I’m not a great friend. I know this about me. I should come with a warning label to all the new people in my life. Befriend me at your own risk!
I often can’t go out to dinner, to the movies, or the concert that everyone else has tickets to. On those rare occasions I can go, it requires planning – there is no spontaneity on my part. And then, a lot of those times, I actually cancel the plans. Cancel the plans that just took weeks to put together! I wasn’t kidding. I’m a terrible friend.
The issue, as you know, is that my daughter has chronic medical needs and a physical disability. If my daughter is having a bad day, I am having a bad day. If she had a bad night, I had a bad night. Or, sometimes, she’s just showing signs that she might have a bad day or night coming up and I’m on edge. Waiting. She may end up in the hospital for one night or ten. I just never know. And that underlying stress of the unknown makes it difficult to leave her, to relax, to unwind.
And it is precisely why I so desperately need good friends in my life.
Despite my child with ridiculous needs fueling my undercurrent of constant stress, I’d like to think I’m a normal, everyday kind of gal. There isn’t much I like more than sitting down with a beer, a bowl of chips and salsa, and friends. I want to gossip about my neighbors, complain about how fat I think I am, and talk about the latest decorating trends. I want to tell you about the book I just read and debate the last bill that made it through Congress.
I desperately want to laugh. I can’t wait to tell you how I stupidly sent my boss an inappropriate email meant for my colleague. Or how my lovely daughter told everyone she came across that day that I make her do all the housework while I sit on the couch and watch TV.
And in between the moments of laughter and gossip, I want to be able to tell you about my life. My actual life. I want to tell you about everything else that is going on, without having to comfort you because it’s hard to hear about. I don’t want to have to act like I do with strangers or acquaintances. I want to be authentic. It’s good for my soul.
If you can get past all my nuances and limitations in my life, I will try to be a good friend to you. After all, I know the value of a good friend. I know firsthand how a friend can impact your day, your mood, your outlook. I know that having a good friend can be the difference between sobbing uncontrollably because you just can’t handle life anymore and wiping away tears because someone is there helping you get through your heartache.
I want to hear your stories that will make me laugh. I want you to tell me how you are doing. Genuinely. I would love to learn about what’s going on in your life. I want to hear about your kid’s accomplishments, even though I know mine will probably not reach the same goals. I’ll still be happy for you. Seriously, I would. I want you to feel okay telling me how horrible it was to get the call that your son fell and broke his wrist without you worrying that I may not think it’s a big deal. You could tell me because it was a big deal and I want to be there for you.
I would still feel bad for you when you have a bad day because of something you may deem trivial compared to my bad day. We can commiserate together – it makes the hard times a bit easier when you have a friend by your side. A good friend taught me that lesson.
My daughter goes through an incredible number of medical issues that are tough to hear about. Thank you, in advance, for listening when I tell you about my day, which includes a retelling of the latest appointment, and you gulp back your tears and just listen. Thank you, in advance, for knowing I’m not looking for pity, just someone to hear me. To tell me the situation is awful and that it will get better. Thank you, in advance, for believing in my daughter’s strength and telling me so. And, thank you for making me that gin and tonic because you know I need it that day (and that I should cut back on all those beer carbs). And thank you for letting me crack a joke about this horrible situation nobody should be laughing at, but it’s all I can do because I’m done crying. You, my future friend, are a true friend for putting up with such a terrible friend like me.
Amy Daniels is a mom of two, one who had physical and cognitive disabilities due to a brain tumor. Her memoir, Reaching for Normal, was recently published by Toplight Books. She also contributes to various parenting publications and lives in Holly Springs, North Carolina. You can follow her on Twitter, Instagram and, Facebook.