. I will scare them half to death and they won’t let their kids around mine for sure. So I hid from you.
Thank you for not being as scared as I was. Because you had the courage to “go first” and be the vulnerable ones, I could drop the charade once and for all and admit my shame and my failures. You have no idea how enormously freeing this was for me. Thank you for, after learning my darkest secrets, still letting your kids play with mine at Chick-Fil-A on rainy days when I feel like I will go insane if I have to be stuck in the house alone with a preschooler for one more minute. Oh, and thank you too for not judging my vanilla shake with extra whipped cream and cherries and for understanding how much I needed it.
You get me. You understood on some unconscious level that I am an introvert, but that I still need companionship and that I am sometimes too shy to call or text or to reach out and ask for other people’s time, so you did it for me – all of you. My gratitude for this is so great that I will pick your kids up at school, feed them, bring them lunch when you are out of bread and peanut butter. I will bring them to my house and throw them in the tub with mine if you are sick or sad or just plain exhausted. And I know you’d do the exact same thing for me, because you already have.
My friends, I’m glad you too have dark pasts filled with stupid mistakes. Thank you for surviving hardship and heartbreak and becoming bad-ass, beautiful women either because of or in spite of your obstacles. You inspire me. I want you to know that when you own your stories and tell me with a smile how you overdosed, and you were pregnant at 19 with a drug dealer’s baby, and you have a child that is severely disabled, and you had a man literally try to kill you, and your mom was a paranoid schizophrenic and you used to be a stripper and you had freaking cancer and lived to tell about it or worst of all that your kids had cancer and God knows what else crazy you’ve made it through, that you show me over and over that I am not alone, that none of us are alone. I forget this sometimes. My brain likes to revert back to a scared little girl place of unending loneliness and you remind me every day that this isn’t real. Loneliness is a big old lie. We’re in this shit together and we’re going to make it together.
I got through the darkest time of my life because I had true friends. Thank you for skipping the small talk. Thank you for every single time you made me laugh and exclaim “OH MY GOD! Yours does that too?” Thank you for not being perfect, for having kids who throw fits and won’t sleep. Thank you for having husbands who are weird/irritable/ watch too much football/ secretly text other women and dogs who destroy your houses. Thank you for not cleaning up too much before I come over and for fully owning up to the fact that your gorgeous boobs are so not real.
You try as hard as I do. Your struggles are real. We all daydream of an alternate reality sometimes: an easy breeze through life’s milestones where everything doesn’t always have to come at some enormous expense. But maybe these trials are what brought us together.
I often feel like you girls, my village, my tribe, my very foundation, are the reward in a divine deal. So yeah, I had to live through some shit, but in return I get to have each one of you in my life. You’re my helpers and my guardian angels. You’re the ones who hold my hands and cheer me on while I walk barefoot over the hot coals and you’ll be there to party with me on the other side too. Because when one of us makes it, we all make it.
So thank you, with all that I have and all that I am, for being there when I was drowning, for seeing that I couldn’t swim and for reaching into that dark, cold water and pulling me out alive.