Tag Archives: friendship

Intentional Friend

By Darbie Andrews

Making friends came easy until I reached my forties. In my younger years, it happened so effortlessly through work, school, and activities. I always had friends nearby who I’d see sad1on a regular basis. All that changed when I moved away from everyone, divorced, became a single mom, and started a new job. My closest friends lived five hundred miles away during one of the most painful times of my life. Talk about lonely. I desperately needed and wanted to find new friends, but struggled with how to go about it since I never had to make such a conscious effort in my earlier years.

I ventured out to the gym.

The first time I saw her I had no idea we’d become friends. I noticed her for many reasons. Unlike me in the back of the room in all black, she wore all matching, bright colored Zumba clothes and she stood in the front row of class. Her ability to follow all of the Zumba instructor’s choreography with ease impressed me. Many of the people in the class knew her and they hugged before class. This woman had style, friends, courage, and great dance moves. With my self-esteem in the toilet from the battles of divorce, I didn’t see us as potential friends.

A few months after I first began going to Zumba, we ran into each other in the locker room. She complimented me on my dancing. Shocked that she noticed me at all, I felt my face turn five shades of red. That’s the beauty of exercise rooms covered in mirrors, no one can really hide. We had a short conversation about upcoming classes and we introduced ourselves. From that point on, we greeted each other before every class – the beginnings of a friendship with Stephanie.

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Then one day she took the stage as a Zumba instructor. Wfullsizerender3ow, I thought to myself, how did she do that? Her courage to move from being a participant to a leader intrigued me. I started moving closer to the front of the class and talking to her more about being an instructor. We seemed so different in many ways, but seeing her make this leap of faith helped my confidence grow enough that I became inspired to become an instructor as well.

We chatted about choreography, songs, class size, mistakes we made while leading dances, and anything Zumba. She became a Zumba friend.  I greatly appreciated what we shared, but we weren’t friends outside of Zumba until one day she did somethin10371341_10205379343183963_2529482028241788670_og that no one else has ever has done. She took out her planner and asked me, “When can we do lunch?”  I stood there staring at her with my mouth open for a while before I grabbed my planner and we found a date to meet.

The first time we had lunch together, I realized how amazing it feels to be in a friendship with someone who intentionally seeks to connect with you.  It felt profoundly different than my friendships of the past because it didn’t step1just happen. She made sure it happened. Her passion for connection made me feel special. I felt honored by her attention to our potential as friends.

We’ve filled our planner with many other lunch dates over the years and become close friends. She has supported me through painful dating fiascos and day to day challenges, but the most beautiful thing she’s done is shown me the power of true friendship and the beautiful heart of a devoted Christian. Stephanie loves deeply and much of that love comes from her devotion to Christ.

Called to teach Zumba for God, Stephanie brings her love for others to every class she leads and the people feel it. The genuineness of her caring for others brings people into her life that want love and acceptance. I’m sure that’s why our paths crossed. I stayed in a bad relationship and she prayed for God to show me what I needed to get out and it happened. She stood by me and helped me stay strong through the break up. Stephanie knows my struggles with the Christian church and she has never preached to me. Her love for God shines through her actions.  She lives in love. step

I could go on and on about the many wonderful things Stephanie has done for me and many other friends, but this one occasion speaks volumes. On one of our recent lunch dates, I told her how all of the people I meet and know are devout Christians. She listened. I told her again how I don’t like church. She listened. I told her how I went to this church coffee shop and felt somewhat comfortable talking to the youth pastor about a mentoring program. She listened. I told her that I might go to a service there someday. She took out her planner and said, “I will go with you. When you want to go?” Again, my mouth dropped open. There she sat, ready to go to a church, other than her own, to help me make that step, that very uncomfortable step. She didn’t want me to go alone. My eyes filled with tears.

I would not have gone to church if Stephanie hadn’t offered to go with me. She did what no other person had ever done…again. People have invited me to their churches a

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Church!

 

nd I’ve gone, but Stephanie brought it to another level. She and her husband sat there with me. She’s that friend. She’s the one who will go above and beyond. As I sat there in this church, totally uncomfortable, I looked over at her and my discomfort lifted a little. When the pastor went on about the struggles of dating and how people often short change themselves, tears poured down my face. I looked at Stephanie. I knew she knew that message was meant for me. After the sermon, she said, “God definitely called you here today.”

