The F Word

Friendship is rarely tidy. And I can be a terrible friend. I don’t keep up the way I should. Texting isn’t my forte, and the OCD-ADHD double-punch sometimes sidelines phone conversations mid-sentence, demanding that my attention be turned to a dusty sill or a wilted plant. Or narcissism wins, and I make the conversation about me, me, me before interrupting myself and asking what it was that we were talking about. I’ve offended plenty, amused a few. But I’ve been supported by more.

Maybe it’s the incremental perspective gained through the passage of another year, or my disdain for the holidays manifesting in some odd, Scrooge-esque retrospective glance, questioning what it is that I have to be happy about. What exactly did 2011 do for me, anyway? But then I realize that it’s not about what the year did, but what I did with it, and what others did for me in the process. What they taught me.

Shooting the shit with friends reveals more to me about the world and my haphazard navigation of it than any anthropology seminar ever could. I’ve become attuned to how I search the depths of daily minutiae, try to find some semblance of vindication for what I do and who I’ve become. I hope for a resounding, amplified “Werk!” to each tiny action that comprises some infinitesimal fraction of my daily life. But this year I didn’t have to search quite as intensely as I’ve had to before. Because friends expressed it through unspoken acts, expecting no thanks; they did so without prompting, because they wanted to.

They called my flu-afflicted self from their cars to ensure I got the food they’d left at my door. They said “Hi” in a crowded theater and welcomed me. They sat on a couch in a crowded room to get to know me. They talked me down from panic-attacks. They called in a panic to check in as Mother Nature let loose. They sent unsolicited gifts just to make me laugh. They donated. They stayed on the phone when I started crying. They didn’t laugh when I tried make a point. They talked over the static, across oceans. They tolerated my angsty tirades about the unfairness of it all. They commiserated over boys’ stupidity and ambiguity. They helped me move on. They said I looked dinged-up, that I needed a break. They told me I had to learn to say “No.” They pushed a glass of scotch into my shaking hands and gave me a place to spend the night. They hooted along at a concert. They told me to get over it. They said I was doing good things. They made me feel less alone. They pulled me out of my comfort zone. They tried. They let me go.

More than anything, though, they’re still here. Waiting patiently for me to subvert my obstinacy and do what I have to do. Because they know by now that I need to learn to slacken the reigns. And I’ll do it soon enough. What the days’ revelations don’t unlock gradually, the fragile economic times wrench open. So I’ll dust myself off, let the burn subside, and embrace uncertainty. Because I know full-well that, even if I should fail miserably, I’ll have my own cheering section rooting me on. They’re integral.

They’re my people. Friends are family. And my family is lovingly extended.

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