Everybody should have a Sarah in their life. My Sarah came into my life two years ago when I started a new job eight months pregnant and fresh off a year working from home for a company with only three employees. I was in a fragile state as I walked into an office of more than twenty women in a field I was unfamiliar with and needing a bathroom break every eighteen minutes because I had a tiny human constantly playing kickball with my bladder. Then something miraculous happened. My Sarah introduced herself and then immediately turned to the side to reveal her own burgeoning belly and said, “October. Number three. All boys. Pray for me.” We’ve been best friends ever since.
She was a lifeline in the beginning. A friendly face in a new environment. A huge help to guide me while I was trying to fake it ’til I made it in a new position. But over the last two years, I’ve come to realize that God very much puts the “Sarahs” in your life at just the right time so that you don’t feel as crazy or overwhelmed or incapable as you would if you didn’t have a friend nearby to say, “Me too.”
Sarah was the first person to know that I had breast cancer. By default, that is. She was standing there when the doctor called and told me the life-changing news. I will forever remember her hands covering her mouth when I spun around to make eye contact with my relatively new bestie. Pure pain. Sarah had already lost a sister to breast cancer and in my first moments of diagnosis, I immediately felt guilt that she was going to have to go through this again with me as a daily reminder of what had already been taken from her. I felt shame that I was exposing her to any kind of reminder of what her family had been through. But not in that moment, and never since, has she ever been anything but steadfastly sure of my recovery.
Torturing her is also kind of hilarious. If she ever complains about a bad hair day I can say things like, “At least you have hair.” (Cancer joke.) Or if I forget to do something at work I can make sad eyes and remind her, “You know I have cancer, right?” (Ultimate trump card.) She’s indulged my emotions every step of the way letting me laugh when it was funny and cry when it really, really wasn’t. She has also been a soundboard for all things marriage and motherhood in a stage of life (cancer or not) that can be very challenging and emotional.
I’d like to think I was a good influence on her, but my constant begging for her to accompany me for fast food or a cupcake isn’t exactly winning me any friendship awards. Recently (close to payday), when things were particularly treacherous at work we decided to grab McDonald’s and take it to the park and enjoy the sunshine. We grabbed those gloriously golden french fries and headed to a bench in the open air. We rehashed all the typical woes of work and moved on to what was going on with our freakishly similar family lives. Like always, we giggled and encouraged each other and commiserated with one another. You know. Just typical best-friends-forever behavior.
Things got quiet as a group of women, their kids, and their nannies drew close. They had been at a safe, comfortable distance the entire time we had been there but the closer they got, the more I realized I had unknowingly been eyeing them the whole time we’d been sitting there. There they were. Immaculate workout clothes, hair, nails, minimal makeup on their manicured skin. I felt Sarah’s energy change too, and I wondered if she was also feeling self-conscious with her greasy bag full of calories and her scrubs screaming out the differences between us and them. I’d never felt so “working mom” in my entire mom life as the nannies streaked past us after one of the kids that was headed towards the water. I turned to make sure that sweet baby was okay, because, well, the bonds of mommyhood, and when I turned around, I caught one of the stay-at-home mommies’ gaze. We both smiled and nodded. Inwardly mortified of the McDonald’s logo blazing from the bag in my lap, the typical waterfall of inadequacy started to pour through my brain. When was the last time I worked out? When was the last time I took my kids to the park? Why don’t I make enough money to look like that? Why doesn’t Bobby make enough money for me to stay home? Why didn’t I at least suggest the less cringe-worthy Chick-fil-A for lunch? Why in the world am I even wearing scrubs? (I’m a marketing director for goodness, sake!) When will my hair look normal again? Why am I wearing my cheap $5 clearance sale J.Crew sunglasses instead of the of timeless Ray Bans I own? Where is that nail salon gift card Bobby got me for Christmas? Why did I have to pick McDonald’s? Why do I even eat McDonald’s? Why? Why? WHY?!
I realized Sarah was talking to me, so I brought my brain back down to this planet and tried to focus on what she was saying. If my memory serves me correctly (often it doesn’t), Sarah was asking me something about my next chemotherapy treatment and as we fell back into normal conversation, I immediately realized how selfish and unappreciative I was of my own fantastic circumstances. I had a friend sitting across from me who genuinely loved and cared for me and I for her in return. I got to go back to a job that I loved and that helped me provide for my family. (A job where I get to wear scrubs if I want to!) I had a bag full of golden, french fry ecstasy at the ready. My life as a working mom is pretty spectacular, too.
The moms with nannies had slowed once they realized the runaway toddler wasn’t in peril and were standing within earshot of us. It was like watching an exotic animal from behind glass, fascinating to be so close to something so very different. Not wanting to spook the creatures, Sarah and I both silenced and stared. We and those moms were like two sides of a coin sitting there. Mutually exclusive. I was playing through what a different person I would be with a little more time and a lot more money when I heard the most glorious five words from one of the stay at home glamazons, “I would kill for McDonald’s.” It was pure envy (lust, even) as her eyes traced my steps towards the trash can as I threw away my crumbs. Ah, the universal and undeniable power of The Arches.
You see, there are always tradeoffs. Sure, she was jealous of my french fries and I was jealous of her toned tummy, but there is always something deeper at play. Maybe she would be envious of the satisfaction of being in the workforce. Maybe she would crave that connection of contributing at a job or the closeness of a kindred work friend like I have. I don’t know her whole story, but there is always intrigue in the opposite. I know I was unknowingly interested in her situation. It may not be as glamorous as it looked from the outside. Or maybe it is.
Maybe she’s jealous of my situation. And why wouldn’t she be? I get to hang out with “my Sarah” and if she’s any kind of mirror of the kind of person I am, I think I have a lot to be proud of. Everybody needs a Sarah. Someone who will walk with you where you are in life and who you can be totally yourself with.
McDonald’s Moms everywhere, where ya at?