I have two best friends. They are the longest friendships I have ever had, unless you count my sister (but we weren’t always friends). For the sake of their privacy, I’ll refer to them as their nicknames that we gave to each other freshman year of high school. The Good Time and The Opportunity. Mine is The Tantrum, if you were wondering. And, no, you can’t know how I got it.
The Good Time. She’s spunky and wild. She’s got this way about her that makes everyone love to be around her, hence the name The Good Time. There’s never a dull moment in her presence. We like to drink and dance and eat cake and tacos. Her style is as unique as her hair that she changes practically every couple of weeks. She has a heart of gold, and would do anything for the people she loves. Looking at her, you can’t see past her huge smile or the laugh lines. You’d never know that inside, she’s hurting.
The Opportunity. Beautiful and timid. Master of “RBF” and serious eye rolls. Girl’s got sass for days. When I was pregnant with Jack, she would come to my house and eat all of my food. Our idea of hanging out was watching stupid movies, eating everything in sight, and barely saying a word to each other. Our relationship consists of eyebrow raises and pursed lips. Facial expressions are all we need to have a conversation. Which is why I can see that her heart is aching.
We’re kindred spirits the three of us. People look at us and see happy, bubbly personalities. What they don’t see are the quiet tears in the bathroom or long nights of staring at the bedroom ceiling. Or drinking ourselves stupid and throwing up for an hour in the Waffle House parking lot – yes, that was me.
Regardless of their faults, I know these women. I knew them before we realized what a “period” really was. Even when they’re being stupid and I have to yell at them (or vice versa) I love them. I see beauty and gentle souls. Souls that have been crushed, torn, mistreated, and completely broken. These girls don’t know how wonderful they are. How can they not see it? The feeling they give everyone just by being alive, by breathing. I couldn’t live without either of them. Side note: I went two years without speaking to The Opportunity after a little tiff we had and it nearly killed both of us.
They don’t see how beautiful they are. But I do. They don’t know what they’re worth. But I do.
“You are altogether beautiful, my love; there is no flaw in you.” Song of Solomon 4:7
The way my friends and I love each other, it’s special. They make me feel like I’ve got myself together. Like I’m not really as much of a failure as I feel to be sometimes. My girls are like the perfect boyfriend. There when I need them any time of the day, always telling me I look pretty, and can’t go a half hour without wanting to go get food. Who doesn’t want that?
Even at thirteen, before my first heartbreak, I craved that love. The love my best friends first introduced me to.
By love, I don’t mean Mr. and Mrs. hand towels and long walks on the beach. By love, I mean feeling worthy of this life. Having someone notice who I am, what I’m about. All the little things. How I like my steak prepared or touch my face when something is on my mind. I want someone to see all of my flaws, know them, work with me on them, and love me anyway. My heart craves acceptance and comfort in a world of judgement and impatience.
My very first boyfriend was at the age of thirteen. Brandon. (Also the name of my second boyfriend…awkward.) I met him on the small island my father lived on, nine hours from home. The summer of 2008. We spent nearly every day together for three weeks and continued to talk on the phone every day for another two weeks once I got home. When my fourteenth birthday rolled around, I got dumped. He was an immature fifteen year old, it was to be expected. We were a couple for a whopping month, yet my little eyes couldn’t stop filling with that wet stuff we humans call “tears”. He was my first boyfriend and first ex-boyfriend. I was devastated. What did I do wrong?
Less than a year later my father kills himself. A mixture of emotions came and went, like waves. One wave stronger than the others: What did I do wrong? And eight years later, here I am, fighting the same fight. Riding the same wave.
Throughout high school I had boyfriend after boyfriend. I would pull a guy in and let him loose just as soon as I had him. Once I got the attention I wanted I let him go. I became the girl I always said I wasn’t going to be. It was a good feeling, being wanted. Like I had something to offer that no one else had. But I soon learned I was just like the rest. There wasn’t anything special about me that those guys wanted. Just the one thing. I was placing my self-worth in the hands of teenage boys who didn’t care about anything but the latest Call of Duty and FIFA. My daddy issues were the least of their concern. And, at the time, it wasn’t my concern either. I just wanted to fill the void.
My father’s death hardened my heart. My pregnancy matured my heart. My marriage opened my heart. My divorce freed my heart. Yet, it wasn’t until I was kneeling on the altar, crying out to God, that I felt my heart break for the first time.
The acceptance I’ve been wishing for, hoping for, yearning for, has been here all along. It’s not found in a romantic novel. This love is not a “meet cute” movie scene. It’s not pancakes and bacon on a Sunday morning. My worth is not in the satisfaction of a man.
That day, on the altar, I found God. I befriended him. I talked to him. All of these thoughts I’ve had about myself, my past, disappeared. The girl I used to be was nowhere to be found. I cried until there were no tears left, in the realization that this was the moment I had been waiting for. That day, on the altar, I found myself.
“I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” Psalm 139:14
I’ve been giving myself away in hopes of receiving love and admiration in return. I’ve been tumbling in waves of guilt, shame, hypocrisy. Since my rebirth, I don’t feel the need to give myself away. Nor do I want to. I put my trust in God. I spend time loving him, studying him, talking to him. And I feel more loved and alive than I’ve felt in nearly a decade. His friendship has given me a level of peace that I didn’t even think existed.
I miss my dad. That wave still rolls in more often than not. My own near death experience flashes in my head when I see a prescription pill bottle in the medicine cabinet. And I fuss at myself every time I have to reiterate to someone that I’m no longer married, and yes, it was my choice. The baby out of wedlock, drunken nights at the bar, indecisive heart. I get it. I’ve made a lot of mistakes. I’ve said and done stupid things. I hurt a lot of people. Myself taking the worst hits of all. But my mistakes do not define me or my worth. I can still be loved.
I am worthy. I am worthy. I am worthy. You are worthy.
Don’t you see? We’re all riding the same wave.