I didn’t run with the cool kids in grade school. In fact, I remember frequently eating lunch in the bathroom stall in junior high because I didn’t fall into any of its lunchroom niches. I was awkward and quiet with a tired, frizzy perm, but I didn’t exactly fall into the nerdy group. I wasn’t a slender, ra-ra-shish-boom-bah-type like the popular girls either. I did, however, make friends with a couple of amazing girls back then whom I’m still friends with to this very day.
Two girlfriends and I met in 7th-8th grade, remained friends through high school, college, and now into adulthood. Together, we proudly moved the tassel of our graduations caps, danced at each other’s weddings, and looked into the eyes of each other’s littles. Unfortunately, time and many moves on my behalf left our friendship less than best. I mean, we don’t call just to chat anymore. Luckily, social media has kept us in-touch enough to make it on each other’s yearly Christmas card blast. Even though I don’t always know the small details of their lives, I still consider those connections meaningful. They are as such because we have seen each other in our ugliest of times as well as when we’re having super awesome mojo. We have connected on a deeper level because we talk – we exposed our secrets and shared our innermost thoughts. Now we’re besties.
|Elizabeth, me, Janell. Gotta love 2000 before digi cameras. Met Janell in 7th grade.|
|Me with Kristal, friends since junior high.|
I cherish my long-time girlfriends and I will do whatever it takes to maintain that friendship. Some can attest to my habit of needing to stay in-touch. I will send a quickie though Facebook, a lengthy through email, a care package, card, text – whatever – to keep me connected. Sometimes I don’t hear back from them. Sometimes I go out of my way and they don’t, and that really is ok with me. I do what I do because I yearn for the human connection.
Sometimes, however, friendships simply drift apart no matter how hard we try. The sheer miles cannot save some long-time friends even in our social networking world. This makes my heart ache and has been one of the many lessons of living a military lifestyle. It kind of feels like a deep, whirl-wind romance boyfriends/girlfriends share when one of them goes away to college and they decide to do a long-distance relationship. I know many couples who parted because the miles between them wreaked havoc – they needed their beau physically there. I often wonder if the same is true for girl-friendships. Perhaps some of those connections die out because one or both of the pair simply needs more of a physical connection – causing the once meaningful relationship to fizzle out.
Over the years I have learned to dig the stilettos in deep in order to create more meaningful relationships with long-time and new friends. Military life doesn’t always allow spouses to create new besties. Once we get to our new home we are forced into an environment where all is new. New house, new school, new job, new route, new faces. You get the point. We’re constantly dealing with change and meeting new people. While the military offers fantastic resources for military spouses to connect with others in likeness, those meet-ups don’t always leave us with meaningful relationships – no matter how hard we try.
Recently, I had an experience with another military mama who is truly one of the most thoughtful and caring women I’ve met. We have been friends for a while now, although truthfully, we aren’t that close. It’s both of our faults. She will offer insights into her personal life, but then I’ll quietly listen without going there myself. I won’t get deep into the juicy personal stuff with her leaving the conversation emotionally lopsided: It’s all her pouring her dear heart out to me while I sit there acting like my grass is all North Texas green and my irises are beautifully blossomed (that couldn't be further from the truth.) It shouldn’t be a surprise to me when I ask her out for specific coffee/brunch/play-date things and I get no response. But it was a surprise. I felt like I was creating a solid foundation with her when we hung out. I now realize that I wasn’t going there – I wasn’t vulnerable with her, and that kept us from getting close – and that’s super important for everyone. Everyone needs a friend who will cry over two rounds of beers with her.
Once I realized this, I decided I would go to her house uninvited. As a friend, I wanted to see how she was doing. I never ever go to someone’s house unannounced. Never ever. I will drop my sisters and parents a quick text letting them know I’m stopping by even if I have just pulled into their driveway. I had to definitely step out of the box to do that, but my intent was to help surge our friendship. Military spouses make few truly close best-friend-type relationships that I decided to “go there” – literally. We didn’t have a deep meaningful conversation that day at her house, but it does take initiative and, yes, eventually vulnerability.
When the guardrail is lowered, the pathway to meeting the most interesting, talented, inspiring, life-changing people will ensue. I’m convinced the happiness from creating a meaningful relationship will follow. Go - go be a sista to someone. Go over to her house unannounced to make sure she's ok, and let her cry and carry on over two rounds of beers. Be that person to someone even if you don’t consider them close friends, because someone will be there for you someday too.