I’m not sure about what God calls me to do or not, but I am sure that my prayer to find new friends has been answered. To have friends nearby improves my life on so many levels, but what I appreciate more than anything is the lesson of being intentional. Being treated like I’m important and my friendship is important sends a beam of love into my heart and I want to do the same for others. The message of “I want to know you” is powerful. It’s what we all need and deserve to hear because it communicates that we are valuable.

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In these times of full schedules, it’s easy to go months or years without making time for those we love or for potential new friends. We are often caught up in stuff and forget to express how much we value the people in our lives, but it’s a simple fix. Be intentional. Pull out your calendar and pick a date. Make it that important. We all deserve to feel that important. Thank you Stephanie for wanting to know me. I’m so happy to know you. We need to get our next date on the planner.

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The first Zumbathon we participated in together!
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Corners

boxing

Many years ago when I did whatever I could to see another Phil Collins concert, I had the surprising experience of hearing him talk about one of his divorces. I just wanted to hear him sing, but being with him and the thousands of other people for his short storytelling about a super painful time in his life made me like him more. I didn’t think that was possible.  philcollinsHe decided to tell us a little story about how people in his life chose to stand in separate corners, like in a boxing ring, during the divorce fallout. He mentioned how people who he thought would always be in his life chose not to be anymore. I remember thinking how mean that was. Poor Phil Collins. He went on to sing “That’s all” which talks about loving someone more than he wanted to.

Back then, in my twenties, I really didn’t have a clue as to what he was talking about. Then came my forties. friendsI had this friend of twenty-four years. We were college roommates. We religiously watched America’s Funniest Home Videos together every Sunday night. It was our time. We laughed until we peed sometimes. When she went away to the East Coast to study, I sent her care packages and visited her. I was in her wedding; she was in mine. She called me “Darbielou” and kicked my butt at tennis. She encouraged me to move to Redding. So I did. Friends for life…I thought.

divorceThen came my divorce and that same thing that Phil talked about happened to me. I couldn’t believe it. My college friend took my ex’s side. If we could have literally stood iblue-boxing-gloves-1434861_960_720n a boxing ring, my friend and her husband would have been in my ex’s corner coaching him on. Left jab. Right upper cut. They would have been screaming and yelling from the corner. Heck, they might have even jumped in the ring and thrown a few punches themselves. At least that’s how it felt. Talk about being sucker punched. Even though Phil warned me; I never expected it. I wasn’t prepared. How do you prepare for that?

broken-heartThe hurt and betrayal stayed with me for many years. I’ve felt super angry, but mostly hurt. I wanted my friend back and I wanted to know why. I wanted to talk to her, hang out, play tennis, laugh, but that didn’t happen. It was so hard to understand and accept. Eventually I had to accept that she wasn’t my friend. She stood in his corner regardless of our history, but I also stood in mine.

Six years later, I had pushed most of my thoughts of her away so I didn’t hurt anymore. Then one day, I just couldn’t stop thinking about her. It was overwhelming. Initially, I thought maybe the time had come for our reconciliation. Although I had many moments when I just wanted to cuss her out, I mostly wanted our friendship to mend. That hope lived in me. It felt so bad to have someone I loved not love me anymore.sad

Today I don’t know if our friendship will ever be again. I waited too long.  I let her position in my ex’s corner take over. In my mind, that was reason enough to avoid even trying, but it wasn’t. I should have tried harder. When she went to his side, I told her I was mad at her. I’m pretty sure she thought I remained angry, which I did for a long time. I only reached out once. Knowing what I know now, I wish I would have made a bigger effort to communicate with her. Things would be different.

My friend was in a terrible car accident and ended up in a coma. I heard she woke up, but that she’s not really okay. There are many secrets surrounding her condition due to the health care privacy act and strange circumstances. I know she’s hurting and I just want to send her my support and love, but I can’t for many reasons that are out of my control. I’ve done as much as the circumstances will allow and it just doesn’t feel like enough.

