I could tell from the tone of her text (is that a thing?) – this was real. This was important and something was horribly wrong. “Can I call?” she texted. “Yep.” I texted back. She called. I was greeted by her usually cheerful and giggly voice, but today her beautiful voice wept. My heart immediately ripped…right down the middle.
Once you’re a mother, it gets harder to make friends, doesn’t it? I mean, you make “mom friends” – the mothers of your child’s classmates and friends and you hope that you can tolerate them long enough to just make it through school functions and birthday parties. These are like the friends I used to call “work friends.” They may not be the friends you chose, but they’re the ones you’ve got. Love the one you’re with and all that.
But it’s not the same. What about real friends?
Play dates feel like first dates. Soccer games feel like a session of speed dating..and meeting somebody you click with feels desperately like you should ask them over to dinner now or loose your chance for a reliable mani/pedi buddy forever.
Today, you can turn to the “bar scene” of meeting friends for moms – the internet. Friends in facebook groups and other online friends feel real, connected, genuine – maybe even closer than some of your “IRL (in real life)” friends.
Do you ever wonder if these friendships are real or virtual or something in between? I always assumed they were mostly virtual – at the very least “other” or “different” than “real” friends. I’ve been to the mom bar dating scene – starting with AOL Messenger. Remember AOL dial up and always getting kicked off?
One friend in particular is a friend that I’ve been lucky enough to meet once in real life – but a friend that I deeply cherish. This woman is one of those rare, truly generous people – more so than most people you ever meet in real life. She has a goodness and a kindness that just radiates from inside. Her laugh is contagious and people love being around her. She’s had her struggles and uses them to power her forward and to help other people. She’s one of the most genuine, kind, and giving people I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing. I feel lucky to call her my friend.
But I didn’t fully appreciate the depth of our friendship. And that was about to change. If I continue with my dating metaphor, this would be the moment we committed to not see other people. (So the metaphor breaks down here just a little…sorry.)
At least I didn’t fully appreciate the mutual depth of our friendship until today. Today, she texted me. She confided in me – she confided her deep, real, and utterly raw personal pain. She picked me to text.
When her weeping voice greeted me on the phone, I was immediately lost and thrown off balance. I’m not used to seeing this side of her. Frustrated, I’ve seen. Stumped or perplexed? Yes. We message or talk on the phone. I’m a fix it kinda’ gal- the Olivia Pope of friends, if you will. I like to offer suggestions; to fix things that are broken or breaking.
But this time, I couldn’t fix anything. I wasn’t there with her. I don’t personally know the characters in this act of her life’s play. I didn’t know how or what to advise. I couldn’t hug her. Her problems were real and raw – and not virtual at all. And I suddenly realized she needed more than a “virtual friend.” No, wait – she considered me more than a virtual friend. Or she wouldn’t have called.
I did all I could. I listened. She needed to let things out; to be heard. I listened. She let things out. I heard. I hopefully propped her up briefly. As she does with most things in her life, she’s climbing her way through this difficulty with grace and dignity, equating the needs of others with her own, although I’m sure there’s not anything easy about it.
I feel that somehow our “online friendship” has been validated; we’ve passed some sort of milestone or test. I apologize that my metaphor is wearing thin – but engagement? Friends who are more likely to be friends for a long time?
Lesson learned: don’t ever doubt that friends you meet on the internet are real and don’t doubt that they consider you real. Whether you ever meet in person on not doesn’t matter. It’s always wonderful if you can…but it won’t change the real-ness of the friendship. I’m glad she texted and threw me off balance. I’m glad I could be there. Even if I wasn’t there.