Today was my best friend's birthday. We went to BJ's and wandered around, musing over giant boxes of cereal and brick-sized chunks of cheddar cheese. I hauled off a load of various gigantic food items while she stuck to tomato sauce and mozzarella. A weird excursion for a birthday but one that satisfied us both. As I stood in the check out line, surrounded by bathtub-sized bags of candy on my left and flying saucer-sized apple pies on my right, I watched my friend walk to the hot dog stand to buy us some snacks. I smiled. Here, on her birthday, she buys me a hot dog and soda. On her day, she still thought about me.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "A friend is someone who reaches for your hand but touches your heart." As she handed me a foil wrapped dog and a soda with extra ice, I felt that warm brush inside my ribcage, touched by her thoughtfulness as well as her friendship. Once again, I marveled at my own luck. I might have been raised by the tootie frootie maniacs from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but I have been very, very lucky when it comes to friends. They have been there for me, through thick and thin. They've seen me rant and rave, sob and tear my hair, in the depths of despair and the heights of living. Throughout all these myriad versions of Beck, they've stayed true.
In the hustle and bustle of modern day living, I've seen beloved friends run like hamsters in a wheel, racing, racing in a mobius strip world of unending busyness. When I suggest meeting for lunch or letting me come over and cook dinner so they can relax, they've been surprisingly reticent, sometimes even hostile and defensive. They misinterpret my wanting to see them as my wanting something from them. It's as if they've forgotten what it's like to have a true friend; someone who wants to help ease their burdens, not add to them.
It's very hard for some people, myself included, to accept help from anyone, and if it's being offered by a friend, it's doubly hard. My first thought is, "I don't want to be a bother," which is both egotistically self-effacing and incorrect. Friendship is a giving creature, and I tell myself to calm the hell down and let my loved ones give, even if it's to someone as worthless as me. Those are the moments when insecurity still rears its sneaky head in my brain, whispering that they don't want to have the burden of my needing anything. It's a two-faced way of thinking: I offer whatever I can to people I love and quite a bit to people I don't even know, so why is it so hard to let people help me? When I lost everything after my son was in rehab, including a large chunk of my sanity, three of my closest friends stored the majority of my possessions at their houses; in the garage, basement and utility room. I was moving back to the Midwest just to "get my shit together" before returning to New York. I vowed I would be back in less than a year. I was gone for four. They kept my stuff, without complaint, all that time. I will never forget that. I will never be able to repay such kindness. Because of them, I had something of my old life in safe-keeping. Those boxes with their Sharpie marker labels were priceless treasures to a woman who'd lost her marriage, her business, her son and seven family members all in one year. When I finally came back to the East Coast, the boxes were waiting for me. I unpacked them in my new home, smiling at old photos long forgotten and wrapped extension cords stuffed in amongst the acres of books. As I said, I am inordinately lucky when it comes to my friends. My heart, stomped to a greasy stain by family members who were supposed to love me, has been pieced together again by a family of friends who truly do. I have been touched by the hands of friendship and healed by them all. Thank you, my beloved friends. Thank you forever.