Best Friends Forever
I’m beginning to think that being a writer means explaining myself over and over again. I find myself telling the same stories, finding new ways of saying old things. I have stories that I always tell, things that burn in my heart. I’m sure you have your stories, too, the ones that are always percolating in the back of your mind.
One of those stories, for me, is the story of the best friend.
I distinctly remember going to Costco with my family, lined notebook paper in tow. I was writing a story, and I couldn’t be bothered to stop.
I rode on one of those flat cards, and as we accumulated groceries around me, I crafted the story of Beatrix O’Brien (names are important). It was the story of Beatrix meeting her best friend and the account of their adventures (and one misadventure, involving playground equipment). Later, I created my own illustrations (a practice which has, fortunately, ceased).
I have a box of these stories. They are stapled together, hand-written and largely illustrated. They have one other striking similarity: they are all about the main character meeting her best friend.
I always trace this back to Anne and Diana and bosom friends, but the timing doesn’t quite add up. Long before I was reading about Marilla’s refusal for Anne to go to the Sunday School Class Picnic (and Anne’s subsequent belief that she would never meet a bosom friend) I was looking out my window at houses for rent and praying that a girl my age might move in.
Once, I struck up a conversation with a girl on a bike as I was in my side yard. She seemed friendly, and had come from somewhere down the street. I went to the side yard every day, hoping to catch a glimpse of her, but I never saw her again.
Although I kept praying for a kindred spirit, and met people here and there, I never truly found a “best friend.”
In Sunday School, I told people that all of my friends were my best friends (which now makes me think about Dash’s line in The Incredibles after his mother tells him that everyone is special. “Which is another way of saying no one is”). Later, I began to refer to this friend or that as my best friend, to try it on for size. It always got awkward when I met their actual “best friend.”
It always seemed that the position had been filled.
By the time I got to high school and college, I had realized that one of the best ways to avoid this awkward conversation, was to say that I “didn’t like labels.”
“I’m not really into the ‘best friend’ thing,” I would say, should anyone ask. “I don’t want to demean other relationships by elevating one above the others.”
But it was a lie. I wanted so desperately to be singled out, to be set apart from the others. I wanted to be someone’s best friend.
Post-college, I still cringe, a bit, when I hear someone talk about their best friend. It’s a gut reaction, and I know that it doesn’t take away from how they think about me, but it still takes my breath away for a moment.
Recently, I realized that I had stopped talking about friendship for a while and started talking about romantic relationships. I like romance as much as the next person (probably more) but what I was really doing was finding an acceptable way to talk about this void of not being singled out, of being elevated above the rest. A spouse can be like that, a sort of best friend that one is expected to live with (and indeed, not to want to live without), a companion for the most mundane moments of sleep and waking, reading and walking, television, and cleaning.
I would like to meet and marry someone lovely, but truly, I am seeking a companion with which to do life, someone to whom I can recount everything I ate during my day, my excitement over an email, and my concerns about road construction. I am looking for someone who will contact me first when you can turn on your phone after the airplane lands.
In recent years, I have felt guilty about this desire. I’ve wondered why I yearn so deeply for exclusivity. I have tried to convince myself that it doesn’t really matter all that much.
But it does.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve brought it to God, both asking that it would be taken away, and that it would be fulfilled. But neither of those things have happened.
It’s only been recently that I’ve been learning to look at my large connection capacity as a gift. I am capable of many deep conversations per week, I am encouraged by lots of time spent in good company (good food and drink don’t hurt, either). I give and give and give in relationships and still have lots left over, which, I suppose, is a good problem to have.
I spoke with a faraway friend a couple of months ago about this and I’m still haunted by her words. “I love my husband,” she said. “He’s wonderful. But I need so many more people than just him.”
Getting married will not solve this (though I can imagine that I would love being singled out in the way I’ve always hoped). Even meeting a best friend would not completely satisfy me, I think. I’ve built that relationship up so high in my mind that I think only Anne herself could truly fill that gap.
Even as I try to figure out relationships here on earth, I find myself thinking about Heaven. It is my understanding that there will be no exclusivity there. I will never again feel left out. If there was one thing that I would ask for, here on earth, that would be it. I have built my life around the outcasts, trying to welcome those who feel out of place, because I know the pain that comes when I feel like I don’t belong. But in Heaven, there will be no spouses, and we will all be one, just as God is one.
I can’t squash the pain that comes from feeling on the outside of something. I can’t control the sinking feeling when I wake up, some weekends, as empty hours stretch ahead of me. I want to be honest about where I am and how I feel. But at the same time, I believe that there is a reason that God is never exclusive, never shows partiality, never blocks those who want to be with Him. I am holding all of this in my hands, today, like a prayer.
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