A Letter to My Best Friend

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Hey You,

It’s me, saying thank you … again. I know I say it a lot. I think I repeat it so often because those two words aren’t really expressing the depth of my gratitude. And I know you probably think they are a knee-jerk thing I do, another one of the rules for life I follow in order to interact with people. Someone does something for me = say thank you. I can’t say that’s entirely false. But there’s more to it than that. And you, well, you brush all my thank yous off anyway with a “That’s what friends do.” Which is entirely true, friends do things for each other. It’s part of the deal. But you do more for me than you realize, and I want to make sure you know it. So here I go … again.

You see, I don’t make friends easily. Well, you already know that, don’t you? I don’t trust easily and I find most social interactions mind boggling, not to mention boring. I say awkward things and over-explain and make terrible jokes and I’m needy and clingy and high maintenance and … well, the list goes on. But you know those things, too. And you don’t tease me about them. All my life, friends and family have asked me “What is wrong with you?!” with varying degrees of exasperation. Often it is meant lovingly, or jokingly but it is always said. I have been patted on the head and gently indulged like a quirky child by most of the people who love me. And truly, I appreciate the indulgence, but you have never approached me that way. From the time we met, you’ve met me where I am, as though my quirks don’t phase you at all. Or as if you don’t notice. It’s such a relief to feel normal.

I know there are moments that passed you by because they seem normal to you. It is second nature to you to be a good friend, to be interested in people and to make them feel at ease. Or at least it has seemed that way to me from the beginning. Maybe you are just good at helping me feel at ease. That might be your superpower. If it is, I am sorry for you. It’s really not a very good one and only benefits me. But I digress … The point I was going to make is simply that I remember those things and they mean a lot to me.

I remember you making an effort to read my favorite comic even though it isn’t to your liking. And I appreciate that you were honest about that too. It would have been easy, in a budding friendship, to pretend you loved it too. But instead you were confident enough in our potential friendship to be honest and try to find other common ground. (Or you simply didn’t care whether we stayed friends and I’m going to choose not to believe that!) I remember the first gift you bought me. Do you? It was a Star Wars t-shirt. Unwrapped. Sort of flung at me awkwardly with the statement, “I noticed you only had Star Trek shirts.” And it meant nothing to you. But to me it was evident that you paid enough attention to notice my clothes, that you cared enough to pay attention to the minutiae that makes up who I am in a way I am not used to. And I was grateful.

But you’ve really outdone yourself the past two years. When my daughter was born, everyone came to the hospital and talked about her, her, her and motherhood and parenting and breastfeeding and their own children. You asked the appropriate questions, of course — you’re a well-bred Southerner, full of politeness, always. But after that, do you remember what we talked about? I bet you don’t because it didn’t mean anything to you. It was idle chit chat. You talked to me about Mysteries at the Museum (a show I still love, by the way). You talked to me like I was a person other than just a mom. When it felt like to everyone else I’d transformed overnight, you still saw me as me. It was such a relief to feel normal amid such a life-altering change.

Sometimes I feel like I am disappearing, slowly becoming less of who I am, not even turning into someone else, simply melting into no one. Some kind of Mom Robot. Mombot. I am trying so hard to be a good mom. I stay home with her, which means all of my days are full of just being Mom with very little interaction with other people or even things that I like to do. Everyone seems to want to talk about children incessantly and you see me, crawling out of my skin, and ask about my comics or games or anything else. And it’s a relief to feel normal again.

Sometimes I think you and I are the only ones who see it, who see me slowly fading away. Sometimes I think we are the only ones who care. That is where I have come to rely on you the most, whether you know it or not. That is why I say thank you over and over. Because you, my friend, are there, holding out a hand as a lifeline, an anchor to who I was before. No, an anchor to who I am.

You worry about me. Me. As a person, a whole person, not just in relation to being a mom. When I told people I was putting Harper in school two days a week this fall I heard, “Oh, you’ll miss her.” “How can you be apart from her?” “It’ll be good for her to be around other kids and you’ll be a better mom if you get some breaks.” But you, you see me. You asked if I was going back to work, have encouraged me to get back to school, to do anything other than fade away. You may think I didn’t notice but I saw your brow furrow with worry when school was mentioned the other day. I noticed how quick you were to ask if I was still planning to go in the fall. I know that you see how badly I need that outside interest. And I am grateful.

I can’t list all the reasons I am thankful. We’d be here all night. But here is a condensed version. Thank you for having my back in awkward social settings without making me feel like I’m defunct for struggling with things others don’t. Thank you for taking me to see The Force Awakens when I hadn’t been out with another person since H was born. Thank you for geeking out with me over Warcraft. Thank you for letting me vent. Thank you for calling me when I am upset even though I am petrified of talking on the phone (I have no idea if you know about my phone phobia. Maybe you are actually being cruel!). Thank you for letting me text you those rambling, pointless, stream-of-consciousness texts. I know you’re busy. Thank you also for not acting like I’m bothering you (even though we both know I am!) Thank you for worrying and for pushing, in your gentle non-pushy way, for me to do things for myself. Thank you for helping me hold onto who I am as a person, because it’s important for me but it’s also important for H, that she grows up with a well-rounded, happy, and fulfilled mom.

Mostly, thank you for helping me keep a hold of who I am and who I want to be. I don’t think I could do that without you. Those idle conversations about mutual interests, and even about nothing, keep me sane. These past two years you have saved my sanity (and probably my life) more times than I can count, and you don’t know it because it’s just what you do and who you are. That’s why you are kind of my hero, but completely my friend.

– Me

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Jen is a stay-at-home mom to a two-year-old daughter, a greyhound, and 2 3/4 cats (one is missing a leg). She is also working to trap, spay/neuter, and return the neighborhood feral cats. So she has plenty of experience mediating toddler/animal disputes! She earned an accounting degree from MTSU then did a brief stint in the Army before moving to Birmingham to work as an accountant. She met her husband at a medieval dance class and the rest is, as they say, history.