My best friend introduced herself within two weeks of my freshman year of college. I was feeling very far from home and lonely. Walking down the hall to the bathroom, I passed by a girl in a flowery dress. The physical embodiment of the 90s grunge hippy chick. She smiled, told me her name, and handed me a cherry Starburst. We have been friends ever since. For the sake of this blog, we will call her Abby.
Abby is just as empathic as I am, but every time I tell her that, she looks at me and says that she has no idea what that means. I explain again that it is someone who can feel what other people feel. She raises an eyebrow and says, “That’s just being human.” Abby’s childhood was very different from mine, but not really easier. Her father was a very spiritual man, and he would gather his three daughters around him and read to them from the bible. During the holiday season, he worked in soup kitchens to make sure that people were able to have good meals at this time. He volunteered his time during the rest of the year, too. This kind, wonderful man died of brain cancer when she was only fourteen years old. Her life would never be the same.
Abby feels what others feel so deeply that she is the kind of person who remembers everything and anything about a person. She is the first to call because I randomly mention that my brother is having surgery. Every birthday is acknowledge, every sick relative is remembered, every major event is recalled. As where I may see more about a person, the feelings I get from them do not stay with me the way they stay with her. She internalizes them and is always astounded at how quickly I can move on. I struggle with attachment issues. I have problems admitting my vulnerabilities, but Abby is my “scar tissue” friend. This is a term that was coined by Brene Brown. She is a vulnerability and shame researcher and she is amazing. Check her out on TED talks if you don’t believe me. Anyway, she says that you may get lucky enough to have one, maybe two, scar tissue friends. These are the people who know you. These are the people who have see your scars and do not judge you or walk away. Abby has seen the best and the worst of me. I would like to say that I have seen the worst of her, but there truly is no worst. She is the kindest person I’ve ever met. She never says anything gossipy or bad about anyone. Her judgments are always somehow reasonable and amicable. Her husband and she opted to not have biological children of their own but adopt a boy from Ethiopia in the hopes of giving him a better life. Despite the severe adversity this created, she was a caring and generous mother. This is not to say that she did not struggle with the emotional and physical needs that come with adoption, but she met her challenges with a unique grace and sense of humor that I never believed was possible for anyone.
Today we were on our weekly walk through her neighborhood, and I realized again how blessed I am to have this amazing woman in my life and this could not be an accident. I turned to her as we were walking up the big hill that is midway through our walk, and I said, “So how many lives do you think we’ve spent together?” She laughed because as a Christian, she doesn’t really believe in the past lives thing.
“I am not sure,” she answered anyway.
“I think it’s a lot,” I answered. “I bet you in one we were sisters. I think we were married in another, but I don’t think it went well.” She laughed again.
“Yeah, but I bet you cheated on me or that you didn’t treat me very well,” she answered. I laughed this time.
“Oh, and then I could see myself totally in love with you, but you are married to another man,” I answered. The conversation went on from there, and I still smile just thinking about it. I am not sure what we were to each other in other lifetimes, but I know she is my guide in this one. She is the one person who can tell me the truth about myself and I not only believe her, but it becomes an experience that transforms me.
I feel that so many people in my life expect me to be infallible, but this person only wants to see me exactly as I am. I am free to show every error, every vulnerability, every true emotion that enters into this brain. At the end of the day, I know that she loves me for these reasons. So many of us believe that this type of relationship is only possible if it involves a romantic partner, but this is not true. I have grown to realize that love comes in many forms and its beauty transcend our expectations of what love “should” look like. I beginning to learn that there is really no such thing as “should.” Life is so much more amazing without it.