This post is the first in a series, The Other Side of Being Sick, chronicling my path to learning how to be well once again.
We relocated our entire life just months after my tumor was declared dead. An emotional whirlwind of boxes, paperwork, and teary goodbyes to family and friends. And the friends who are more family than family.
Life before then, during the years of surgery, recovery, medications and desperate attempts, had slowed to a viscous crawl. When you’re sick for so long, friendships get tested. Some strengthen, some begin to fray. They change. You change. Time moves forward and nothing is ever the same.
The practice of being a friend, for me, the sick one, had fallen away. For so long I was the one depending on patience, kindness, and being given the extra mile. My social muscles had atrophied and I was left wondering how to fit into the life I’d once had.
But the thought of moving, of leaving familiar faces behind, of starting over when I’d forgotten how to begin, was even more daunting. It’s one thing to learn how to fit back in your old life. It’s entirely another to start over again, to be brand new.
Whether you want to or not, life finds a way to carry you on, sweeping you away in its waves. At some point you tire of fighting the current. You let go and let life deposit you on a new shore. Then, you’ve no choice but to begin again.
I avoided my new life as much as I could. Always finding boxes needing to be unpacked. Seeing this doctor and that. Keeping the same route to the grocery store until finally I wasn’t getting lost. Then, after I tired of fighting it, I finally let my life carry me out to sea to begin again once more.
It started with a hike, a simple one, one measly mile. A group of homeschool kids and their moms, trekking in a summer wood. As kids explored with muddied feet and starry eyes, I started to learn again the hows and whys of being a friend. In that patch of forest my commitment to reconnect was born.
Getting through the awkward hellos and how are yous, moving beyond the ages and names of your kids and mine, these muscles had memory indeed. I can be a friend. I can make a friend. And I must. It’s time.
Hikes with kids turned into occasional coffees with adults. A group of us sitting around, laughing, learning. Casually getting to know each other and discovering there’s a lot to like.
Then, one hazy Wednesday morning, before the coffee even met my lips, a clarion call was sent. “I need friend time.” Good, let’s make a date because I really need to learn how to be a friend.
I never imagined myself needing to be the one needing so much. I’m a mother. I’m in the business of giving, sometimes more than I’ve got while feeling it’s never enough. And I never imagined it would go on so long, this illness, the fight. But it did. It wore grooves in my soul and twisted my head from this way to that. But now I’m well and it’s time to get my head back from that way to this.
The good news is I had great teachers from the time when I was sick. Friends who showed me love in the form of understanding, acceptance, and patience. It’s scary to be something new again, but the memories of that time are my guide. And if you were that friend, you still are that friend. Thank you for teaching me how to be kind.
So, hikes with kids turned into casual coffees with adults turned into friend time in a corner booth an arm’s length from the bar. Over bento boxes and edamame we laughed and listened, learning each other some more. And that was the night three women taught the fourth how to be a friend again.
It was a giant leap in a direction I never knew I would be able to go. For so long, being the one that needed, forgetting how to let someone lean on me, worried I’d never remember how. Here I am, feeling like I’m one and the same. I’m well now. It’s starting to sink in.
The greatest lessons I’ve learned while being a friend, and leaning on mine, are the simplest ones. To be heard is to be loved, to be patient is to be kind, offer advice only when asked, forgiveness is healing, apologies never include the word but, and always find a way to make someone laugh.
I don’t make resolutions, but if I did this would be the one, to resolve to reconnect. I’m making a promise to myself to give myself to my friends. Resolutions don’t need a new year in order to happen. And they don’t have to be made after dealing with a serious illness. Everyone, every day can decide over and again to reconnect to relationships and recommit to being a friend.