I was anxious. The first day of kindergarten loomed. My parents had decided to send me to a Spanish immersion school in Rochester, New York. Weirder still, they planned to send me to school in a taxi! I did not want to go to kindergarten. I did not want to learn Spanish. I did not need any new friends; I had plenty between my brother and sister. I sure as shooting did not want to go in any taxi.
My brother was my savior. The night before school, he told me the secret.
“It’s easy,” he said. “You just say, ‘I’m Jenny. Will you be my friend?'”
In later years, this became a kind of shorthand joke in our family for situations fraught with anxiety. “Will you be my friend,” became our way of admitting our nerves and asking for a quick talk back from the ledge.
I don’t play in the sandbox anymore, and I don’t call myself Jenny anymore, but I still climb into social situations that can evoke either panic or thrill, both of which feel remarkably similar.
Last week, I drove to The Lazy W ranch to meet with the Dinner Club with a Reading Problem, or as I like to call them, The Best Little Book Club in Oklahoma. I arrived feeling a little anxious, but as soon as Marie and Margi met me in the drive squealing, I knew I was right at home.
The women astounded me. They cooked comfort foods, including my favorite: coconut cake. (I wish I had taken some home.) They were prepared with questions, ideas and thoughts. What most caught my attention, though, was their heart.
A good portion of my book details my chronic marquee matchup with depression. The women in this club talk books. They typically do not divulge their deepest selves. But several women opened up that night about their battles with depression. Turns out, the stigma still haunts us, and these women push back with their fists and their hearts. Still others asked how to treat friends who might be depressed.
There were tears. Good tears. The hot tears of release, security, safety.
And this is the work of friendship. This is what is on the other end of “Will you be my friend.” Inside the sandbox or inside the book club circle, or the retreat, or the church or the club, there is the promise. I will be your friend and I will hold your pain and I will walk with you through this.
Thank you, BLBCinOK for hosting me and showing me love. And coconut cake.
Where have you been surprised by friendship?