In real boxing matches, boxers often hug after the fight or at least shake hands. They battle, then it’s over. Taking corners only temporarily. In life, when people take corners they seem to stay there for a long time, depending on the circumstances. The problem is that you just never know when someone won’t be able to hear you anymore. You never know when your last chance to try to fix the situation may be gone.

I wish I had the chance to tell her I forgive her for taking sides, standing in his corner, because I do. I’d like to ask her for forgiveness for my anger and my errors in judgement. The chance to talk it out would be healing. prayI wish for anyone who’s taken a corner in someone else’s divorce to reunite with the person and let the past go. If we stay in our corners, we cannot heal. Corners are meant for enemies, not friends. Harboring negative feelings doesn’t do anyone any good. She and I should have left our corners, fought it out, and hugged. I miss her more than ever and now it’s too late.  I can only pray that she will get her memory back so we can talk again. May I never lose another friend and if I do may we find a way back to what we once had.

Self – Promises

ImageI promised myself I would write tonight. So here I am. It’s late and I’m tired, but I promised. The list of promises I’ve made to myself is long and detailed. Part of the list is also unwritten…more promises to come. I have made a commitment to myself to experience as much as I can during this time I have on earth.

Being alive, having a life to live, is like having a day pass for Disneyland; I want to see and do as much as I can before the park closes. Sure, I will have to wait in line sometimes and just take in the scenery until the next adventure begins, but I at least I have a day pass, lots of people can’t get one anymore.

 

I clearly remember the day she entered our college dorm. Her long black hair ran all the way to the bottom of her back. She smiled at me with her mouth full of braces and stuck out her hand, “Hi. I’m Andrea.” A big click went off throughout the universe because the two best friends in the world had just met.Image

From that day on, we stuck together. From studying all night and crying over boys to family and girlfriend drama, we were buds. She invited me to meet her family and they welcomed me with open arms. We roomed together for four years and we even had silly nicknames. Andrea would imitate a television commercial of the time by saying to me, “You know what I mean, Vern?” Eventually we knew no other name than, “Vern.”

Unlike me, Andrea knew what she wanted in life and she had a plan. She was going to be a lawyer so she studied political science. A big picture of her future car, a bright red convertible Porsche hung above her desk. She wanted to get married, be a mother of four kids and she always wanted to live near her family. Not one ounce of doubt entered her mind about what she would accomplish.  Nothing would stop her.  IImage felt so lucky to have a friend like her. I knew we’d be pals forever. She gave me a birthday card once with two old women riding a roller coaster together and labeled it “The Verns”. Andrea wrote inside about our future adventures. She inspired me.  

Before we knew it, we began our fourth year of college. That year Vern would graduate. I still had another year to go, but we had a trip to Maui planned to celebrate her accomplishment. It was going to be a great year. Then, something strange happened.  She developed a rash, a butterfly rash, on her cheeks. A few weeks later she could barely lift herself from a sitting position. A few months later, everything changed.

Andrea’s long black hair started falling out in handfuls because she had to take steroids.  Her beautiful brown skin became pale because she could no longer be in the sun. She vomited everything she ate. She was told she could no longer go to law school and she should never drive a convertible or have children. The doctors told her she had Systemic Lupus.

Andrea did eventually graduate from law school, but she had to do it slowly. The year we turned thirty, I called her to wish her a happy birthday. I’ll never forget the conversation.

“Hey Vern, Happy Birthday. Can you believe it? We’re getting old,” I said.

“Well, I’m just glad I made it to thirty,” Andrea said.

Andrea died the next year at age 31 from complications due to Lupus.

            My number one self-promise is to never forget Vern and her passion for life. I know that she would literally kick my butt if she knew I wasted the time I had left on earth. If she were still here, she’d be living it like she was at Disneyland. She would ride as many rides as she could and she’d experience as much of life as possible. She’d be driving that bright red Porsche around with the top down (at least for a little while). I owe it to her and to myself to do something with the days I still have. I’m so lucky to be alive and so are you if you are reading this. What will you accomplish before the park closes? What are your self-promises? We should all have many. Ya know what I mean, Vern?

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