I stood in the entryway of the restaurant. I was late. The 3 of them were already sitting down somewhere. Together. It felt silly to be so nervous but yet I was. My heart pounded as I considered slipping back out the door and just calling them to tell them I was too sick to join them.
I was never really good at friends. For so many years, I had been a keep to myself, closed off, scoff at feelings kind of anti-girl. The last friends I had were the women that broke my heart into a thousand pieces. Mostly I was angry at myself, for giving them the power to hurt me this way. I had let my guard down, loved them, cared for them, and this is what happened. I didn’t realize back then it was the catalyst for my behavior that followed. I stopped trusting the women around me and started backing farther and farther away from everyone else. I didn’t ever want to feel like that again and soon I decided I was better off without any friends. And so I became an island. Unreachable and alone.
8 years later, there I was, on the verge of either walking in or running out of that restaurant. That’s when the hostess asked if she could help me. “I’m meeting some people” I said unsure if I actually was. “Oh, are you Kathy?” she asked. I nodded my head silently. “Your friends are expecting you. I’ll show you where they are.” Tears welled up in my eyes as I realized the small but significant gesture. They were expecting me. Waiting for me. Even told someone to watch for me. Already, I was more than just an outsider to these women I didn’t know very well.
They showed me what mutual friendship really was. They became amazing friends with such love, respect, and empathy for those around them that the deep, tall, and wide walls I had built up slowly began to come down. The gratitude I have for these women defies words. They have seen me at the very worst I had to offer, when I was in so much pain I couldn’t even bring myself to admit it. And still they were there, in the ICU, on the other end of a phone, running alongside of me early in the morning, at my door with food, and always, always, always laughing and crying along with me. They stood by our family through some of the most difficult years we had ever seen and made me laugh when I thought it was impossible. When they each moved away at different times for different reasons, we cried until we laughed. But distance could not affect these friendships. They were stronger than that.
A few years after they all had moved away, I was brave enough to make more friends on my own. They were the spark that made me notice what my life was missing: close girlfriends. Again, I was lucky enough to find such loving, caring, compassionate women that immediately accepted me. As the rough years raged on, they jumped head first into the chaos that is our life without a second thought. And there they were. In the waiting room of a hospital, at my door with more and more food, clutching my hand tightly, making room for me in their lives, and always, always, always laughing and crying along with me. One day, it was just like they’d been there all along.
I don’t know that I’d ever had as much to give as I’ve been given. I don’t know that I’ve ever deserved the amazing people that have surrounded me. And I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to “pay them back” for all they’ve done. It’s too much. They’ve helped save me from myself and they’ve held me up when I was falling into the darkness. But today, I can say my group of friends, both near and far, are some of the most thoughtful, giving, and beautiful people I’ve ever met in my entire life. So what exactly was gained? Everything. Absolutely everything.
~ When you are drowning, a true friend will not just throw you a lifeline but rather jump in headfirst and swim the raging waters with you. And you will be rescued together. ~