Thursday, August 6, 2015

                          I Have No “BFF”

     In the fifties, we all had best friends. Mine was Susie. She and I did a lot together, including sleepovers, talking on the long-black-curly-cord-phone for hours and bemoaning the fact that the eighth-grade heart-throb, Dave Kelly, liked some girl at another school. Susie was smart; she befriended that girl. I didn’t, but I did get jealous that Susie had another friend whom I didn’t even know. It was hard dealing with all the boy stuff at age 13 and trying to figure out why our parents were so clueless. Mine were pushing me to practice my piano four hours a day and get all As. Susie and I had an unspoken understanding that we were “in this together.” Although we don’t see each other, as we live hundreds of miles apart, she is a regular on fb, so we read each others’ posts occasionally.

     When my family moved to another community, I lost touch with Susie, and my new best friend, another Sue, entered the picture. That was 55 years ago, and we are still friends. We live hundreds of miles apart, but we call each other once a month and we see each other with our husbands at least once or twice a year. Is she my BFF? No. To me, a BFF is someone who has earned your trust and to whom you can turn when you are down in the black hole. Although I value Sue’s friendship, I don’t have that feeling with her. So who is my BFF? And is there something wrong with those of us who don’t have one? If so, I am flawed.

     When I am in the abyss, there is not a single soul I turn to, not even Mr. Wonderful. The person who you allow to see you at your worst should be your best friend. If you have one, lucky you. I am not willing to expose that raw part of me that might make you see me as less, so I whip out my resilience list, and start going down the page to pull myself together. This list has been years in the making, but 90% of the time, it works. The top three tips are:  work out/get out in nature, distract the mind (read, play a sport, go shopping), and plan a trip. Physical exercise works best for me; it cleans out the hostile cobwebs that get in the way of mature, logical thought. Distracting the mind provides time and space to get perspective, and planning a trip (most of the time, it’s one I will never take) gives me a fantasy escape that I could enjoy even if I don’t act on it. Wouldn’t it be easier to just pick up my phone and text a BFF?  Maybe. But I’ve been burned by people I thought I could trust who either betrayed that trust or said things to make me feel worse, even ashamed and embarrassed. So I don’t go there. 

     So what about the 10% when the 15-step resilience plan doesn’t work? What about the times when I am so far down into the abyss that no cute little quick-fix will do the trick? I call my trusty therapist. Whoa! “You go to a shrink?” Yup, and I am proud to say that. She is that BFF with whom I never worry about sharing my story. I can scream, cry, hate, pound and laugh at myself. She is the person to whom I can say immature, illogical outrageous things, and it’s all ok. I see her two or three times a year for a tune-up or a melt-down, whichever I need. I don’t have to be embarrassed when I see her in public, for she is not in my arena, and we don’t run in the same circles. She knows me better than either of my parents ever took the time to. She knows me better than my husband or my children because with her, I can feel and say all the things I might be ashamed to say out loud, and many of those things get all muddied up in anger, and I don’t mean them anyway. With what friend could you do that? She is a phone call away, and when I walk out of her office smiling and calm, I know that I have left all the angst, hurt and frustration dampened on Kleenex in her waste basket. I’m cleansed, not by a friend, but by a professional who is trained to understand and deal with peoples’ issues. She never judges; she always says what I need to hear. She doesn’t blame the other person; she asks me to consider that my “filter” might be at work. She doesn’t remind me that I said the same things in her office two years ago; she reminds me of why my “filter” is surfacing again. 

     I am not advocating that everyone get a shrink nor am I complaining that, although I have many wonderful friends whom I love and admire, I only feel safe with a professional. Maybe if more people would consider this option, however, there would be less violence, divorce and dysfunction in the world. Who knows?