I have only known my friend M. for about 2 years, however, it feels like we have been friends forever. You know that person who just crawls in and makes herself at home in your heart? That’s my friend M. She met me for lunch at New Seasons looking radiant as usual. She sat in a splinter of sunlight beaming through the window and I thought it was the perfect metaphor for her. M. is downright sunny in disposition, and with her blond hair and ever present smile, she truly shines.
One of my favorite things about M. is how she is likes what she likes and that’s all there is to it. She is not into defending her choices. It’s not that she doesn’t care about your opinion. For example, at lunch her beverage of choice was an RC cola. Who drinks RC cola anymore? Who even knew they still sell RC cola?
My first impression of M. was at a happy hour, given in her honor, to welcome her to the neighborhood. She sat at the table and fielded all questions with a grin. These questions were probably somewhat intrusive; how long she had been divorced, how often she had her kids, was she dating anyone etc. However, she answered them all succintly and amiably. At a subsequent dinner at my house, she came back sarcastically at my husband, after he teased her about something. This quickly earned his repect, an accomplishment to say the least. When she moved into my neighborhood, she was going through a painful breakup. The way she talked about it, although brief, was moving and honestly sad. I knew enough to give her some space away from the hurt.
M.’s easygoing and approachable manner makes her more likely to create friendships of all kinds, even the ones that maybe she shouldn’t. She assumes the best about everyone and that all intentions are as pure as hers. She loves our neighborhood because we are low drama. We tend not to be too chatty, overbearing or snoopy in other people’s business. This suits the M. just fine, as she is very low drama and low maintenance herself. She says she is not as good at the red flags that others put up, but as she admits, “maybe it’s just that I don’t want to see the signs.” She speaks of a particular group of pre-divorce friends that she states she is much better off without. However, at the time she put herself fully into salvaging the relationships that she now sees as not being useful to her. She aptly describes her relationships with this group of friendships and with her ex-love as a “dance,” being unable to get out of a cycle that has ceased to be rewarding. We have all had this experience, perhaps of growing out of a friendship or realizing that you no longer love someone you thought you once did. The remarkable thing about M. is that she holds no grudges and has no resentful or bitter things to say about it. In her naturally pragmatic way, she just says “Live and learn.”
When M. was young, she was “painfully, painfully” shy. After her divorce, she began trying new things and actually making an effort to meet new people. M. has a list of friends a mile long and she is always out and about. She has discovered this about herself: she is more comfortable one on one with others as opposed to in front of a group. She likes to listen to others, a skill she acquired during her younger shy years. As she listens to you, she makes a mental checklist of your qualities and matches you with other people she knows and makes sure you get to meet each other. Getting people together and forming alliances is a particular skill to M. While I was listening back on our conversation, it really was me doing most of the talking. M. was, as usual, doing the listening. She doesn’t want to be the leader, she wants to be part of the pack and this is where she feels most valuable and competent. Maybe she isn’t the one wearing the chef hat and stirring in the spices, but she is most definitely the one who wrote the recipe.
On New Years Eve this year, I played a game with a small group and it asked the question: “Who would you want to be more like this year?” I picked M. My reason is that M. simply does not sweat the small stuff. She is very unfussy and practical and she is by no means a worrier, which I am. M. says “Did worry ever help you?” She thinks wringing your hands about your troubles is a waste of time, pure and simple. She has very little patience for self pity. She is a pick yourself by your bootstraps kind of girl. M. puts whatever is weighing on her into action. When M.’s sister (really her cousin, but they lived together like sisters) died of breast cancer, M.’s grief was transformed into a mission to bring relief to others who were suffering. Out of her shock and pain came an organization dedicated to helping women and children locally. The other theme of her life is that everything happens for a reason, although we may not know it at the time. Maybe the outcome is something that benefits you alone and maybe it’s for the broader good. M. believes in action vs. reaction and that the best approach to take is one where you nurture relationships, act bravely, shut up and listen. Did I mention she can kick some ass?
I should mention in closing that M. is my self improvement partner. We are very into self actualization and being the best you can be. But we also are practical and know that we all slip from time to time. We know that sometimes you drink too much the night before yoga class. And that cursing can be an art form. And that sweeping is overrated. But I have learned much from my friend M. I have learned that you don’t have to apologize for liking Bud Light . And that a night spent under the stars in a tent is one of the greatest joys on earth. Thanks to M. for our great conversation and for being genuine and true in every way.