I don’t know if it’s the change in the weather, or the steady stream of vacation posts online that has me a little jealous that we’re investing in a lawn instead of a vacation this year, or that it’s just my turn in the universe to sit and notice an empty place.
But I’m feeling a bit sad. I see a little gap in my world, and this is my way of touching it.
I do not have a best friend.
I have, throughout my life, had best friends. Just a couple. Very dear and wonderful best friends. But moving, or growing, or changing. Shitty interpersonal skills or being overly self-involved at milestones, tragedies or trivialities, I’ve either lost touch altogether, or the best friends have shifted to friends, sometimes distant ones.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I’m a cancer in the astrological sense, and I do tend to be a bit reclusive. A tendency to withdraw into my shell, if you will. Gifted at the art of extroversion on command, but secretly most comfortable alone with my cat (or my kids) and my computer, a book, or a garden that needs some work. Those are my tendencies, but I’ve overcome lots of tendencies to arrive here, fill this privileged and fortunate seat I sit in and type from tonight. Why not that seat there though? Why is that one still empty?
Some of the women in my life seem to just be able to do it all. Climb mountains, excel in their careers, have hot steamy relationships with their significant other of many years, raise happy and healthy children of unusual and exceptional talents, draw from deep religious or spiritual convictions. Walk their dogs and teach their cat to potty in the Kohler. Make beer and knit scarves and do yoga and look like a million bucks in a bikini. Nourish a wide circle of friends, a posse, a mommy mafia. Have a suburban wingman. That number you call unfailingly, daily, just because.
I stare at my phone. Who would I call?
I believe very firmly we are the product of our choices. We have great personal power and the ability to create the reality we envision. So, if I follow my own belief system to the logical end, I must conclude that I have no best friend because I have chosen, consistently, not to have one.
I’m not sure if that makes me more or less sad to realize.
Oftentimes I’ve had this conversation with friends that I think we’re at this pivotal point, us women. First we were told we could do nothing, then we were told we could and should do everything. And now we realize that, as I think Oprah put it quite well, we can do everything, of course, just not at the same time. Like childbearing, or marriage, or a career, I’m thinking that a best friend is something that you have to commit to in a very broad sense, and sometimes you have to commit to it in the order of priorities you decide upon consciously or by default. The career fairy doesn’t give you your dream job, no? A best friend doesn’t just fall on your head and drop off a quiche. Dream job or best friend carrying quiche. Cue the unsettling gameshow music. Hard decision in motion.
Of course, it’s part chemistry, right? Not just all planning and plotting and laying a trap of espresso and Scrabble and a book club invitation to snag a good one. My best friend can’t just be anyone that can rock a pair of comfortable khakis. We have to click. She has to be hysterically funny, equal parts fancy pants and rugged adventure girl. She needs to like talking about wine at least a little bit, and roll with the punches of our crazy lives, crazier families, and a harsh reality of already overextended everything.
I used to describe my strange combination of serial monogamy and rabid commitment phobia with this analogy. For me, life was like an episode of “Let’s Make a Deal.” There I was standing elbow to elbow with a neatly coiffed Monty Hall, and the box lifts and there’s my color tv.
I don’t have a color tv, and that’s a nice one. Yay. All mine.
And then I’m offered curtain number two. Wow, there’s a color tv, but there could be a car behind that curtain number two. I don’t have a car either, and boy would it be nice to win one, for free, on national tv.
But it could be a goat. I don’t want a goat. What if I give up my color tv, and I get a goat?
So there I’d stand, color tv in hand, kind of. And so the waiting would continue until the crew turned the lights off, or Monty Hall passed out from low blood sugar, or the audience got tired of waiting for me to make my decision and they hauled me off stage.
Have I been like that with my friends? Overanalyzing them and sorting them in mental piles and not ever really digging in because of my commitment “issue”? Maybe. Probably. I’m not even sure that it matters that I figure all the reasons that I’ve fucked it all up. Because there are probably many. Perhaps it’s simply never been the right time. That could be it too, right? Maybe both me and my best friend have needed extra time to bake before we’re ready to skip off into a happily ever after of complimenting each other on our boldly colored shoes.
A couple of days ago the kids and I woke up to a flower bed full of mayhem. It seems our neighborhood deer have a taste for tulips. When I saw the pile of naked, plucked bulbs in the soil, cleared neatly of their greenery along with the promise of their blooms, I just about cried. The kids and I planted those bulbs in the fall, and we were so excited to see the color choices we agonized over dance in the spring rains.
But those cute little kid eyes were watching me, and I didn’t want to teach them to weep over plants that nourished a deer. So I said
“Let’s set the painted ladies free.”
They ran up the stairs, and we grabbed the butterfly garden. A month of tiny little caterpillars, then growing caterpillars and weird color-changing chrysalises had produced three perfect little butterflies. Oh the hours we spent watching and waiting and worrying.
It was a warm day, and we were about to let them go.
For the next half an hour we moved them from flower to bush and back again, squealing and cheering and getting misty-eyed as each took flight and went off to play their part in the circle of life. And we forgot about the bulbs for a bit. The kids got on their bikes, and I begin to survey that which could be done. I pick up a plant that had been pulled but not eaten. Rejected for some reason. Or spared by the barking of the dogs.
Whatever the circumstances for the eaten plants and the nearly eaten ones, it is what it is. It was what it was. I reach down and I place the lucky little tulip in a waiting hole. I cover it with soil, and I whisper