When my best friend called me from Europe in the middle of a work day, I knew she had gotten engaged. I missed the first call, but I picked up the second one immediately. We switched to video chat; she and her fiancé popped up on my desktop computer. She held up her ring. “I knew it!” I shrieked. We chatted for a few minutes. I texted my then-husband the good news. She asked if I would be her maid of honor. They asked if he would play music for the ceremony. For the next few months, I gathered information about flowers and donuts, booked a hotel suite for us to get ready in, and chatted about ceremony music choices. And then, my life shifted.
Their wedding stayed the same, but in the face of some pretty major life decisions, my marriage took a sudden, unexpected, and fairly spectacular nosedive. Without going into a lot of unnecessary detail, there were weeks upon weeks of not knowing which end was up. These weeks ended in discoveries of dishonesty and unfaithfulness. To say I was devastated is an understatement. I lost weight at a rapid pace, stopped sleeping, and was bowled over by tears at the most inopportune moments. The idea of calling a florist or attending a tasting or looking at wedding dresses made me queasy. For a time, I thought I could do an adequate job of covering this up. I tried to smile. After all, I was genuinely happy for my best friend and her lovely fiancé. I was excited for their wedding and the life they had planned together. But I was also heartbroken and disillusioned and in a state of utter disbelief that my own life was falling apart in ways that seemed surreal.
In the midst of this dissolution, my best friend wrote me an email. She was emotional and stressed from wedding planning. She said she didn’t understand why I was not being supportive. She questioned the depths of our thirty-year friendship. To paraphrase: What kind of friendship do we have if we cannot get through a wedding and a divorce at the same time? I was at work when I received that news, too. For a moment, I stared at the computer screen in disbelief. Then a thought popped into my head: Fuck!
I had been trying so hard to avoid talking to her about my own sadness. I thought I sounded excited about flowers and after-parties and manicures. But the truth was, I hadn’t sounded excited because I wasn’t excited. And in some ways that really mattered to her, I couldn’t be excited. I felt awful about that. The truth was, I was overjoyed for my dear friend, but I was barely staying afloat. I was sure her wedding would be beautiful, but it took every ounce of energy I had to get through a work day without curling up in the fetal position under my desk in front of twenty-one unassuming eight-year-olds. I knew life would go on and time would pass and happiness would return, but I was existing on four cups of coffee, countless Advil, and little else during those weeks. My hands did not stop shaking, my head did not stop pounding, and my lung capacity felt diminished.
I apologized to her profusely in the weeks after that email. I thought long and hard about balance and tried to be more aware of my cynical comments or moments of disinterest. To her credit, she apologized, too. She said she regretted sending that email within minutes. She said it was harsh and unnecessary and could have been worded in a gentler way. I didn’t disagree. But it also served as a wake-up call for me, and after the initial period it took to process, I was grateful for her bluntness. Even if it seemed like my world had come to a jarring halt, the real world was still spinning, and as hard as it was to believe, I needed someone to remind me of that fact.
As time has passed and my best friend’s wedding gets closer and my divorce is almost finalized, it’s become clear that we are both trying our best. We are trying our best to be kind and gentle and caring to and understanding of one another. And there are ways in which each of our respective bests at this moment is not good enough for the other. As hard as I try, I cannot be idealistic and rosy. She cannot spend evenings listening to my sorrow or refrain from chipper comments about love conquering all.
But what is real is this: We are both trying our very best for one another. We are digging deep. We are rooting for one another. We are loving one another. We are supporting one another. Most importantly, we are forgiving one another. Even in the moments when we are making each other angry and sad and annoyed, too. In the end, isn’t that what best friends are for?