Remember when you were a kid. . . and you found a new kid somewhere? At school, in your neighborhood, in the park? You could just walk up and ask, "Wanna play?" And you could be friends. Or you could join a group of kids already playing somewhere by asking, "Can I play, too?" And they'd usually let you join in. Friendship is pretty simple for kids -- at least, it is until puberty sets in.
But then, as you move away from the playground, it becomes a little more tricky to just. . . join in. Or, at least, it was for me. My family moved - right as I was beginning junior high school - and I lost all my childhood friends just as I was entering the Puberty Tunnel (where you enter as one person. . . and exit as someone else altogether). While I ended up with plenty of "situational friends" (you know -- swim team friends, science class friends, lunch table friends), I didn't have a group of "best friends."
In fact, that would sum up the rest of my life. Plenty of "situational friends" . . . but no real core group of "best friends." And I was fine with that. I had groups of friends anywhere I went -- and I had Tom, and my Mom, and my sister for the Real Stuff.
But something happened when I got cancer. Most of my "situational friends" (hockey moms, choir moms, gym pals, neighbors) . . . weren't in my "situation." They remained supportive --- from a distance. Several "situational friends" even faded from my life entirely. At first, I was upset by this, but then I came to understand that not everyone - and especially friends that are really just on the periphery of your life to begin with - is able to deal with someone with a heavy, dreaded disease. So when I was in treatment, I hunkered down with my family. We kept close. I remained private. It worked for me.
Cancer changed me in a lot of ways, though. I would never say that having cancer was a "gift" (I Hate It when people say that. . .), although it has certainly been a catalyst for me. I see things differently; I act differently; I think differently now. I'm much more apt to speak up, act out, take a bite, smile at strangers, and. . . ask people if they. . . "Wanna Play?"
And, somehow, I'm attracting people who do.
I have more friends - real friends; not just "situational" - than I have ever had in my life before. The funny thing. . . is that most of these friends didn't know me BEFORE I had cancer! They didn't know me with my old hair. Lots of my new friends are dealing with cancer or other issues themselves. Somehow, we're drawn to each other. We've become a "posse." We support each other, we share stories, we laugh, we gossip, we cry. Most of all though, we remind each other that. . . there's a lot of life to be lived for all of us!
My post today includes photos of my friend, Ann. Ann begins chemo treatments for her breast cancer tomorrow. We spent a day together earlier this week in Holland -- shopping for cool jewelry and scarves for Ann; checking out the tulips; freezing in the gusty wind at Lake Michigan; visiting a knitting shop. It was a glorious day. And it all came to be. . . because I asked Ann if she wanted to play. And she did.
That's what friends are for!