Just over ten years ago I was driving with a friend of ours. My husband and I have known him for many years and he was the kind of friend that you couldn’t remember what your life was like without him. He had picked us up at the airport and I was toting a two week old baby. I remember being in such a fog that day and overwhelmed with life. Our friend got a little sentimental which was perfect because I was over the top emotional. As we were driving he told me that friends were the family that we choose and then he told me that he chose us. To this day, this conversation tugs at my heart and serves as the most awesome litmus test for me.
He was right. My family is my family. I love them and they love me, for better or for worse. Our friends are different though. They don’t have to love us, hang out with us or even like us. They can giddy-up away anytime they want. They are not bound to us by blood or anything else. As Thanksgiving is coming up awfully fast, I have been reflecting on what and who I am eternally grateful for and I realized that I couldn’t imagine my world or any day in it without my “chosen family”.
I have been blessed with many moves over the years. While some of those moves have been difficult, others were seamless. No matter how simple or difficult, each move meant that I had the privilege of meeting and gaining friends from all around this great country and world. Now, some of those friends were transitional friends while others were lifelong friends, but they were friends nonetheless. I chose them and I was blessed that they chose me.
During this time of reflection, I am forever grateful and tied to my childhood friends, many of whom I have constant contact with through Facebook, texts and phone calls and still others with whom I have lost contact over the years. These friends know more about me than I may even know about myself to be quite honest. They know the good, the bad, everything that I wish could be forgotten and everything I hope to remember. When I talk with them, no explanations are needed; they know the history. We experienced the exuberance of life and the depths of grief together. These friendships are pure, childlike pureness, authentic and real and lifelong. They are unapologetic and raw. The mere thought of these special friends makes me feel like I’m home again. I think of them often. So much more than they can possibly know or imagine. I love them today, with my whole heart, even more than I did yesterday because today I can reflect on what they meant to me then and now with an adult perspective rather than the narcissistic childlike one. Without them, I can’t imagine where I would be or what I would have become.
In my adult life, I have work friends who became family to me as well. After spending so much time crammed in an office together, who knew how attached we would become? We spent more time together than with our families at so many times that the close bond we developed was sure to bind us together. I think of them with feelings of such gratitude and joy. Even during the most hellacious of work weeks, we found humor and joy together. We were a very unique support system both personally and professionally. You know, that is true love! While I miss these friends day to day, like my childhood “family”, they are always close.
After the birth of my son, and another cross country move, I found what I call my true physical home and another family. We went through the ringers together…newborn babies and toddlers, need I say more? There was a bond with these friends that truly cannot be broken. We saw each other at our worst but remember the best. We helped one another without ever a second thought. We still do. We never asked what we could do, we just did! Their kids are mine and mine is theirs. I love each one of those children as if they were my own. Today, our conversations may be less frequent and via the telephone, but they are no less inspiring or important. I still see this as a lifeline. I know with one phone call a life preserver is on the way!
Then I have another core group in another state. This group saw me at my most bottom of the barrel, worst moments which later became my best. This group of friends passes no judgment, ever. They are strong and vibrant and pulled me out of my shell. What this group of friends do is love. They just love. They harbor some of the deepest and darkest times as well as the brightest, shiniest moments ever.
Finally, I have the group that resides where I now call home, my physical home. This group is broken into several groups. They are older and younger; wiser for each experience. Some are nearby and others quite a drive. We have experiences together. All kinds of experiences. Some of the experiences have been amazingly awesome, others we would like to forget and others yet that we are so fortunate to know were not captured on film! We have grown and changed over the years and the relationships have evolved and continue to evolve. But nonetheless, we are family. We have seen births and deaths together. We have seen joys and sorrows. Some of these friends have been around for more than a decade or two while others are newer. It’s funny because some of the newer ones fit like an old pair of shoes. They provide comfort and support and joy and knowledge and information. Within minutes of meeting we knew we were lifelong sisters because the closet door was already opened. There were no facades to break through and no layers to peel because it was all laid out there at the onset. We speak almost a secret language together that would frighten some and tantalize others. We hear each other’s thoughts, see each other’s dreams and feel one another’s hopes and fears. It’s magical, quite literally.
I feel like the luckiest person alive tonight. I think I really might be the luckiest person! As I sit here and reflect on my gratitude and love for my other “family”, old and new, that is spread around the world tonight, I hope and pray that I have provided at least an ounce of the love, joy, happiness, support and knowledge to each one of these sisters and brothers that they have for me. My days are brighter and my nights full of stars because of these very special family members that I chose and who by every grace in this world, chose me too!
With so much love and gratitude,