Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Friends: My Lifeline

Friendship is at the forefront of my mind because this past week my friends both near and far have come through for me at a time they know is among the most difficult for me. Approaching the anniversary of Warren's death is still stagnating, even though I've faced it three times already. My friends have let me know they are with me in spirit, in grief and in love through phone calls where they listen to me cry at the injustice that is losing the love of my life. They have sent me beautiful gifts that filled me with gratitude at the generosity of the human spirit. They sent messages to tell me they love me and are thinking of me at a time when grief feels like a silo. They sent me funny photos of us laughing that have turned my tears into smiles. They drove for miles to be with me so that the 15th doesn't feel like a death sentence for my soul. They hugged me and let me cry. They consoled me with stories of how my love was an inspiration to them, and reminded me how far I have come in this journey that is widowhood - a kindness I don't often allow myself.

One of the challenges I've dealt with in one of my novels-in-progress is how much of a loner my main character is. But she didn't start out that way. In the original version, she had a best friend that I enjoyed writing almost as much as I enjoyed my protagonist. In fact, I think I enjoyed writing her more. She wasn't as damaged as my main character so I could have fun with her. She infused humor into the story, had an entertaining back story. She was just as complex as my hero and antagonist. She was vibrant in her contrast to the darker, hard-edged character I spent so many hours getting to know.

The scenes with the two characters were some of my favorite ones. I enjoyed writing the back and forth banter that comes when there is 100% trust and zero judgement between two people. When those two people are teen girls, it becomes even more gratifying in this day of the "Queen Bee" and "Mean Girl". 

The relationship was based on so many of my own. I am beyond lucky, blessed- or however you want to phrase it, to have deep, wonderful friendships. I have friends from as early as fifth grade with whom I still keep in touch and share my life with. We live miles apart and only see each other on rare occasions but it doesn't affect the level of closeness or the laughter that comes when we get together. I don't take that for granted. I know people who do not have friends. I have friends who live in areas where they do not have friends nearby. In my life, I have always found friends locally, while still connected to those across the country, and in some cases, across the globe. I have many theories for why I have done that, but that is not where this post is headed. 

I can't articulate how much these friendships have been my rock at different points in my life. They have been such an influence that when my advisor and agent told me to cut the BFF from my manuscript in order to make the m.c.'s struggle more pronounced, I thought they killed my story (they didn't). How was my character supposed to survive the tough life I was creating for her if I didn't know how I could make it in life without my friends? Lesson #5,354 in fiction writing: No matter how personal it feels, it is not your life - write what needs to be written.

That's what I had to do. I looked at the feedback and read it several times, yet still felt at a loss for how to make that happen. The easiest way I could think of was to do a Word search and remove the friend's name. Naturally, I started there, but it changed the story. Was it still the story I wanted to tell? Was it still my character's true story if she didn't have her side kick to share it with? 
In my life, the answer would be a resounding NO. There is no way that I could do what my character had to do without the support of my friends. Call me spoiled, but I'm used to having my confidantes, my cheerleaders, my shoulders-to-cry-on, my eager listeners, my reality-checking friends who enrich my life on a daily basis. To remove them from my life would be like cutting off my oxygen supply. The thought of taking a friend from my character was incomprehensible. But, I removed myself from the story and thought about what the feedback was telling me. It was on-point...for my story. It was dead wrong...for my life.

I have hands-down the best friends in the world. Maybe we all say that, but in my case I can't imagine facing life without them. The best way I can think of honoring them is by including them in my story. Not my written stories (although watch out, because many of you are in my characters already), but in my life story.

When I think of people I want to support, push to be better, challenge and celebrate, my friends are always in abundance. Yes, family first but the truth is that with many of my friends, that line is blurred beyond recognition. I love them and hope for them like I do my own blood. I worry about them and miss them like I birthed them. I brag about them like their accomplishments are my own, and above all, I am fiercely devoted to them. 
There is no parallel to what they bring to my life. Even if I lived a million lifetimes, I would not be able to give them as much as they have given me. They are my rock, my source of laughter, my role models, my voices of reason when my own fails. They are there for me when I need them, through laughter and tears. They share their lives with me and allow me to be a part of theirs.

We connect via various communication methods and that has been a lifeline for me. When I most need them, they come through in ways that are above what is ever expected. I often wonder how I got so lucky to have so many loving, caring, thoughtful, inspiring people in my life. All I can say is that there are angels on earth, and I am so thankful that I can count them as friends.


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